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 Post subject: Gosse's Omphalos Hypothesis
PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2006 7:01 pm 
In 1857 Philip Henry Gosse postulated the Omphalos Hypothesis. Here it is in a nutshell:
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First, it is necessary briefly to examine the essence of the theory Gosse advanced. Fortunately, this is easily accomplished merely by considering a little thought experiment. Suppose that Adam in the Garden of Eden, was sitting next to a big pine tree twenty minutes after his own creation. Suppose he took a saw and cut the tree down, and then examined the stump: Would it have tree rings? Being a big tree, it would be expected to. On the other hand, tree rings accumulate year by year as trees grow, and this tree had been created less than a week before. Gosse pondered the problem and he came to the conclusion that, yes, the tree would have to have rings. In fact, he argued that any and all living things show the marks of past development as a matter of course and in many different ways. Martin Gardner wrote of Gosse's case:
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"This is not as ridiculous as it way seem at first. Consider. for example, the difficulty which faces any believer in a six-day creation. Although it is possible to imagine Adam without a navel, it is difficult to imagine him without bones, hair, teeth, and fingernails. Yet all these features bear in them the evidence of past accretions of growth. In fact there is not an organ or tissue of the body which does not presuppose a previous growth history....The same is true of every plant and animal. As Gosse points out, the tusks of an elephant exhibit past stages, the nautilus keeps adding chambers to its shell, the turtle adds laminae to its plates.... In short--if God created the earth as described in the Bible, he must have created a 'going concern.'" (1957: 126)



Here's the source http://www.roizen.com/ron/omph.htm

Before you read the citation page, evaluate the hypothesis on its own merrits. I am aware of the 19th century objections to it, but what are the 21st century objections to it?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2006 10:49 pm 
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To the best of my knowledge, tree rings reflect different growth rates, and are not necessarily annual (although the cycle of seasons will typically cause variations in growth rates). It's possible that a freshly created tree in the garded of Eden exhibited no growth rings for the same reason that Adam did not have a navel: lack of necessity. For as long as Adam lived and created-trees existed, the whole "creation" story could have been solidly backed by physical evidence of this kind.

Adam would have looked like a healthy adult human when he was one minute old. That's not because he was "created with a history", so to speak, but because he was created in adult form. It just so happens that in our experience every adult human has a certain quantity of history behind it. But the kind of developmental assumptions which would be true for normal people are not true of Adam, since he was formed of a different process.

But so what? Assumptions which are generally true (and useful) can break down in edge cases like this. There is not an organ or tissue of the body about which we do not presuppose a previous growth history, and rightly so, but this has the status of "generally true and useful assumption", not "inviolable universal truth". God is not to blame if you over-extend your assumptions.

That God created a "going concern" is logically necessary. Adam's navel is not a necessity: his vital organs are. Those organs do not "bear in them the evidence of past accretions of growth", since they did not grow. It is, however, an understandable error to interpret those things as though they bore such evidence, given our experience. Some features, such as the absence of a navel, or the absence of other growth artifacts, could well have alerted an investigator to this discontinuity and the corresponding invalidity of the "growth" assumption.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 6:03 am 
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The true difficulty with "Omphalos" is that it attempts to reconcile creation theory with popular assumptions that are simply incompatible with it. No wonder the theory sounds strained. In my view, the root of the problem can be found here.
Quote:
Scientists rejected Omphalos as vigorously as theologians had. As science, of course, Gosse's theory had a number of notable difficulties. First, it ran up against the prevailing orthodoxy of Charles Lyell's uniformitarianism. This doctrine--which placed at the base of modern geology the methodological assumption that present-day geological forces provide the preferred materials for the explanation of geological phenomena occurring long ago--had been the reigning orthodoxy since the 1830s. Of course, it was a doctrine that assumed and depended on a high antiquity for the earth.

If one starts with an assumption of uniformity, creation theory isn't going to make much sense: doubly so in the case of biblical creation. The biblical creation story has two enormous discontinuities which are fundamentally at odds with assumptions of uniformity. One is the creation itself; the other is Noah's global flood.

Of these, the global catastrophe of Noah's flood is probably the more significant, since it is the more recent. If the masses of sedimentary rock and fossils covering the globe are primarily a result of Noah's catastrophe, then our uniformitarian model of geological history is fundamentally flawed. Omphalos was primarily intended to reconcile the vast ages of uniformitarian geology with a creationist model of history minus the catastrophe of Noah's flood.
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Finally. a Victorian A. J. Ayer or Karl Popper would certainly have suggested that Gosse's theory was going to be very difficult to test or to falsify.

This is also true of Lyell's uniformitarianism, yet devotees of that system never seem concerned by the fact.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:27 pm 
TFBW,

My question, then, is how long ago was the earth (and the rest of the cosmos) created?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:50 pm 
Anonymous wrote:
TFBW,

My question, then, is how long ago was the earth (and the rest of the cosmos) created?


That was me, BTW. One of these days I'll have to register :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:24 pm 
I also have a followup question: was the cosmos creatd in, as it may be so called, a "mature state?"


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 4:31 pm 
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LOSTBOY wrote:
how long ago was the earth (and the rest of the cosmos) created?

If you accept Ussher's chronology, the creation took place six thousand years ago, give or take a decade and an error margin (resulting from rounding).
LOSTBOY wrote:
was the cosmos creatd in, as it may be so called, a "mature state?"

What's an immature state? But without being too pedantic, let's say "yes, of course". By the time creation was finished, on the seventh day, I doubt there was anything obvious about it that made it look one week old. It might have looked conspicuously clean and shiny, like new things do before they get used a lot, but there were mature plants and animals roaming around.

On the other hand, one's suspicions would have to be raised by Adam and Eve. Not only do they (presumably) not have belly-buttons, but there is no other evidence that they have parents of any sort. At a glance, one would not suspect them of being less than a week old, but there would be a serious upper limit on their possible age. If we are working on the assumption that they are normal human beings (which we can understand from our experience with other human beings), then they can only be so many years old -- on the order of decades, say -- before we run into an impossible situation: babies without parents.

At this point we can either conclude that there is a missing link in the evidence (the parents), or that we've encountered a special case and our usual experience isn't offering us correct guidance.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 5:17 pm 
Your reply seems consistnet with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (my faith):

Quote:
Age of the Earth

Q. What is the LCMS position regarding the age of the earth? Must we accept literally the creation account that points in the direction of a relatively young earth, given the amount of scientific evidence that concludes the earth's age to be in the billions of years?

A. The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod does not have an official position on the precise "age of the earth," since the Bible itself does not tell us how old the earth is. [LOSTBOY's note: it would seem the LCMS does not agree with the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar, but this may be a mere triviality] Nor is it the Synod's position that everything in the Bible is to be understood "literally." There is much in the Bible that clearly purports not to be understood literally--but this must be determined by the Bible itself, not by science or human reason. There is nothing in the Bible itself to suggest that the creation account is not meant to be taken literally.

The Synod has affirmed the belief, therefore, based on Scripture's account of creation in the book of Genesis and other clear passages of Scripture, that "God by the almighty power of His Word created all things in six days by a series of creative acts," that "Adam and Eve were real, historical human beings, the first two people in the world," and that "we must confess what St. Paul says in Romans 5:12" about the origin of sin through Adam as described in Genesis 3 (1967 Synodical Resolution 2-31). The Synod has also, therefore, stated that it rejects "all those world views, philosophical theories, exegetical interpretations and other hypotheses which pervert these biblical teachings and thus obscure the Gospel" (1967 Synodical Resolution 2-31).

At the same time, the Synod firmly believes that there can be no actual contradiction between genuine scientific truth and the Bible. When it comes to the issue of the age of the earth, several possibilities exist for "harmonizing" Biblical teachings with scientific studies (e.g., God created the world in an already "mature" state, so that scientific "data" leads one to the conclusion that it is older than it actually is, etc.)

https://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2207


My next question is, of course, how does one resolve distant starlight, the geological record, the fissil record, et. al. to a recently created cosmos (even if one extends the time frame form 6000 years to 130,000 years ago when anatomically modern humans appear in the fossil record.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 5:22 pm 
Please exuse my grammatical and spelling errors above. I accidently hit the submit button instead of the preview button and did not have an opportunity to make corrections. :shock:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2006 5:14 pm 
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LOSTBOY wrote:
I accidently hit the submit button instead of the preview button and did not have an opportunity to make corrections.

You should avail yourself of an account. You can edit your posts that way.

The Synod's position is quite bold: not many are willing to take such an uncompromising stance. They're technically right that the Bible doesn't tell us precisely how old the Earth is, but it doesn't leave much room for argument -- certainly not thousands of years. One wonders why the Synod isn't willing to commit to "approximately six thousand years" as an age for the Earth if they're willing to commit to precisely six days for the creation.
LOSTBOY wrote:
My next question is, of course, how does one resolve distant starlight, the geological record, the fissil record, et. al. to a recently created cosmos...

Geology and the fossil record are closely related; starlight and the remainder of the universe are a different matter entirely. These need to be treated as two separate issues.

The starlight issue is an interesting problem for young-earth creationism. Actually, the whole of astronomy and cosmology is a bit of a problem for science in general, because our ability to observe is so limited, and our ability to experiment is virtually nonexistent. We can't fire off big bangs and look at the results. We can't even experimentally construct a single solar system. We can, however, suggest scenarios which fall within the bounds of known physics -- at least so far as we can tell.

One of the more interesting creationist suggestions on this front was recently (circa 1994) put forward by Russell Humphreys in a book called "Starlight and Time". With some modifications to the "big bang" model, Humphreys argues that relativistic effects in effect during creation allow the possibility that the Earth was created in six days (from the Earth's frame of reference), while the broader cosmos could have taken billions of years (from its own frame of reference). So maybe the universe really is billions of years old, even if the Earth is only six thousand! Relativity is weird like that.

Is this model true, broadly speaking? I have no idea. I think it's very cute, but I'm nowhere near competent as a physicist or cosmologist to judge it. It's been soundly attacked by opposing creationists who don't hold to the young-earth model, and the Humphreys camp still seems satisfied that the model has met the objections. The most interesting thing we can take away from the Humphreys model is that you aren't necessarily tied to a young cosmos if you believe in a young Earth.

Geology and the fossil record allow no such loophole, of course. It seems the options are "creation with the appearance of antiquity", or "you idiots, you're misinterpreting the evidence entirely!" I don't really want to delve into theories here, because I'm not a geologist any more than I'm a cosmologist, but there seems to be one great big glaring problem with modern geology, and that's Lyell's model of Uniformitarianism.

Did science take a major wrong turn when it ditched Catastrophism for Uniformitarianism? The major appeal of Uniformitarianism is that it frees science from dependence on someone else's account of history -- the "someone else" in this case being the particularly odious Christian Bible. But if the Bible is correct about there being a recent creation and a more recent global catastrophe in Noah's flood, then a uniform view of geology is probably about as inaccurate as it gets.

Sadly the current social climate in scientific circles does not permit research using the catastrophic model. Uniformitarianism and its attendant long ages are well entrenched as dogma. Nobody gets taught how to interpret the data any other way. Few are even taught that the data could be interpreted any other way -- and that teaching would be under a history of discarded scientific theories, or the philosophy of science.

We're faced with a different kind of problem here than we are with starlight. In the case of starlight you have only a few factors, like the actual distance to the star, and the speed of light. In the case of geology, there is a legitimate question as to how the rocks formed: did it take millions of years, or one year? Did it form slowly, or catastrophically?

Received scientific wisdom -- since Lyell, at least -- tells us that it's all slow, gradual, and ancient. Certain young-earth creationists disagree, and the scientific mainstream dismisses them as cranks. I'd be considerably more persuaded by the long-age mainstream if it weren't for the fact that theirs is the only game in town. If the scientific world were evenly divided between Catastrophists and Uniformitarians, one might at least get an idea as to which model had better predictions and such like, but Uniformitarianism is the only option on offer these days.

So I think the Uniformitarians are wrong, and they're going to stay wrong until they start considering the possibility that geological history might not be uniform after all. They start with incorrect assumptions, and reach incorrect conclusions. Sometimes they pretend that Uniformitarianism is a necessary assumption, or a conclusion reached from evidence, but it's neither: it's an assumption currently held as dogma -- a belief held above question.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 9:18 pm 
Relativity is wierd. Have a look at this op-ed by Brian Greene:

http://www.thezensite.com/zenwritings/T ... WeKnew.htm

Next take a look at this exerpt from Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos:

Quote:
So: if you buy the notion that reality consists of the things in your freeze-frame mental image right now, and if you agree that your now is no more valid than the now of someone located far away in space who can move freely, the reality encompasses all of the events in spacetime. Just as we envision all of space as really being out there, as really existing, we should also envision all of time as really being out there, as really existing, too. Past, present, and future certainly appear to be distinct entities. But, as Einstein once said, "For we convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however persistent." The only thing that's real is the whole of spacetime.

Experience and the Flow of Time

In this way of thinking, events, regardless of when they happen from any particular perspective, just are. They all exist. They eternally occupy their particular point in spacetime. There is no flow. If you were having a great time at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, 1999, you still are, since that is just one immutable location in spacetime. It is tough to accept this description, since our worldview so forcefully distinguishes between past, present, and future. But if we stare intently at this familiar temporal scheme and confront it with

the cold hard facts of modern physics, its only place of refuge seems to lie within the human mind.

Undeniably, our conscious experience seems to sweep through the slices. It is as though our minds provide the projector light referred to earlier, so that moments of time come to life when they are illuminated by our consciousness. The flowing sensation from one moment to the next arises from our conscious recognition of chnage in our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. And the sequence of change seems to have a continuous motion; it seems to unfold into a coherent story. But--without any pretense of psychological or neurological precision--we can envision how we might experience a flow of time even though, in actuality, ther may be no such thing. To see what I mean, imagine playing Gone With the Wind through a faulty DVD player that randomly jumps forward and backward: one still frame flashes momentarily on the screen and is followed immediately by another from a completely different part of the film. When you watch this jumbled version, it will be hard for you to nake sense of what's going on. But Scarlett and Rhett have no problem. In each frame, they do what they've always done in that frame. Were you able to stop the DVD on some particular frame and ask them about their thoughts and memories, they'd respond with the same answers they would have given had you played the DVD in a properly functioning player. Uf you asked them whether it was confusing to romp through the Civil War out of order, they'd look at you quizzically and figure you'd tossed back one too many mint juleps. In any given frame, thay'd have the thoughts and memories they've always had in that frame--and, in particular, those thoughts and memories would give them the sensation that time is smoothly and coherently flowing forward, as usual.

Similarly, each moment in spacetime--each time slice--is like one of the still frames in a film. It exists whether or not some light illuminates it. As for Scarlet and Rhett, to the you who is in any such moment, it is the now, it is the moment you experience at that moment. And it always will be. Moreover, within each individual slice, your thoughts and memories are suffucuently rich to yield a sense that time has continuously flowed to that moment. This feeling, this sensation that time is flowing, doesn't require previous moments--previous frames--to be "sequentially Illuminated.

And if you think about it for one moment, you'll realize that's a very good thing, because the notion of a projector light sequentially bringing moments to life is highly problematic for another, even more basic reason. If the projector light properly did its job and illuminated a given moment--say, the stroke of midnight, New Year's Eve, 1999--what would it mean for that moment to then go dark? If the moment were lit, then being illuminated would be a feature of the moment, a feature as everlasting and unchanging as everything else

happening at that moment. To experience illumination--to be "alive," to be the present, to be the now--and to then experience darkness--to be "dormant," to be the past, to be what was--is to experience change. But the concept of change has no meaning with respect to a single moment in time. The change would have to occur through time, the change would mark the passing of time, but what notion of time could that possibly be? By definition, moments don't include the passing of time--at least, not the time we're aware of--because moments just are, they are the raw material of time, they don't change. A particular moment can no more change in time than a particular

location can move in space: if the location were to move, it would be a different location in space; if a moment in time were to change, it would bea different moment in time. The intuitive image of a projector light that brings each new now to life just doesn't hold up to careful examination. Instaed, every moment is illuminated, and every moment remains illuminated. Every moment is. Under close scrutiny, the flowing river of time more closely resembles a giant block of ice with every moment forever frozen into place.

The Fabric of the Cosmos pages 138-141



In the context of the Omphalos Hypothesis, I'm reminded of Bertrand Russell's "Last-Thursdayism."

Last Thursday's "NOW" is no less valid that the "NOW" in which I am typing this post and this "NOW" is no less valid that the hotly contested presidential race of 2144. They all exist since there is no priviledged observer. Since there is no priviledged observer and since last Thursday's "NOW" is no less valid than right now's "NOW," then the big bang's "NOW" is no less valid than the "NOW" in which I'm typing this post, and no less valid than the "NOW" in which you are reaing this post. Indeed, since my "NOW" is no less valid than your "NOW," I'm still typing this post while you're reading it. :D

If the passage of time is an illusion, relativity is truly wierd!

But wait! There's more!

Take a look at this web page about Wheeler's Classic Delayed Choice Experiment: http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/basic ... choice.htm

Pay particular attention to this paragraph:
Quote:
We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles "have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy," so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago.


Theoretically, if we do something in right now's "NOW" that affects a "NOW" billions of years ago...well, look at it this way:

Lets say we chose to look through the left telescope so that the photon passes on the left side of the galaxy. If the photon passes on the left side of the galaxy, then we MUST be here millions of years later to look through the left telescope. Thus, unless I'm mistaken, the effect preceeds the cause. By billions of years.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 5:40 am 
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The subjective passage of time and the subjective simultaneity of events are two different issues. The latter can be mathematically understood through Einstein's relativity, but the former is a deep and mysterious problem indeed. I've written about this during my stint as a philosophy student: see "The Universe as a Mathematical Function". It contains a bunch of citations to papers in metaphysics because we were given them as study material during that course, not because I'm impressively well-read on the subject (I'm not, really).


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 1:21 pm 
When one looks at the omphalos hypothesis from the perspective of relativity, one might imagine Adam sawing the tree and observing its rings. Thus God creates all the "NOWS" going all the way back to the big bang. And all these previous "NOWS" are not necessarily a deception, since, theoretically, going by the Wheeler's delayed choice thought experiment we can have an effect on a "NOW" that occured billions of years ago. So, it is effectively no less real than last Thursday's "NOW" to us mere mortals trapped here in spacetime. :D

I'll take a look at your paper above a little later.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 3:09 pm 
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You're mixing your relativity and quantum physics. Relativity tells us that the rate of time flow depends on the observer. The particular interpretation of quantum physics that you are citing allows for reverse causation. The consequences of reverse causation are almost too weird to have a coherent conversation about them. I don't think it allows us to get around the "omphalos" issue, though: either history is short or long (in a particular frame of reference); it does not retroactively become longer as needs be. In the two-slit experiment there is reverse causation only within the bounds of existing time: a photon is emitted at time T0, and then some event at time T2 retroactively causes something at time T1.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 4:46 pm 
I read your paper.

Here's another quote from The Fabric of the Cosmos:
Quote:
...if you know the quantum wavefuntion right now for every particle in the universe, Schrodinger's equation tells you how the wavefunction was or will be at any other moment you specify. This component of quantum physics is fully deterministic, just as in classical physics. However, the act of observation complicates the quantum mechanical story and, as we have seen, heated debate over the quatum measurement problem still rages. If physicists one day conclude that Schrodinger's equation is all there is to quantum mechanics, then quantum physics, in its entirety, would be every bit as deterministic as classical physics.


Paul Davies seems to be of the opinion that time does not flow, but though the past is fixed, the future is somehow open. I have trouble wrapping my head around that, but it allows for free will.

As far as omphalos, well, I'll just have to toss it and look for another thought experiment of creation with the appearance of age (ie. Humphreys, Schroeder, et. al.).

Have you had an opportunity to look at my response in the philosophy thread yet?


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