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Compiled Discussion Between Tom Wolff and Tom Lawson

Based on Tom Lawson's Website "Reason vs Faith"


A Question

8 Oct 2000 - A Question  (by Tom Wolff)

Dear Mr. Lawson,

Hi. My name is Tom Wolff, and I live in Burnsville. A friend e-mailed me your website, and I have a lot of questions from it. First, I will tell you upfront that I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But I am always looking to learn more. I understand my fallibility, and I want to remove errors in my thinking, and always to learn more. From my review of your website (it is very impressive, you've done a nice job with it. Did you also d o the animations?), I notice you do not deal with the beginning. If I have missed your discussion of this, please let me know.

From the background radiation in the universe, the Big Bang theory looks persuasive to me. The most recent data looks like this took place 15 billion years ago.

My question is this - if we hear a 'bang' behind us, we look around to see what happened. We look to see the cause of the bang. In the universe, we have a massive 'bang'. What are your thoughts on the origin, or Cause of this?

Thank you for your time, and for answering my questions.

/s/ Tom Wolff




8 Oct 2000 - Re: A Question  (Reply by Tom Lawson)

Hi Tom,

Let's be informal -- please call me Tom. I live near Darwin. You are one of only a few people that have complimented me on my web site. Thank you very much. I have resigned myself to the conclusion that most viewers, desensitized by all the fancy graphics they see on TV and in movies, regard my site and its artwork with a ho-hum attitude. You must have done some web design or other computer work to appreciate the effort it took me to construct my first and only web pages. I'd be interested to know what experience you have had. Yes, I drew the flame after studying a fireplace fire and animated it using Jasc's Animation Shop, which is part of Paint Shop Pro. To maximize the downloading speed of the page, I animated only the flame and used only five frames.

Learning more and uncovering possible errors are worthy goals. From your statements about the background radiation and 15-billion-year age of the universe, I assume you are not a young-earth creationist. My web site, while it in general reveals the problems of faith, is especially an aimed at the biblical literalism of young-earth creationists, several of whom I have been corresponding with for many years.

I am, like most of my readers, a layperson, so I leave the technical details of the Big Bang to the astrophysicists, but Kenneth Fair (not an astrophysicist) on the staff of Talk.Origins has this to say about the Big Bang:

"Evolutionists" aren't responsible for explaining anything about the Big Bang. The theory of evolution concerns the diversity of life on Earth; the Big Bang falls into the realm of astrophysics.

We know that the Big Bang happened, regardless of its origin. As we look out into space, the farther away something is from us, the faster it is moving away from us. That observation, in combination with other evidence such as the microwave background radiation, leads to one inescapable conclusion: Since everything is moving apart now, a long time ago, everything was really close together. It's just like running the film backwards.

As to the origin of the matter in the universe: One hypothesis that remains to be rigorously demonstrated is that (very loosely speaking) the "positive" energy of matter is balanced by the "negative" energy of gravitational pull, making the total mass-energy of the universe zero.

Whether that's true or not, there's certainly nothing to stop a person from believing that God "detonated" the Big Bang. After all, that was the view of Georges LeMaitre, the Catholic priest who first proposed the Big Bang.

So, you are in good company by having chosen to believe that a supreme intelligence (specifically, the God of the Bible) created the universe. That does not satisfy me, however. I always look for observable, measurable, non-supernatural explanations. Just saying that God created the universe doesn't really explain anything. I want a step-by-step scientific explanation, not an unsupported claim that a super being waved its hand and -- poof! -- the universe instantly came fully developed into being, complete with stars, galaxies, human beings, etc. Moreover, even if it is the case that the universe was intelligently designed, maybe a team of designers did the job, and maybe they were not supernatural beings.

Suppose that the universe has no end. Then, running that concept backwards, it is logical to assume that the universe may also have had no beginning, extending infinitely into both the past and the future. On the other hand, maybe our Big Bang is just one cycle of an infinite series of expansions and contractions, or maybe this universe is one of many universes, each starting with its own big bang.

The assumption that the God of the Bible or some other supernatural intelligence created the universe does not add an iota to the knowledge accumulated so far about our Big Bang. If such a being exists, I don't see any evidence of its involvement in human affairs, so either it has been unemployed since the Big Bang or it is busy elsewhere (creating other universes?).

So the short answer to your question is that, faced with the evidence for the Big Bang, I assume there is a natural explanation for its cause and meanwhile patiently wait for science to come up with a credible explanation. In any case, I do not attribute the Big Bang to the activity of a supernatural intelligent being, because I have yet to see any evidence of supernatural phenomena anywhere.

Do write again, if I have not made myself clear, or if you want to discuss this further or any other matter. Note that Ross Olson and I are doing an online debate about the articles on my web site, and I'm now writing an answer to his last letter. Click on the Debate on the home page of TCCSA and then Debate Archives (for Tom Lawson).

Regards,

Tom
Darwin, MN




Beginning of the Universe, Part II

10 Oct 2000 - Beginning of the Universe, Part II  (by Tom Wolff)

Tom L.,

Thank you for your e-mail. First, is it alright with you that we include Dr. Olson in our discussion? I would like to forward your first e-mail so that he can include our discussion in his website, if he thinks its helpful.

I should also explain how I come to know Dr. Olson. I am married and have three wonderful daughters, ages 6, 4 and 3. My family is the second most precious thing in my life, and Dr. Olson takes special care of them. How do you know Dr. Olson?

I find your answer slightly confusing. Initially, are you claiming the universe is eternal? I asked about the beginning of the universe, and if I understand correctly, you raised two issues:

1.  That there may be multiple unknown other universes;
2.  You also raised possible other, intelligent agents in the universe.

As I understand the multiple universe theory, that only helps explain the remarkable design that we find in the universe. It does not help with explaining the beginning of the universe. And of course, whether there are other intelligent designers/creatures in the universe does not help explain the beginning of the universe either.

Again, this theory only assists with the beginning of life on earth. Perhaps it would help if I narrow down my question on the beginning of the universe a little more. There is a tremendous amount of energy at the beginning of the universe/time/space. Where did this energy come from?

I appreciate the tone of your first e-mail. Instead of calling this a debate, you have chosen to call this a discussion. Thank you! Debates tend to be "your wrong and I'm right", and produces very little learning, or movement in the debate's participants. I try and come at discussions with an entirely different outlook, by having a chance at learning and growing in my personal outlook.

Finally, you raised at the beginning of your e-mail whether I was in web-design or involved in computers. I do not have a background in either of these areas. I do not mean to be trite, but I believe with all my heart that God provided me with an insight to comment favorably on the look of your website. Sometimes this is called a 'word of knowledge' which is received, and things like this happen all the time to me. This is a daily confirmation to me concerning the true origin of the universe. I hope I can tell you more about things like this as our discussion progresses.

Thanks again for your time -

/s/ Tom Wolff




11 Oct 2000 - Re: Beginning of the universe, Part II  (Reply by Tom Lawson)

Hi Tom W.

The fact that your compliment on my web site was not based on computer experience makes it all the more appreciated. I didn't mean to imply that one cannot judge its artistic merits without technical knowledge -- lay people make discerning and insightful artistic judgments all the time.

Yes, it is alright to send copies of our e-mails to Ross (unfortunately, in his busy schedule he may get behind in posting our letters or he may not have time to post them at all). Ross and I made an agreement to post both sides of any responses to my web site. In fact, I sent him a copy of my response to you, and he has already posted it (I notified him today of two confusing errors in the formatting -- the link title to my response and the quote by Kenneth Fair). Ross and I began a correspondence a little over eight years ago when I wrote to him directly after reading his letter to the Star Trib on, if I recall correctly, the teaching of creationism in the science classes of public schools.

I hope you understand that, since science can currently give us no answers regarding what occurred before the Big Bang, our discussion must remain philosophical -- even metaphysical. I wrote about several possibilities:

(1) This universe had no creator, because it has always existed, and: (a) It is one of many sequential universes, each with its own big bang, or (b) It is one of many parallel universes, existing simultaneously, or (c) Other possible variations of these themes, limited only by the imagination.

Or:

(2) This universe was intelligently created, and: (a) It had one creator, natural or supernatural, or (b) It had two or more creators, natural or supernatural.

Multiple universes, if they ALWAYS existed, as in (1) above, explain both problems: special design and lack of a beginning.

You're right -- to assume one or more non-supernatural designers just pushes the problem back to who or what designed THEM. We get into an infinite regress of designers.

On the other hand, the same problem exists if we assume one or more SUPERNATURAL designers. It is perfectly logical to ask who or what created God or a god or gods. The "uncaused-cause" or "supernatural-first-cause" arguments make no sense to me. They just replace one mystery with another. Some claim that a First Cause or God always existed, but then one can just as easily claim that the universe always existed. Theists, by the way, seem to have no problem with the concept of a universe without end, so why do they seem to have a problem with a universe with no beginning? Maybe the Big Bang was not THE beginning but, instead, one event in an endless sequence of events extending back in time.

You ask from whence came the tremendous energy at the "beginning of the universe/time/space." I think the quote I gave you from Kenneth Fair addressed that. He said:

As to the origin of the matter in the universe: One hypothesis that remains to be rigorously demonstrated is that (very loosely speaking) the 'positive' energy of matter is balanced by the 'negative' energy of gravitational pull, making the total mass-energy of the universe zero.

If the total mass-energy is "zero," then it cannot be described as "tremendous," can it? I don't know, does zero mass-energy NEED to come from anything? Zero from zero?

We are getting in awfully deep here, Tom. Philosophers have been going round and round on these issues for centuries. Don't you think it would be more useful to discuss whether there is any evidence for some kind of conscious intelligence that is interested in the affairs of mankind?

Tom L.




Beginning of the Universe, Part III

15 Oct 2000 - Beginning of the Universe,  Part III (by Tom Wolff)

Dear Tom L.:

Thank you for your e-mail and the time you are putting into our discussion. I am curious though. Which of the various theories of the beginning of the universe is the one in which you believe? If I sense your tone correctly it appears you agree with the majority of the people in the U.S. (96% of the people in the last Gallup poll) that there is a God who is responsible for the origin of the universe. I also sense you feel this is an uncaring God, who does not get involved in our day-to-day activities. Am I reading your e-mails correctly on this?

In your October 11th e-mail you provided two basic theories on the beginning of the universe: first, that the universe is eternal and has always existed; or that the universe is the product of an intelligent Creator, who some call 'God'.

I do not believe your first theory, that the universe is eternal, is given much support in scientific circles today. It is certainly a theory which is declining among scientists since the discoveries of the 20th century. With Einstein's theory of general relativity, the discovery of the 'Big Bang', and other discoveries, these have shown that our universe has a beginning, and will have an end. Is there any scientific data that you have which can support a theory of an eternal universe?

In support of my position that the eternal universe is no longer supported by scientists, I will quote Dr. Hugh Ross (Ph.D. in Astronomy, post-doctorate work on quasars and galaxies at the California Inst. of Technology) from the "Fingerprint of God" -

Since 1984 the accumulation of evidence has ruled out the oscillating [or eternal] universe model.

Dr. Ross then provides six pieces of evidence which show that an eternal universe is not possible. If you would like the evidence which he is relying on, I will provide it to you, but it is pretty technical stuff. But at least one prominent scientist views the eternal universe theory as now being impossible based upon recent scientific discoveries.

Which leaves us with your second scenario, that an intelligent Designer is responsible for the creation of the universe. You ask the classic question in your last e-mail, "who...created God?" I'm not going to try and pretend that I have an easy answer to this. Philosophers a whole lot smarter than me can't provide an easy explanation, and so I won't even try to help you with my own thoughts on this. But I will pass along an explanation which Dr. Ross gave at a talk here in town last year. He explained that if we think of this issue in mathematical terms it may help. Our universe has a beginning and an end, like a line segment. But God is eternal, no beginning and no end, like a Line. Line's continue on forever in both directions, and the same is true of God. God does not need someone or something to have created Him, because He has always existed. I don't know if this helps, but it makes intuitive sense for me to think of this topic in mathematical terms.

Finally, you speak of "positive" energy and "negative" energy in your e-mail. Frankly, I was confused by this. But it may not be necessary for us to get into this topic if we are both of the same opinion that there was some sort of intelligent Creator(s) responsible for the beginning of the universe. If we are, then we can move onto the next topic of whether this Creator is a loving God, or whether this is an uncaring God(s) who is not involved in our lives today.

Is your background in science? You did a very good job of explaining a lot of technical issues in a rather easy to understand manner. I do not have any background in science, and so I always feel a little over my head when I talk about topics like this. Thank you again, and I eagerly await your response.

/s/ Tom W.





17 Oct 2000 - Re: The Beginning of the Universe, Part III (Reply by Tom Lawson)

Dear Tom W.

Oh, oh! I don't recall saying anything to give you the impression that I am a theist. Perhaps, Tom, it was my statement that "you were in good company by having chosen to believe that a supreme intelligence (specifically, the God of the Bible) created the universe," because Georges LeMaitre, a Catholic priest, first proposed the Big Bang. One poll of scientists said that 40% believe in God (but I'm not sure if the scientists believed that this god is one which hears and answers prayers). So, you can be a theist and accept evolution. However, Ross Olson introduced me in his On Line Debate column as an atheist and evolutionist, and that's what I am -- no ifs, ands, or buts!

Dr. Hugh Ross is one of the old-earth creationists. His analogy, that the universe, like a line-segment, has a beginning and an end, and that God, like a line, has no beginning and no end, sounds nice but is quite meaningless. Even if the universe, as we know it, has a beginning and an end, who is to say that it is not part of a super-universe that, like a line, has no beginning and no end? Put another way, if God can be regarded as an endless line, then the universe as we know it can be regarded as event on an endless line in a super-universe. To say that God always existed is not logically different than to say that some form of matter and energy always existed. To assume a supernatural intelligent creator of the universe, as I have said before, only replaces one mystery with another.

Like you, I'm a layperson (retired from computer-aided drafting), and Hugh Ross's evidence would probably be difficult for me to understand. I don't know what the consensus of opinion is among astrophysicists regarding an infinite universe. I think the jury is still out. For the time being, I'm willing to accept the statement of astronomer Carl Sagan in 1997 that there was insufficient evidence to exclude the possibility of a universe that goes through an infinite number of expansions and contractions. Until science definitely concludes otherwise, I will continue accepting that the universe has always existed. Therefore, there is no need for a creator. To say that existence comes from nonexistence (or that something comes from nothing) is a contradiction. If God exists, then there must have been something before God, unless God always existed, in which case it is just as easy to say that the universe always existed in some form or another.

I don't pretend to understand the zero mass-energy question that I quoted from Kenneth Fair in my last letter, but Victor J. Stenger said that our best estimate today is that the total energy of the universe is zero, with the positive energy of matter balanced by the negative energy-potential of gravity, so that no energy was needed to produce the universe, and the first law of thermodynamics was therefore not violated. He added that the maximum allowable entropy of an expanding universe is continually increasing, allowing more and more room for order to form as time passes, and that the universe started in total chaos, so there was nothing for a creator to create.
Stenger concluded:

The problem is that prior to the Planck time, the universe is so small that quantum mechanical effects become very important. Therefore, a correct description of the behavior of the universe prior to the Planck time requires a synthesis of quantum mechanics and general relativity -- a theory of quantum gravity, in other words. And to this date, no full theory of quantum gravity has been developed, much less attained the consensus status that post-Planck-time Big Bang theory enjoys. Without such a theory, we cannot draw from cosmology any conclusions about whether the universe had a beginning or not.

Regards,

Tom L.





10/21/2000

Dear Tom L.:

My apologies for insulting you by calling you a theist.[grin] But I still haven't heard a very persuasive opinion from you on the start of it all. To summarize, you believe that the universe is eternal, that the explosion that started our universe was somehow only one of a series. The universe is currently expanding, but you believe that somehow the process will reverse itself and begin to contract. This oscillation will go on forever in endless repetition like an accordion opening and closing. [My thanks to Chuck Colson's recent book for summarizing this topic for me].

Tom L., you're obviously an intelligent man. I don't have to point out the logical flaws for you of the eternal universe theory, but for anyone else reading this, I will summarize a few of these problems:

1. Science shows us that we had a big bang, and that the universe is currently expanding. There is no evidence that there was anything that took place before the big bang, and in fact, the theory states that time began at the big bang. And 15 billion years is an awful long time to go without contracting;

2. The current measurements for the density of the universe is only one-half of what is needed to force a collapse of the universe [Ross, 'Fingerprint of God' p. 105];

3. The second law of thermodynamics (the law that says that the universe is in a state of decay) shoots down any notion of an eternal universe. This is because an oscillating universe would use up the available energy in each cycle, and eventually run down.

And so, we are left with a theory without much substance behind it. But thank you for mentioning the 1st law of thermodynamics in your most recent e-mail. You mentioned earlier that science is not much help on the beginning of the universe. With this, I could not disagree any more. Its just that atheists do not like what science is saying. The 1st Law of Thermodynamics says that there is conservation of energy/matter. As a corollary to this, the law teaches that energy/matter cannot just pop into existence. And so, we are back to the same question, where did the massive amount of energy to start the big bang come from, as science teaches us it could not have created itself. It could not just pop into existence.

And so, science teaches us that the universe just started, with the energy to start it coming from nowhere, it just showed up. This sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me, and it is the only creation account which correctly describes the big bang theory.

For me, the 'confirmation theory' makes a great deal of sense to me. One starts with a theory which has initial plausibility, and the probability that it is true increases or decreases as additional evidence comes in. Applying this to the beginning of the universe, I suggest that a non-natural (or supernatural) explanation is the only theory which has any "initial plausibility". A plausible explanation is that the supernatural explanation for the beginning is God. Science explains away any other theory, especially the eternal universe theory. And then you add in the amazing things God is doing in my life, and in other's lives, and there is just no question which theory stands up. I would love to tell these stories of what's going on in my life, if you'll give me a chance.

But let me not get ahead of myself. Perhaps you have strong evidence from your life which leads you to conclude that the eternal universe is a truth which you can base your life upon. Please share with me anything from your experience which helps to explain your faith in an eternal universe.

Thank you

- /s/ Tom W.




October 23, 2000

Hi Tom W.,

A summary of your main points is that we have an expanding universe that shows no signs of a future contraction, that an oscillating universe would use up the available energy in each cycle and eventually run down, that the universe could not have created itself, and that the massive amount of energy to start the Big Bang must have come from a creator.

Although I do not know the consensus of scientific opinion regarding the beginning and end of the universe, I can easily find scientists (far more intelligent and educated than I) that hypothesize an infinitely oscillating universe, or multiple universes, or a self-organizing (self-made) universe. The points you made apparently do not trouble them, and it appears that Hugh Ross is at odds with many other scientists. I quote below from four scientists that are eminently qualified to speak about cosmological matters (and the first quote cites three more scientists with the same view). In these quotes, the emphasis is mine:

(1) Alan Guth, Victor Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and originator of the inflationary universe theory said, "Most likely the universe is also much older than we thought, and IT INCLUDES NOT JUST ONE, BUT AN INFINITY OF BIG BANGS," and, "The existence of MANY UNIVERSES IS CONSISTENT WITH ALL WE KNOW ABOUT PHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY (Smith 1990, Smolin 1992, 1997, Linde 1994, Tegmark 1997)."

(2) Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York, said, "Imagine boiling water (a quantum mechanical phenomenon). Out of nothing, bubbles form and then quickly expand. Similarly, THE LEADING THEORY AMONG COSMOLOGISTS TODAY IS THE MULTIVERSE THEORY, which states that quantum universes are constantly being created out of Nothing. Many of them are probably short-lived; they have a Big Bang, but then rapidly have a Big Crunch and disappear back into Nothing. (This does not violate the conservation of matter and energy; the matter of the universe has positive energy, but the gravitational field has negative energy, such that the total energy for a closed universe is ZERO, so IT TAKES ZERO ENERGY TO CREATE A CLOSED UNIVERSE.) THIS MEANS THAT BIG BANGS ARE PROBABLY HAPPENING ALL THE TIME, with entire bubble/universes springing out of the vacuum. However, life probably does not exist in most of these universes. Protons need to be stable for several billion years in order to create DNA (or at least some other auto-catalytic, self-replicating form of stable matter). So many of these other universes in the multiverse are probably lifeless, consisting of, say, a sea of electrons, neutrinos, and photons." He added, "Similarly, many physicists (myself included) believe that we will one day solve the superstring theory, in which case we will be able to make precise statements about WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE BIG BANG."

(3) Victor J. Stenger, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy, said, "Our best estimate today is that the total energy of the universe is zero, with the positive energy of matter balanced by the negative energy-potential of gravity, so that NO ENERGY WAS NEEDED TO PRODUCE THE UNIVERSE, and the first law of thermodynamics was therefore not violated.

(4) Lee Smolin, Professor of Physics at the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Penn State University, holds the view that the universe made itself. He said, "Indeed, we are discovering that it may be that SPACE IS ITSELF THE RESULT OF SPONTANEOUS PROCESSES OF SELF-ORGANIZATION" and "Thus, we are faced with the very real possibility that the fact that the world has any spatial extension at all is a contingent historical fact, that also requires explanation by some principle of self-organization."

You also stated that the alleged scientific account of a universe starting with its energy coming from nowhere sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1, "the only creation account which correctly describes the big bang theory."

Genesis 1, as I read it, is primarily concerned with the creation of the Earth, and to a lesser extent the Sun and Moon. The rest of solar system and the vast universe of 100 billion galaxies, each with 100 billion stars, seem to be lumped under an obscure and relatively unimportant entity called the "heavens." The Genesis story is essentially an earth-centered, human-centered story that ignores the rest of the universe. However, if the Earth was created, the purpose of the creation was more likely for the benefit of cockroaches than humans, because the hardy, prolific cockroach was here long before humans appeared and will probably be here long after humans have vanished from the Earth.

Even if, ignoring the scientific alternatives already mentioned, you could find compelling evidence that the universe was created by a super-intelligent being, you would still be faced with several questions: whether it is one or more than one being, whether these beings still exist, whether they are involved in the affairs of mankind, and if so, whether they are any of the numerous gods worshipped by humans.

This brings us to your "confirmation theory." I welcome you to present a few of your most convincing, "amazing" experiences. In addition, I'd like you to:

1) explain why each of these experiences is unmistakably the work of the God of the Bible. It is not surprising that the identity of the supernatural being that one credits for beneficial experiences always turns out to be the god of whatever religion one is committed to.

2) account for some particularly bad experiences you've had. These must also be the work of the same god, unless you credit God for the good experiences and blame Satan for the bad, in which case we will become entangled in such questions as how Satan was created and whether God is omnipotent.

In my own life, I have deduced plausible, natural explanations for all that has happened to me, both good and bad. Natural explanations can be as exciting as supernatural explanations, if not more so. My position is not a matter of faith but of accepting the compelling evidence for a natural universe. Natural explanations have generally turned out to be correct, and no one has yet been able to demonstrate any supernatural phenomenon under reasonable, mutually-agreed-upon conditions of observation.

Regards,
Tom L.





October 29, 2000
Beginning of the Universe, Part V

Tom L.,

In a message dated 10/23/2000 3:51:51 PM Central Standard Time, tomofdarwin{at}cmgate.com writes:
...
NO ENERGY WAS NEEDED TO PRODUCE THE UNIVERSE, and the first law of thermodynamics was therefore not violated. ..

You do not disappoint. I am impressed by your most recent e-mail, as it raised an issue I had never heard of before. This being the zero energy model of the universe. You have inspired me to learn more on this, and so I thank you for teaching me about it. If you know of any good books on this topic, I would appreciate knowing about them. I do have a heart to learn from our discussion.

The multiverse concept (that there are an infinite number of other universes which explains why life developed in this universe) seems to have two basic problems. Let me know if you agree:

1. It is based on circular reasoning. If I tell you that the Bible is God's Holy Word, and you ask me how I know this. I would tell you look at 2 Timothy 3:16 which says that all scripture is "God-breathed". But that wouldn't help you much because it is a circular argument: that the Bible is inspired by God, because the Bible says it is!

This same type of circular reasoning is being by some scientists with the infinite universe's theory. It says that because our universe had the process of arising all on its own, this same process has made an infinite number of other universes. Do you see the same problem here? Because nobody knows how our universe began in the first place. No one knows what took place from the beginning of time to the time at 1 to 10 to the 43rd second. To say that it began naturally and that this shows other universes can pop up naturally is not very helpful to me. The theory is saying the universe must have created itself, and so it could create other universes. So you see how this type of circular reasoning doesn't help me much, who sees the universe having been created by God?

2. The other problem I see with the infinite universes (or multiverse) concept is that there's no science in this scientific theory. It is not observable. It cannot be proven wrong (its not falsifiable). We cannot test it.

Which leads me to the testable proposition that God is the cause for the beginning of the universe. I hope this raises your eyebrow. Testable? More on this later. But first you asked me to provide a few of the most convincing experiences which have confirmed my faith in God. I will limit myself to two, but I tell you that not a day goes by that I do not receive an answer to prayer. That I see God's power in action. My two examples that I think are the most difficult to explain apart from God are:

First, I attended a Holy Spirit retreat this past June 10th. I went up and went to a prayer team with the pastor in it. When I went up the pastor said he saw a vision that had a lighthouse in it, that the light is on. Now what makes this special to me is that my wife had bought me a coffee mug two weeks before this at the end of May, a coffee mug with a lighthouse on it and a t-shirt with a match light on it. She said that she bought these for me, because I was being a lighthouse to a group of my friends who I was telling about Jesus. Now a little background - I have only been going to my church for two and a half years, and I have said very little to him. We go to a church with 3,000 members, and so he doesn't know me from Adam. So my pastor was able to have a vision about my being a lighthouse, with having very little previous contact with me before.

My second example is much more significant. Three years ago, my wife and I prayed that night that the Lord provide protection for our children. My wife and I stayed up late that night watching the World Series game, which went into extra innings. Our girls had been suffering from colds, and had coughs. We also had the first fire in our fireplace of the season that night.

My wife woke up at 4:45 am the next morning when she heard our oldest daughter Asia coughing. This was very unusual for my wife to be up at this time, as she is the one in our family who typically likes to sleep in. But there was something unusual about this cough, and with her mother's ears, she went to check it out.

She checked Asia and everything was alright. But she smelled smoke. She checked our fireplace to make sure everything was closed, and it was. She went back to our daughters' bedroom, and our middle child Maggie told her she was hot. My wife checked her to see if she was feverish, and she was not. She turned on their light and saw a thick cloud of smoke in the upper two feet of the room.

My wife tried to wake me up, and I told her she was imagining things and to come back to bed! Sometimes I can be a bonehead. But she woke me up and I called 911, as my wife got our three daughters out of the house. Within five minutes the firemen arrived. I brought them up the stairs to show them my daughters' bedroom and as we were going up the stairs, we saw the wall next to my daughter Maggie's bed burst into flames. If we would have waited a mere five minutes more, Maggie's bed would have been in flames with her in it.

It turned out that our fireplace caught a nest in the chimney on fire, and it smoldered all night long. It burned through the built in smoke detector in the upstairs, and so the smoke detector did not go off. I am convinced that the only way my daughters survived that night was only because of God's protection.

You also asked in your last e-mail an example of a bad experience in my life. That is also an easy one for me. Ten years ago my brother Fred died of lymphoma cancer. I loved this man dearly. And he was the healthiest, strongest man, into jogging, weight lifting, and karate. So how do I reconcile my knowledge of a loving God with my brother's death? When my brother died I was an atheist. I had been an atheist since high school through my time in law school. At the funeral, it was the loneliest time of my life. I felt so alone.

But I do believe that Romans 8:28 is true, that for people who love Jesus that "all things work together for good." In the case of my brother, the cancer was in his life for quite some time, and so he was able to examine whether or not he truly believed in God. Praise God that he chose faith in Jesus! So I will see him someday in heaven. This experience was also a critical moment for my parents. As you can guess, losing a child must be the toughest event for a parent. In the case of my parents it drove them even closer to God. It also drove my brother, my sister closer to God, and eventually even myself to faith in Jesus. But that's another story.

Finally, I mentioned earlier in this e-mail that belief in God is a testable proposition. If you have questions about whether God exists, or if there is a God whether He loves us, then I have a place for you to go. Many churches are now running a course called 'Alpha' which is the place for people with questions. I am in my third time through, and each time God also reveals Himself in the course. God isn't just on the sidelines watching us as we live life. God is doing stuff! I invite you to my church's next Alpha course which starts in January, it lasts 12 weeks, and is run on Sunday nights.

If you or anyone else would like an invitation, please write me at Tewolff{at}aol.com.

Tom Wolff






31 October 2000

Hi Tom W.,

You asked me if I know of any good books about the zero energy model of the universe mentioned by Michio Kaku and Victor J. Stenger in my last letter. I haven't read any, but I got their quotes and those of the other scientiests from PBS's web site, "Stephen Hawking's Universe," at: http://www.thirteen.org/hawking/html/home.html

While the comments by these scientists on this site did not elaborate on the zero energy question, their books may do so. If you want to delve into this, Amazon.com lists several books by these authors:

MICHIO KAKU
"Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe." (1995)
"Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension" (1995)

VICTOR J. STENGER
"Not by Design: The Origin of the Universe" (1988)
"The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology" (1995)
"Timeless Reality: Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes" (2000)

Now, you said that there are two problems with the multiverse concept:
1) that it appears to be based on circular reasoning, and
2) that it is not observable, testable, or falsifiable.

Let's take (2) first. In the article you called my attention to the article, "Why is there life?" by Brad Lemley in Discover, Nov 2000, about Britain's Astronomer Royal Martin Rees. In it Lemley said: "Rees admits that, at present, the premises upon which many multiverse calculations rest are 'highly arbitrary,' but he is confident that they need not remain so. 'Within the next 20 years,' he says, 'we may be able to put the multiverse on a firm scientific footing or rule it out.' "

If it is possible someday to put the multiverse on a "firm scientific footing or rule it out" -- which is to say that it is possible to base it on observations and tests and make it falsifiable -- then the theory cannot be (1) circular reasoning. At worst, the multiverse theory would be relegated to the same category as the god-concept, which, in my view, is not observable, testable, or falsifiable. If you object to the multiverse theory on those grounds, then you ought to have no problem rejecting the god-concept on the same grounds.

Regarding your examples of "God's power in action," I am in the rather uncomfortable position of having to "debunk" experiences that you value highly. However, it was I that asked you for them, and you expect and deserve my honest appraisal. Perhaps I ought not to worry too much about offending you, because it is unlikely that any negative comments by me will alter the fact that you see divine intervention in every experience, whether good or bad. On the other hand, you just may recognize that your position is a win-win, cover-all-your-bases one that is just too good to be true.

1) THE LIGHTHOUSE:

Light is a powerful metaphor in the Bible. "You are the light of the world . . ." ( Matt 5:14), "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" ( Matt 5:16). Similarly, in Psalms 43:3, John 3:21 and 8:12. Therefore, it is not surprising that the "lighthouse" metaphor pervades Christianity today, as is seen in the following web sites: The Lighthouse: a Christian family site for Bible resources, etc. The Lighthouse Movement: How to know God personally. Utah Lighthouse Ministry: A Christian critique of Mormonism. The Lighthouse Homepage: a non-denominational charismatic church. The Lighthouse Sanctuary: a Christian youth foundation. Lighthouse Online: the Clear View Church. Dorna's Lighthouse: where Jesus Christ is Lord. Harbor Lighthouse: Bible prophecy, Christianity. The Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church. Lighthouse Ministries: a Tallahassee Christian ministry. Etc.

Therefore, it is not surprising that your wife bought items bearing these popular symbols. How many other wives/husbands have bought similar items for their spouses? Probably many. Nor is it surprising that your pastor would use this popular metaphor in saying to you that he had a vision of a lighthouse (with the light "on," of course -- he would insult you to say that the light is "off"!). To how many other parishioners has he made the same remark? Probably many. Moreover, some of those to whom he made the remark were likely to have lighthouse items at home. You happened to be one of them.

2) CHIMNEY FIRE:

How often do you and your wife pray at night that the Lord will provide protection for your children? You didn't say, but it is not an uncommon prayer, particularly in this case, since your girls were ill. A mother's unconscious mind is especially alert to possible dangers, even when she is sleeping. A mother will often wake up because of a slight sound or faint smell that would not awaken anyone else. In this case, because the children were ill, your wife would be even more vigilant than usual, awake or asleep. That she usually likes to sleep late is irrelevant. Here, the waking stimulus was your daughter's coughing (and possibly also a faint whiff of smoke of which she was not consciously aware). Having retired with concern for the girls' illnesses on her mind and having been awakened by the coughing, your wife was highly motivated to get up and check things out. Since Asia complained of being hot, but was not feverish, your wife knew there had to be another cause, so she looked for it, as any concerned mother would. The rest of the story is not relevant. I have read many accounts of whole families wiped out by a fire or carbon monoxide in their homes. It is the height of egotism to conclude that God singled out your family for aid and ignored the many others.

3) DEATH OF YOUR BROTHER:

Your brother was aware he was fatally ill, and he felt powerless to change his fate. In such dire situations, many people turn to what they believe to be a "higher power," as did your brother. His death was devastating to you, and you felt more alone than ever before. His renewed faith in God in his time of great adversity, combined with your great love for him and your desire to be reunited with him one day, was an emotionally powerful motivation for you to abandon atheism and accept a belief in God. Even in atheist families, tragedy brings family members closer together for mutual emotional support, but without any belief in the supernatural. Earthquakes and floods bring people closer together too, following which neighbors and strangers alike assist and console one another. To conclude that God killed your brother prematurely in order to bring the family together is as illogical as to conclude that God kills vast numbers of people in earthquakes or floods in order to bring the still living closer together. Also, the self-centeredness of your chimney-fire interpretation applies equally well here, because millions of people in the world die in many horrible ways without benefiting their families, if any.

I asked you for two pieces of additional information about your "confirmation theory." You answered the second one in (3) above, but you skipped over the first, in which I asked you to explain why the benefits you claim to have received from your god are unmistakably the work of your god, the God of the Bible. This is important. I asked you this, because, if you had been born a Moslem and raised in the Islamic faith, you would have given credit to Allah, and if you had been born a Jew and raised in the Jewish faith, you would NOT have given credit to Jesus Christ, etc., etc.

Finally, the Alpha course is not a test of the existence of the Christian god or any other god. It is an example of the power of group suggestion to move vulnerable persons to accept the prevailing beliefs of the group, no matter what the religion or cult. You would find similar teaching groups in all other religions, many if not all of whose teachings you would not agree with. Although I would not be sufficiently motivated to go alone (even to St. Cloud), I think that, if I lived in Minneapolis, it would be interesting to attend with you. My penetrating questions would likely cause the group to regard me as an unwanted and unsettling outsider. I am definitely not a suggestible person, and the only possible reason they could find in their world view for their failure to indoctrinate me would be insufficient faith on my part. Theists have the mistaken impression that atheists are not enjoying life to the fullest and are in need of help from a supernatural being. Sometime, Tom, I'd like to hear more about your life as an atheist. Both of us began our atheism just after high school. Yet, unlike you, I have never been moved to religion in times of tragedy or adversity, so there must have been, from the start, something very different in our philosophies.

Regards,
Tom L.




From Tom Wolff
To Tom Lawson
November 5, 2000

Beginning of the Universe Part VI

In a message dated 10/31/2000 5:07:18 PM Central Standard Time, tomofdarwin{at}cmgate.com writes:

...Finally, the Alpha course is not a test of the existence of the Christian god or any other god...
Dear Tom L.,

Thank you for your most recent e-mail. My question to you is this: Are you saying that there is a zero percent chance that there is 'God'? When you say that Alpha is not a test, are you saying that God cannot show you something to prove His existence?

There are 250 Alpha courses throughout the state of Minnesota. Here are three churches that run the Alpha course in Saint Cloud:

St Cloud Hope Covenant Church Evangelical Covenant
St Cloud Jubilee Worship Center Nondenominational
St Cloud Salem Lutheran Church Lutheran.

Of course, I understand that you would prefer not to go to something like this alone. Don't you know anyone in your area that is someone who believes in God? The best part of the Alpha course is that its fun, and I think you would find it time well spent. Your questions are welcome, as that is the one of the main reasons of the Alpha course, to ask questions and provide everyone with new insights.

Next, I would like to review your analysis of my two examples of answered prayer. First, I provided an example of my Pastor telling me he received a vision from God of a Lighthouse, as I was standing there. This was not a symbol of something, this was not a metaphor. This was my Pastor having God provide him with something special to tell me. This vision matched up with a Lighthouse coffee mug my wife bought me shortly before the vision.

You explain this away as being a coincidence. Do you think you are using reason in reviewing what took place? Let me suggest that instead, you might be rationalizing away something amazing that took place. God is doing stuff like this all the time! And all I am asking you to do is to come check it out.

On the example of my wife and I praying the for protection the night before a chimney fire, you dismiss this story as being egotism as God singling out my family and ignoring other families who have also had fires in their homes. I am saying nothing of the sort. I am merely telling you that my wife and I prayed, and we saw an answer to prayers. I would love to see others pray and receive the same protection. It appears that you have read your Bible, and so I am sure you are familiar with the verse that says we don't receive because we don't ask. All I am pointing out is that instead of your seeing this as answered prayers, that you might be rationalizing away something that is uncomfortable to you - that God is answering prayers, and showing His presence around us in a BIG way. And again, the Alpha course is a way to see for yourself whether God can reveal Himself to you.

Finally, I appreciate your providing me with the Books written by Messrs. Kaku and Stenger. I also appreciate the Stephen Hawking web-site. I assume that you read what Prof. Hawking said about your oscillating universe position - That there is not even a theory developed to explain how the oscillating universe could ever happen. I keep looking at the scientific explanations for the beginning of the universe and see how little science is actually in them. Don't you have questions on all of this? I just see the God of the Bible as being backed up by what we've learned from science, and being the only explanation.

I appreciate your time, and helping me to understand these issues.

/s/
Tom Wolff




08 Nov 00

Dear Tom W.,

You are most welcome. I hope I can sufficiently clarify my position for you.

You say there are 250 Alpha courses in Minnesota -- is this list on the Internet? I mentioned St Cloud because it is the nearest city, but it is still an hour's drive away. The towns of Hutchinson and Litchfield are only 12 miles away. A young-earth creationist friend living near Stewart about 24 miles from me, who attends, I think, an evangelical church, told me he has not heard of the Alpha course. I take your word that the course is fun -- fun, I suppose, for like-minded Christians as a mutually supportive, social event, but an atheist, to become part of the group, would have to check his critical thinking at the door.

YOUR LIGHTHOUSE EXAMPLE:

Stranger things than this have happened to people, whether or not they prayed. In any case, I hope you are not denying that "light" and "lighthouse" are popular symbols or metaphors in Christianity, that pastors may occasionally use these metaphors, and that parishioners often possess objects bearing these symbols. These all seem likely to me. Further proof would require a poll of as many church members as possible (but not the Pastor), asking them (1) if they have in their possession any objects with a light or lighthouse motif, and (2) whether the Pastor ever said to them that he had a vision of a lighted lighthouse. I predict that a significant number of members would answer yes to both questions, in which case the odds in favor of the occurrence of this coincidence are much increased.

YOUR CHIMNEY-FIRE EXAMPLE:

I gave you a number of perfectly good reasons why you and your wife prayed for the protection of your children, why your wife awakened, and why she looked for a another cause of your daughter's overheating. You rejected them all, preferring to give God credit, while denying it to your intelligent and vigilant wife, who was using her common sense without the need of God's help. You said that you "would love to see others pray and receive the same protection." However, many pray and do not receive the protection prayed for.

You asked, "Are you saying that there is a zero percent chance that there is 'God'?"

Not a ZERO PERCENT CHANCE, but ZERO EVIDENCE, for the existence of a god.

You then asked, "When you say that Alpha is not a test, are you saying that God cannot show you something to prove His existence?" If one believes in the existence of an omnipotent supernatural being, then by definition it can do anything it wants, including showing one something to prove its existence. However, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and the alleged proofs I've seen so far are not only awfully tame for an omnipotent being, but also apparently targeted only for those that are easily swayed by scanty evidence. The experiences are more easily explained by natural events.

How can I be sure that a particular experience is one caused by a god that is trying to prove its existence to you (or to me)? Suppose that you tell me that you had an inner vision of a flying horse. This does not prove to me that one or more flying horses exist. Suppose one experiences an uncommon coincidence (and let us put aside natural explanations for the moment). Let us say that, in preparing for a plane flight, one prayed to your Jesus for a safe flight. Then an unexpected business emergency forced one to cancel the very flight that crashed, killing all on board. How does one prove that the Jesus of the New Testament caused the business emergency that diverted one from certain death. For you it is apparently sufficient that the thing prayed for was realized. However, I ask again, as I have twice before in earlier messages, "How do you know it was your Jesus that answered the prayer?" Consider persons with other faiths and beliefs of equal conviction, who prayed to their icons for safety. The Mormon traveler insists that it was the Jesus that appeared to the early Americans that answered his prayer. The Jewish traveler insists that it was not Jesus but Yahweh. The Muslim traveler insists that it was Allah. The Catholic traveler insists that it was St. Christopher. Whom am I to believe?

You stated, "All I am pointing out is that, instead of your seeing this as answered prayers, you might be rationalizing away something that is uncomfortable to you . . ."

Since I am as sure that no god exists as I am that most people will see another day tomorrow, I assure you that I'm not in the least uncomfortable. However, with the addition of one word, I can apply this same statement to YOU, saying, "All I am pointing out is that, instead of your seeing this ONLY as answered prayers, you might be rationalizing away something that is uncomfortable to you" -- e.g., life without God and immortality.

As for Stephen Hawking's views, some scientists, of course, say they believe in God, and Hawking, who was brought up in a devout Catholic home, often speaks of God. Nevertheless, other scientists, whether theistic or atheistic, respectfully disagree with his cosmological theory. You might want to look into the question as to whether Hawking's god is a personal god that cares about humans and can hear prayers and answer them.

You said that you see "little science" in the "scientific explanations for the beginning of the universe." Well, I see absolutely NO science in the Christian explanation for the beginning of the universe, if one can even call it an "explanation." It is simply a statement that "God did it."

I hope the above has made my position clearer. If not, I'm sure you will tell me so! ;-)

Regards,
Tom





From Tom Wolff
To Tom Lawson
November 12, 2000

Dear Tom L.,

Thank you for your response. As I am an attorney, I am provoked by your statement that there is "ZERO EVIDENCE" for the existence of God. But I will save that discussion for another day.

Initially, I appreciate your openness to attending Alpha. I believe the closest church to you that is sponsoring Alpha is Willmar First Reformed Church Reformed Church in America. The Alpha website with other church locations running the Alpha course is http://www.alpha.org.uk/. I did not tell you my two experiences of answered prayer expecting that you would see this as God's work. When you said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof", I agree. And so I am convinced that the only proof of the existence of God is for you to see with your own eyes God in action. Apostle Thomas said the same thing after Jesus' resurrection that unless I see and put my finger in the print of the nails, I will not believe. So you are in good company requiring proof with your own eyes. But the good news is that God loves you enough to give you that proof.

The real issue is then what if God does show Himself to you? Do you want to see Him? Some people are afraid to search for God because of what it might mean. They may have to give up control of their lives, or the things in their life that they enjoy. This is something you may have to come to terms with if you decide to attend Alpha. Are you prepared to meet your Maker?

I thought this would be a good time to bring up my experience going from an agnostic to a believer in Christ. It was not the death of my brother that caused me to become a believer. Instead, that drew me farther away, confirming everything I felt before. When I was in high school, I could not see God, I did not see anyone's prayers being answered, and so I thought that there was no God. At best I thought that God's existence was unprovable. I was the type of agnostic who would enjoy getting into debates with everyone else, to show them why I was right. Imagine that, an arrogant agnostic! ;o) I even started reading the Bible after I graduated from law school just for the purpose of showing Christians why they were wrong.

So for over fourteen years I was an agnostic as firmly planted in my opinions as you are in yours. This is why I have such a heart for people like you, because I've been there myself. But then one day I met someone who had a strong faith, and I had never seen someone in my adult life who strongly believed all of this stuff in the Bible. This was a year or two after my brother died. Seeing someone who actually walked the talk impressed me. So I decided to give the Bible a second chance. I had questions, and instead of going through the Bible looking to attack others, I was looking for answers to my questions. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. I even started going to church! Before this I thought church was something annoying that got in the way of the football pre-game shows.

Tom, when I try to explain how I know God exists, I feel like someone from Minnesota trying to explain to a person living near the equator, about snow. If someone has never experienced God's presence, it's difficult to explain to him or her. Just like it would be difficult for a Minnesotan to explain snow to someone who has never seen a snowflake.

So about seven years ago I committed my life to Christ. It was from my daily Bible reading that made me see that God was talking to me through what I was reading. No, not a loud voice from the clouds. Instead, a soft, quiet voice giving me direction. If I were going through a stressful time at work, I would get guidance from what I read in the Bible that day. And then I added prayer to my life, and I started seeing God really doing things. For a period of a couple of years, I believed in God, but I didn't think He actually did anything for us. I still lived my life the same, I was in control. God was on the sidelines. But after I saw answers to my prayers, and after I saw strange crossings of paths, which before I dismissed as "coincidence", I finally acknowledged that God is doing stuff out there. I turned my life over to Jesus.

One of the biggest changes in my life is a literal opening of my eyes. Before I was very self focused. Everything revolved around me, my only concerns were about my life. But then something happened. I actually saw others around me and saw that they were hurting. I became concerned for what was going on with other people's lives. This was a simple proof for me of God's existence.

I apologize for dodging your questions about other religions. Those are exactly the types of questions that Alpha is designed to tackle, and so I ask that you consider directing those questions to Alpha. Is Jesus just a philosopher, just like Muhammad, Buddha, or Gandhi? Those are great questions, and they are all dealt with through the Alpha course. But I will finish with this. There is power that comes from reading the Bible. It's not just an accurate history, but it is that. It is God's way of communicating to us. Look at what was written over 3,500 years ago! It had the precise sequence of creation: heavenly bodies, water, formation of land and sea, vegetation, small sea animals and birds, land animals, and the creation of man. I find it incredible that before science could prove any of this, the answer was sitting there in Genesis 1 the whole time. With the most important being - God did it all. God bless you.

/s/ Tom W.





Re: Beginning of the Universe, Part VII
15 Nov 00
Dear Tom W.,

In the opening of your letter, you mentioned that you "will save that discussion [zero evidence for the existence of God] for another day." Isn't evidence for the existence of God what we have been discussing all along? How the universe began is an impersonal way to address that question, while the Lighthouse and Chimney-fire experiences are among the personal ways we have addressed it.

Your two statements, "And so I am convinced that the only proof of the existence of God is for you to see with your own eyes God in action," and, "The real issue is then what if God does show Himself to you?" can mean only one thing: revelation. As an attorney, you know that revelation is not evidence that would stand up in a court of law. It would also not stand up in a "court" of science. Different people having deep religious convictions may have contradictory revelations, based upon their different religions. This gets us back to the "other-religions problem," which you apologized for dodging. You said, "Those are great questions, and they are all dealt with through the Alpha course," but it appears that Alpha did NOT deal with the other-religions problem when you attended, or you would remember something about it. If Alpha did not resolve this crucial problem for you, then their competence -- even their honesty -- is in serious question.

In any case, the other-religions problem is not rocket science. I believe that you are capable of fully addressing this problem without recourse to Alpha. If neither Alpha nor you do so, the reason is likely that at some level you both recognize that this problem strikes at the core of your belief system.

According to you, the "accurate" and "precise" sequence of creation that "was sitting there in Genesis 1 the whole time," is as follows: (1) heavenly bodies, (2) water, (3) land, sea, & vegetation, (4) small sea animals & birds, and (5) land animals & man. When making such a bold statement, it is a good idea not to rely on memory, which here is faulty. The Genesis 1 biblical sequence, as I read it, is:

(1) light, (2) firmament, (3) dry land & vegetation, (4) Sun & Moon, (5) sea animals & birds, (6) land animals, man & woman. You omitted "light" and "Sun & Moon" and added "water" (water already existed before God began the 6-day creation sequence -- "the spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters"). Also, you ignored the contradictory sequence in Genesis 2 where God created "EVERY beast of the field" and "EVERY fowl of the air" not BEFORE creating man and woman (as in Genesis 1) but AFTER creating man and BEFORE creating woman.

The Genesis 1 sequence is rife with egregious scientific errors: Vegetation comes into existence before the sunlight that it needs for growth. Birds and fishes appear at the same time. Dry land and vegetation come into existence even before there exists a star (the Sun) for the planet Earth to revolve around! So much for scientific accuracy and precision!

The scientific sequence is roughly as follows:
(

1) radiation & ionized matter, (2) protons & neutrons & electrons, (3) hydrogen & helium gas clouds, (4) stars, (5) major galaxies, (6) Local Group, (7) Milky Way, (8) Sun, (9) Earth & Moon, (10) continents & oceans & atmosphere, (11) bacteria & algae, (12) oxygen, (13) primitive multicellular organisms, (14) primitive invertebrates, (15) vegetation, (16) fishes, (17) amphibians, (18) reptiles, (19) mammals, (20) hominids.

You mentioned that you were very impressed when you first met "someone who had a strong faith." I have met many people of strong faith, and what has impressed me most is the extent to which their psychological fixation on a particular religious dogma obscures their view of the real world.

Y

ou said, that you "became concerned for what was going on with other people's lives" and that "this was a simple proof for [you] of God's existence." All my life I have been concerned for others, and such concern cannot provide proof of God's existence, because, as I explained in one of my web articles, morality, including altruism, does not come from God.

You said that a "soft, quiet voice" gives you "direction." I, too, have a soft, quiet voice giving me direction, as does everyone. It is the voice of intuition, of the unconscious mind, which, being the repository of all the experiences of one's lifetime, often produces better judgments than the narrow focus of one's conscious mind.

Regards,

Tom L.






From Tom Wolff
To Tom Lawson
November 23, 2000

In a message dated 11/15/2000 8:38:20 AM Central Standard Time, tomofdarwin{at}cmgate.com writes:

"...The Genesis 1 biblical sequence, as I read it, is: (1) light, (2) firmament, (3) dry land & vegetation, (4) Sun & Moon, (5) sea animals & birds, (6) land animals, man & woman. You omitted "light" and "Sun & Moon" and added "water" (water already existed before God began the 6-day creation sequence -- "the spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters"). Also, you ignored the contradictory sequence in Genesis 2 where God created "EVERY beast of the field" and "EVERY fowl of the air" not BEFORE creating man and woman (as in Genesis 1) but AFTER creating man and BEFORE creating woman..."

Dear Tom L.,

Thank you for pointing out my omissions in your most recent e-mail. Let me explain why I think Genesis One is an amazing summary of God's work of creation, and as backed up by science.

Day One: "In the beginning" was God. This answers a lot of questions right there. "The earth was without form". Incredibly, this shows that the earth (and the rest of the universe) was just energy, without form, which science confirmed to us only recently.

"Then God said 'Let there be light'". At the start of the Big Bang the universe was entirely energy. It is not until the first .00001 seconds that the transition from energy to stable matter occurred. Source: Scientific American, 'Life in the Universe' October 1994. The universe was nothing but energy at the start of the Big Bang, and this is the Light referred to in Genesis 1:3. In other words, the universe was nothing but Light!

Day Two: Gen. 1:6-8 - The heavenly firmament forms. The disk of the milky way forms, the sun and the main sequence of stars form.

Day Three: Gen. 1:9-13 - Oceans and dry land appear. The earth cooled and liquid water appears 3.8 billion years ago. Bacteria and algae form almost immediately. Source: 'The Science of God', Gerald Schroeder, who is a former professor of physics at MIT.

Day Four: En 1:14-19 - The Sun, moon and stars become visible to the planet earth. Plants gradually produce oxygen to a level of 21%. Earth's atmosphere becomes transparent, permitting the lights in the heavens to become visible at the surface of the earth. As you can tell from my reading of this portion of Genesis, I do not believe that the stars, sun and moon were created after plant life developed on earth. Instead, the life on earth became aware of the stars, sun and moon's presence by the atmosphere becoming transparent enough to allow their light.

Day Five: Gen. 1:20-23. First, animal life appears in the sea, followed by reptiles, and then winged animals. This is the precise sequence biology teaches us that these events took place. Source: Schroeder, The Science of God, p. 67.

Day Six: Gen. 1:24-31. Land animals and mammals appear. This is the most amazing part of the Genesis creation story. In earth's history, there are only 50 body plan types for animals. In a period of just three to five million years (a blink of the eye in Darwin's time scale), we go from one celled protozoa to fully developed animals, with complicated developments such as sex organs, wings, and eyes suddenly appearing, fully developed! And there are no fossils in between the one celled organisms and the fully developed animals which appeared 530 million years ago. All fifty animal body plans appeared during this 'Cambrian Explosion'. Source: DeHaan and Wiester, 'The Cambrian Explosion' in the July/August Touchstone magazine. Which leads us to the final creation event, the appearance of humans. Again, in the perfect sequence which Genesis told us about.

Day Seven: Which leads us to God's day of rest. Have you noticed that there are no new animal species which have appeared since the appearance of man? While there has been a great deal of extinction of animals, there are no new appearances of animals from the time man appeared.

This is my take of Genesis, and why many people see that it matches up with what science has taught us. You mention Genesis 2 having some sort of contradictory sequence where animals were created after man was created. If you are referring to Genesis 2:19-20, I think you are incorrect in your reading. Genesis 1 already told us the sequence of when animals and man were created. Genesis 2 deals with Adam's naming of the animals. Finally, I hope you will find a way to attend the next Alpha course nearest to you. This past weekend, God gave my wife and I a reason to be especially thankful during Thanksgiving this year. My wife has had serious back problems for over ten years, after she was involved in a car accident. She has had treatments, chiropractic work, and special exercises, all of which have failed to cure her pain. Well, last Sunday night at Alpha was a discussion of whether God still heals today. And you guessed it! After she was prayed for her to take away her back pain, my wife's back problems and pain have all left her. Thursday night my wife pushed our van out of snow bank! This is truely amazing, and I hope you will test our claims for yourself by attending Alpha. Thank you, God bless you, and have a great Thanksgiving.

/s/ Tom Wolff




29 Nov 00

Dear Tom W.,

Thank you, I hope your holiday was great too. My hard-working sister prepared a delicious Thanksgiving meal for 10 people, including me. The holiday and other events delayed this reply.

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GENESIS 1:

In view of your many claims regarding Genesis, I have done an in-depth analysis of it. Frankly, I am amazed that you are amazed by Genesis. This story is riddled with scientific errors, including sequential errors. In the following commentary, I refer to the writer (or writers) as the "author," and words with all caps indicate my emphasis.

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BEGINNING:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This statement is a summary of the events to follow.

"The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep;

and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters."

A void, formless Earth means that Earth did not yet exist -- God created it in Day 3 by making dry land and calling it Earth. Throughout Genesis, as elsewhere in the Bible, there is no conception of a spherical Earth. From a field, to the land of Israel, to the Earth, all was flat with four corners:

"And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the CORNERS OF THY FIELD, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest." (Leviticus 19:9)

"Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the FOUR CORNERS OF THE LAND." (Ezekiel 7:2)

"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree." (Revelations 7: 1)

As I see it, the author viewed space as consisting only of water(s) in total darkness, and as finite (having a "face"). If this interpretation is correct, it does not agree with science. In any case, in Genesis, everything started with water, but water did not exist on Earth until after the formation of the Sun and its planets.

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DAY 1:

"Let there be light" and "God separated the light from the darkness." One does not "separate" light from darkness -- the author was unaware that darkness is simply the absence of light. The creation of light has no scientific significance here. It merely sets the stage for the main event, which is "separating" light and darkness and naming them "Day" and "Night."

"God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night." The Sun and the Earth were not created until Day 4, so the author revealed his ignorance of the fact that day and night are caused by the planet Earth turning on its axis as it receives light from the Sun. Contrast this with the superior knowledge of the ancient Greeks -- Aristarchus was the first person to suggest that Earth and the other planets moved around the Sun, and the Greeks also knew the shape and the approximate size of Earth and the cause of eclipses of the Sun.

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DAY 2:

"Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters . . ." Here God divided the watery depths of space with the firmament (the arch of the sky) and called it Heaven. Apparently, the author regarded the firmament as a hemispherical dome of air between the spatial waters above and the spatial waters below (the latter of which were later called Seas when dry land was created). Nothing in science corresponds to the creation of a firmament separating two spatial waters.

You stated, "The disk of the milky way forms, the sun and the main sequence of stars form."

Whoa! You are rushing creation in order to try to make this story sound more scientific. It was not until Day 4 that God put "lights" in the firmament ("lights" presumably meaning all the heavenly bodies).

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DAY 3:

You stated: "The earth cooled and liquid water appears . . ." You ignored my statement in Part VII that water could NOT have been created in this day, because in Genesis water already existed, as follows:

Beginning: ". . . and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the WATERS."

Day 2: "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the WATERS . . . "

You stated, "Bacteria and algae form almost immediately." Where is that in the text? In any case, bacteria are animals -- not vegetation -- and algae are aquatic plants -- not plants on land, as specified in, "Let the EARTH put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed . . . and trees bearing fruit . . ." ("earth" being the dry land that God had just created and called Earth). However, the author put the cart before the horse by having vegetation, plants, and trees created BEFORE the Sun and BEFORE the atmosphere, instead of afterward, as in the scientific sequence, where seed-bearing plants and fruit trees didn't appear until the Devonian Period, about 150 million years after the first aquatic invertebrates in the Cambrian Period, followed by the first aquatic vertebrates in the Ordovician Period. In Genesis, such animals don't appear until Day 5.

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DAY 4:

You stated, "The Sun, moon and stars become visible to the planet earth."

According to the text, God did not just let them "become visible." This day is when God actually MADE these bodies ("God MADE the two great lights [Sun and Moon]"), not in Day 2, as you previously claimed.

In "lights in the firmament of the heavens," the astronomically ignorant author lumped together all galaxies, meteors, comets, planets, etc., and stars (except the Sun -- he didn't know that the Sun is a star).

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DAY 5:

You stated, "First, animal life appears in the sea, followed by reptiles, and then winged animals. This is the precise sequence biology teaches us that these events took place."

On the contrary, the scientific sequence for land animals is: (1) the first insect, (2) amphibians, (3) reptiles, (4) spiders, snails, scorpions, & cockroaches, (5) dinosaurs, (6) the first mammals, (7) flying reptiles, (8) later insects, such as moths, flies, beetles, grasshoppers, & termites, (9) snakes & lizards, and (10) FINALLY birds! Whoops! In Genesis, what happened to all those land animals between "swarms of living [aquatic] creatures" and birds?

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DAY 6:

You stated, "Land animals and mammals appear." But one biblical day too late!

You stated, "And there are no fossils in between the one celled organisms and the fully developed animals which appeared 530 million years ago."

The reason is that the one-celled organisms were tiny and soft bodied, so there was generally nothing to fossilize.

"Let the earth bring forth . . . cattle . . ."

Now here is a living creature we all understand.

". . . and creeping things [on the ground] . . ."

Could the author have been referring to insects, the most numerous kinds of animals on Earth? No, although they creep and fly, the first insect appeared before reptiles and amphibians. Snakes and lizards? Maybe, but they appeared in the Cretacious Period, about 65 million years before cattle.

". . . and beasts of the earth . . ."

Frightfully general, as are swarming things and creeping things. The most specific creations were seed-bearing plants, fruit trees, birds, and cattle. By now we are convinced that the author sorely needed a lesson in taxonomy, but then we understand that he was mainly concerned about the plants and animals that were important to the livelihood of the Hebrews.

"And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." This is an odd statement, even for the ancient Hebrews. The author must have known that many birds, beasts, and "creeping" things can't digest plants. An oversight? Well, this is supposed to be God's word, so it becomes God's oversight.

Humans are created exactly as modern humans. However, science has identified many species of bipedal, tool-making, mammals before modern humans -- six species of australopiths and six species of hominids. Of course, the author knew nothing of these.

In each of the six days, the mundane terms, "evening," "morning," "day," and "night" clearly refer to an ordinary Earth day of about 24 hours -- what else could one expect the author to have been familiar with? A six-day creation sequence clashes mightily with science.

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GENESIS 2

You objected to the contradictions I found between Genesis 1 and 2, saying that I read them incorrectly. Not so. Adam's naming of the animals is irrelevant to the sequence of creation events. Take a close look at the following statements:

In Genesis 1:

(1) "So God created . . . EVERY winged BIRD according to its kind" and "God made the BEASTS of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds"

(2) "So God created MAN . . . MALE and FEMALE"

In Genesis 2:

(1) "the Lord God formed MAN of dust from the ground"

(2) "Then . . . the Lord God formed EVERY BEAST of the field and EVERY BIRD of the air."

(3) "So . . . the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a WOMAN"

I assume that all beasts were created ONCE, that all birds were created ONCE, and that Man and Woman were created ONCE. Therefore, Genesis 2 must be a retelling or different version of Genesis 1. The problem is that the sequence of creation events of Genesis 2 (MAN, then BEASTS & BIRDS, then WOMAN) contradicts that of Genesis 1 (BIRDS & BEASTS, then MAN & WOMAN). The only logical conclusion is that these are two contradictory versions of the same story, probably by different authors -- note that "God" is used repeatedly in Genesis 1, while "Lord God" is used repeatedly in Genesis 2.

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CONCLUSIONS for GENESIS:

The events of Genesis 1 are a far cry from what you call "the precise sequence biology teaches us." Far from being "backed up by science," the biblical sequence is precisely what one would expect of an author that, ignorant of cosmology and biology, was expressing a familiar, geocentric, anthropocentric view. Genesis 1 is a story of the creation of Earth and its inhabitants, not of the universe -- lights in the sky are put there only to "separate" day from night. Also, Genesis 2:1-22 contradicts Genesis 1:1-31.

A review of the major scientific errors in Genesis 1 is as follows: Beginning: Water did not exist on Earth until after the formation of the Sun and its planets.

DAY 1: Day and night require a planet Earth turning on its axis as it receives light from the Sun, but the Sun and Earth have not yet been created..

DAY 2: Nothing in science corresponds to a creation of a firmament separating two spatial waters.

DAY 3: No mention is made of bacteria, algae, or the aquatic invertebrates & vertebrates that ought to have preceded vegetation, seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees. Vegetation, etc. appear before the Sun and atmosphere exist.

(Day 4) Creation of Sun and Moon should have occurred in Day 1, not now after dry land and vegetation. If "lights" are heavenly bodies, no distinction is made between galaxies, meteors, comets, planets, stars, etc. No recognition that the Sun is a star. (Day 5) Land animals should have come between aquatic animals and birds.

(Day 6) Land animals appear too late. No mention of insects, the most numerous kinds of animals on Earth. Carnivorous animals are not addressed. Twelve species of early humans omitted. All of creation occurred in a mere 144-hour period.

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ALPHA:

As an occasional back-pain sufferer myself, I sympathize with your wife. Back problems are a common, unfortunate consequence of the evolution from walking on all fours to walking on two legs. In my view, God had nothing to do with the relief of your wife's pain -- hypnotic suggestion did. While the latter can be quite effective in removing pain, it tends to wear off in a short time and needs to be repeated. Also, in some people suggesting one symptom away can create another. If your wife could learn autohypnosis, she could do without the prayer group. I have found autohypnosis to be quite effective in removing pain in dental treatment. For people capable of deep hypnosis, it is effective in reducing or eliminating pain in childbirth or major surgery.

Although suggestion reduces or removes pain, it rarely heals physical disease or injury. In my web article, "Is anything supernatural?," is a story about the famous "Mr. Wright," for whose cancer remissions he credited an drug he mistakenly thought was effective -- not God. Most likely your wife's underlying back injury remains -- she just can't feel it now. By no means should she be pushing cars out of snow banks! This a good illustration of the danger of a false belief that prayer can heal a physical injury. You ought to persuade her not to expose her spine to further injury by taking unnecessary risks.

I excuse you for ignoring for the third time my request that you deal with the "other-religions" problem, because I assume that, at the last Alpha meeting, you were concentrating on relieving your wife of her back pains. The "other-religions" problem consists of explaining why your revelations and the tenets of your faith (Christian) are true, while all other religious revelations and beliefs are false. If Alpha has not already dealt with this essential problem, then probably it would do no good for me to challenge them.

My answer to that question was: if members of all religions are EQUALLY convinced they belong to the only true religion, then, on that basis alone, the overwhelming likelihood is that no religion is true (of course there are many other reasons to conclude that all religious beliefs are false). That's the reason why I became an atheist. On the other hand, your avoidance of this question appears to be the reason why you so easily became a Christian. Perhaps, during the early part of your life, you were only submitting to agnostic peer pressure, as you are now submitting to Christian peer pressure.

I assume that Alpha also requires a belief in life after death. If they cannot provide convincing evidence for an afterlife, they wouldn't do me any good, because I staunchly maintain that the existence of an afterlife is as improbable as you say the origin of life is -- only more so.

Therefore, in your next letter I trust you will tackle the "other-religions" problem. Everything hinges on that. For example, take the case of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. In less than 175 years, this religion has attracted millions of devout followers and continues to grow. A member of this church stated, "You only need to know one religion, the LDS religion. This is the true religion. I know it with all of my heart." How would you dispute that belief? Do you reject the vision and revelation of the prophet Joseph Smith in which the Angel Moroni directed him to buried golden plates inscribed with the Book of Mormon? If so, why? One can thoroughly examine the historical roots of this relatively new religion. If you think that such an examination proves that it is not valid, then why expect validity of Christianity, whose roots are far more obscure, particularly in view of other old religions, such as Judaism and Islam, whose roots are equally obscure? False beliefs never die out -- Mormonism will probably still be around 2,000 years from now, unless new breakthroughs in science make such false beliefs so unattractive that all sound-thinking people would reject them.

Regards,
Tom L.




12/10/2000
Dear Tom L.,

Thank you for your response. It is obvious to me the amount of time you have put in reviewing this topic. I believe we both grow from this exchange, and I genuinely appreciate the time that you put into each response. I hope you feel the same about our discussion.

Sometimes I am called obtuse. You complained that I have not responded to your questions about other religions. Apparently you do not like my somewhat obtuse response. I have tried to respond to the issue of other religions by pointing to the Bible, and the truth it contains. Nothing is like the Bible, in its power, and how God speaks to us when we read it. I hope you have read it. To avoid my being obtuse (:o) ), let me provide three things that separate Christianity from all other world religions: Jesus and His resurrection, the Bible, and God's grace.

Back to the Genesis creation account, your main objection seems to be the sequence in which life appeared as described in Genesis. You say that the Genesis creation account differs from what science is showing us. Rather than me referring you to books by scientists who also believe that God is the Creator, I thought I would take a different approach. I would use a source which you might feel comfortable citing as reliable - the New York Public Library 'Science Desk Reference' (1995), pp. 107-123. You might even have this book on your bookshelf.

Using the 'Science Desk Reference' book's age of appearance of animal/plant life, we see land plants appeared about 433 million years ago. Fish appeared 400 million years ago. Reptiles appeared 300 million years ago. Next, Protoavis the first winged bird appeared at 225 million years ago. And mammals appear at around 200 million years ago. Using even the secular New York Public Library 'Science Desk Reference' Book, we see that science teaches us that the appearance of life is just as Genesis taught us. It is the same sequence. The only difference is that Genesis taught us this 3,500 years ago. Yes, this properly amazes me! The Bible is truth.

You also point out that not everything is described in the Genesis account. Bacteria (which I understand is classified as neither plant nor animal) and insects are not mentioned in the Genesis creation account. I think you can see why everything is not listed out in Genesis. In the Bible which I keep by my computer, Genesis One is less than 100 hundred lines long. If you believe in the 'old age' view, this covers some 15 billion years. 15 billion years in a hundred lines. Of course, not everything will be covered, just the highlights. Such as God did it. God created everything, including man. Science cannot provide us with an explanation that makes sense. But Genesis provided us with an explanation that has withstood the test of time. Finally, let me ask what it is meaningful to you. What do you think of the following statement: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. If you keep growing in this way you can have lives with meaning (Tom W.'s addition - the meaning of life?). I would appreciate hearing from you on what gives your life meaning?

Let me know what is the meaning of your life.

Thank you - /s/ Tom Wolff






12 Dec 00

Dear Tom W.,

OTHER RELIGIONS

You stated, "I have tried to respond to the issue of other religions by pointing to the Bible, and the truth it contains. Nothing is like the Bible, in its power, and how God speaks to us when we read it." ". . . let me provide three things that separate Christianity from all other world religions: Jesus and His resurrection, the Bible, and God's grace."

The members of every religion or sect believe in the power of their holy scripture, are convinced that their scripture contains the "truth," believe that their God speaks to them, have the same degree of conviction, and reject the beliefs of other religions or sects, even to the point of warring with one another, e.g., the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. Christian sects pick and choose which interpretations of the Bible contain the "truth" -- if they all agreed, then Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, etc. would not be attending different churches with different Bibles, different rituals, etc. You have not proven that your religion or sect is better than any other or that there is any validity in its claim to possess the "truth."

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GENESIS

You stated, "15 billion years in a hundred lines. Of course, not everything will be covered, just the highlights."

Of the approximately 800 words in Genesis 1, only 56 words (in RSV) describe the plants and animals that were created: "vegetation," "plants yielding seed," "fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed," "vegetation [again], "plants yielding seed [again]," "trees bearing fruit in which is their seed [again]," "swarms of living creatures," "birds," "great sea monsters," "every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm," "every winged bird [again]," "cattle," "creeping things," "beasts of the earth," "beasts of the earth [again]," "cattle [again]," and "every thing that creeps upon the ground [again]."

Of the terms used above, the only ones that are not so vague as to be unidentifiable are fruit trees, birds, and cattle. Since reptiles are aquatic, semi-aquatic, or terrestrial, how can one tell which, if any, of those swarming or creeping things are reptiles? It is astonishing that an omniscient God was so general, redundant, and obscure, until one realizes that the mortal author of Genesis was only emphasizing the importance of fruit trees and cattle to the livelihood of Hebrew farmers. The author had never encountered such exotic, extant animals as the kangaroo, the ostrich, or the duck-billed platypus, let alone the vast number of marvelously strange extinct animals. If the author had been covering actual "highlights," he would have included in his record such momentous events as the Permian extinction, when 95% of all animals became extinct (the total number of extinct kinds of animals was far greater than those that existed in biblical times).

The scientific dates you give for the first instances of plants, fish, reptiles, and mammals are more or less in the ballpark, but there is a problem with your date for the first birds (225 million years ago). It is a good idea to avoid Protoavis as an example of birds, because scientists regard it as highly controversial:

"There are major problems with Protoavis. On the Chatterjee (1991) interpretation, Ostrom (1991) has this to say [my paraphrase]: The only published material from the fossil is a monograph in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. However, this only describes the head. This is badly crushed and all the pieces have been extracted from the matrix, rendering precise placement of the pieces open to question. The description is done from an avian viewpoint, with no counterview (e.g. is this a dinosaur?) used. The skull is so badly crushed that diagnostic features are not preserved. Therefore the published material does not support the view that this is a bird. Indeed a viewing of the fossil by Ostrom (in admittedly less than ideal surroundings) showed that the diagnostic features which could identify the fossil either way are badly crushed and it is doubtful whether any definitive statement could be supported by the fossil. It may be a bird, it may not."

Source: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/archaeopteryx/info.html#protoavis

If you want to name a transitional birdlike fossil, choose Archaeopteryx, part reptile and part bird, at 145 million years ago. But, if you take the Bible literally, the author of Genesis had in mind birds like we know today, and modern-type birds didn't appear until the Cretaceous, between 138 and 65 million years ago. In either case, birds came well after the first mammals.

You claim that the main biblical sequence of plants and animals is scientifically accurate and goes as follows:
(1) land plants, (2) fish, (3) reptiles, (4) birds, and (5) mammals As mentioned above, "reptiles" is questionable. In any case, this sequence still has major scientific errors:

(1) Genesis 1 speaks only of land plants, but aquatic plants appeared long BEFORE land plants.

(2) Genesis mentions fruit trees, which among many other land plants did not appear until AFTER all of the following: fish, first insects, reptiles, dinosaurs, first mammals, and several types of early birds.

(3) The first birds appeared long AFTER the first mammals.

In my reply to Part 8, Tom, I made a clear, detailed list of the numerous contradictions and scientific errors in Genesis 1 and 2. Yet, you have ignored most of them, including all the glaring astronomical and geophysical errors. I can only suggest that you reread my reply to Part 8 carefully and, in your next reply, give reasons, item by item, for anything that appears to you to be in error. If you can find no major errors, then explain to me how you can possibly conclude with a straight face that "science teaches us that the appearance of life is just as Genesis taught us."

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MEANING OF LIFE

The meaning of life, as I see it, is the meaning each person chooses to give to his own life. As for the choices you have made to give your life meaning, I think that knowledge, self-control, perseverance, brotherly kindness, and love are worthy goals or qualities. "Goodness" may be redundant because it is embodied in "kindness" and "love." "Faith" and "godliness" are metaphysical terms that need to be defined and can probably be replaced by more meaningful qualities.

As for my choices, I'd include four of your goals or qualities: knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and love I'd replace the phrase "brotherly kindness" with "reciprocal altruism." I'd add optimism, empathy, trust, creativity, curiosity, honesty, skepticism, and enjoyment of community and life in general, including the beauty and exciting qualities of nature, scientific discovery, the fine arts, and literature. In addition, I'd like, if I can, to contribute something to the totality of knowledge and to the quality of life for all people -- to have at least a small part in leaving the world a better place than it was when I was born into it.

Regards,
Tom L.




From Tom W.
To Tom L.
December 22, 2000

In a message dated 12/12/2000 4:31:21 PM Central Standard Time, tomofdarwin{at}cmgate.com writes:

..
.The members of every religion or sect believe in the power of their holy scripture, are convinced that their scripture contains the "truth," believe that their God speaks to them, have the same degree of conviction, and reject the beliefs of other religions or sects, even to the point of warring with one another, e.g., the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. ...You have not proven that your religion or sect is better than any other or that there is any validity in its claim to possess the "truth."

Dear Tom L.,

I trust that during the holidays you are well. Do you spend Christmas with your family?

For this e-mail, I thought I would go a little farther into the discussion of other religions.

OTHER RELIGIONS: Initially, I note in your response No. 8, that you made a strong statement: That the reason you became an atheist is that all religions are equally persuaded that they belong to the one true religion. In addressing this, I rely on Ravi Zacharias' interview in 'The Case for Faith'. This is a good book, and I recommend it to you. In it, it deals with many questions including the topics of other religions and the belief that science answers everything.

In reviewing other religions, we should look at how they address the BIG four questions of life, origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Only Jesus Christ corresponds to reality, with a coherence among the answers to these questions that is unmatched by any other religion.

On the origin, we see that the Big Bang matches nicely with what was said in Genesis 1. Compare this to the Hindu model, which predicted an eternal, oscillating universe. Further, the Bible tells us that man rejected God's will. This explains the evil in the world that we see. And only God's presence explains the good in the world that we also see.

On meaning, many of the world religions call us to be good people. Only Christianity tells us of God's grace. Grace being totally unearned, we must merely accept it - have faith that God sent Jesus to this world to die for our sins. Grace is one of the biggest differences between Christianity and all other religions. We cannot earn God's love by being nice people. Instead, we have to accept God's love through faith in Jesus.

On morality, we see in America today the attitude that everything is relative, do whatever makes you happy. Is moral law over us or subject to us? Only Christianity gives a coherent answer to this question, by setting the mark by which all else is measured - God. Buddhism doesn't have God in its equation, and so how can it rationally discuss morality?

Finally, destiny. A person who has a personal relationship with Jesus have a destiny based on Jesus' resurrection. By Jesus' resurrection, the doors to heaven have been opened, for those who believe.

You note that other religions have holy books that they rely on. An example is the Koran of the Muslims. But while the Bible is for universal reading, the Muslims believe that it is only recognizable in Arabic, and that any translation desacralizes it. While other religion's books have portions of truth contained in them, only the Bible has the full Truth of Jesus Christ.

You raise the issue of in-fighting by Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. Its a sad state, isn't it. My question back to you is do you think Jesus thinks this is right? Jesus didn't set up denominations, divisions, and sects. Jesus' prayer was for unity.

You also mention the Mormons, and frankly I don't know much about them. What is your experience with the Mormon religion, and how do you feel about them?

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and have a great holiday season.

/s/ Tom Wolff


23 Dec 00
Dear Tom W.,

My best wishes to you and yours, for the holidays and the coming year. I spend the holidays with the remaining members of my family (my sister and two nephews), assorted in-laws, and their spouses, children, and friends.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon church), nominally a Christian religion (or denomination), is growing very fast and is expected to become one of the major religions. It has two holy books, the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The latter, supposedly translated from divine scripture by its prophet and founder Joseph Smith contains a record of migration in 600 BCE of a tribe of Jews from Jerusalem to America, where the resurrected Jesus Christ came and preached in 1 CE. What is most interesting about this religion is that, due to its recent origin (1830), we can easily determine from the historical record its fraudulent beginnings, in spite of which its members are as convinced of the truth of their beliefs as the members of any other religion. You said that, "only the Bible has the full Truth of Jesus Christ," but, according to Mormon doctrine, only the Bible TOGETHER WITH the Book of Mormon have the "full Truth of Jesus Christ."

Genesis matches the Big Bang as "nicely" as a wart hog matches Helen of Troy: Genesis begins with WATERS filling the DARK depths of space, while the Big Bang begins with an explosion of hot, dense matter and ENERGY, including LIGHT. Genesis says the EARTH was without form, while in the Big Bang theory the UNIVERSE was without form.

Your question, ". . . how can [Buddhists] rationally discuss morality?" is answered in my web article, "Does Morality Come from God?" which explains why morality exists independent of God. If God is the "mark by which all else is measured," it is a mark of abject cruelty and vengefulness toward multitudes of innocent people (including "nice people"), causing thousands of years of suffering for the sin of one couple, Adam and Eve.

Muslims have a good point about the fallibility of translations, but whether there is one version or many of holy scripture, the members of other religions would loudly protest your claim that only "portions" of their holy books are true. What I think Jesus might have said about today's legion of mutually antagonistic Christian denominations is not as important as the fact that, if Jesus prayed for unity, his prayer certainly was not answered.

Tom, I recommend that you have a conversation with a couple of Mormon missionaries about their religion. You will experience first hand their deep faith and total conviction. No amount of evidence of the fraudulent beginnings of their church will shake their beliefs. Aside from some doctrinal differences, they discuss their religious beliefs in much the same way as you do yours.

Regards,
Tom L.

December 31, 2000

Hi Tom L.,

Happy New Year's Eve and an early Happy New Year's Day to you. I read your website on morality, and you did an excellent job on it. I like your specific examples of what you claim are examples of moral behavior in the animal kingdom. I also appreciate your giving citations of the materials you relied on.

OTHER RELIGIONS - You equate the Mormon religion with the religion of traditional Christianity because they are equally convinced of the truth of their beliefs. You do this because they have a "deep faith and total conviction", and that because I have a deep faith that this is somehow equivalent to their deep faith. Your argument centers on the belief that because people of differing religious backgrounds are equally convinced that theirs is the correct view, that none of the religious views is correct. I disagree with your analysis. The central reason you are wrong on this is because of the presence of Truth. There are truths all around us. And the implications of these truths require a response:

First, is God the Creator of the universe, or did creation happen accidentally? One of these positions is true and one is wrong; Second, did Jesus of Nazareth live and walk the earth?; Did Jesus perform miracles?; Was Jesus killed and did He come back to life. Was He resurrected? All of these questions are truths capable of being known by you and I.

Your question on the Mormon religion focuses on that merely because people are equally convinced of their position is one position better than the other? The Mormon religion is based on a claimed appearance by God and Jesus to Joseph Smith when he was fourteen years old. This could be a truth - this either took place, or it did not.

And you have answered this question yourself. You state in your Reply in Beginning of the Universe, Part X, that "we can easily determine from the historical record its (the Mormon religion) fraudulent beginnings". There are a number of things which took place that if Joseph Smith was truely visited by God and Jesus, that would be supported by the evidence of this Divine visit. You were able after doing some research into the Mormon beginnings to discover that it is not based on a foundation of truth. But you point out that when you bring out the problems of the beginnings of the Mormon religion to its believers, that no amount of evidence of the fraudulent beginnings of their church will shake their beliefs. They reject the truth that you have pointed out to them.

Tom, I have likewise pointed out to you the problems of the atheistic position of the beginning of the universe. It doesn't make sense to believe that the amount of energy to start the universe just appeared. That it just popped up into existence on its own. And that this was somehow countered by the law of gravity. Are you clinging to your position as tenaciously as the Mormon believers are holding on to theirs, after the truth is presented to them?

Tom, when I provided to you the following verses (from 'Beginning of the Universe 9'), it was a quote from the Bible, Second Peter 1: 5-9 (NIV/CEV): For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. If you keep growing in this way you can have lives with meaning.

This is wisdom that comes straight from Jesus for how we are to live our lives. That we are to continue growing in our lives until we die. There is wonderful wisdom in the Bible - life-changing wisdom. I hope you will start with the New Testament and learn from Jesus' life that there is still much to learn in your life.

GENESIS - You raised as some sort of objection to reality the verse in Genesis 1:6, which says "And God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.' So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it, And it was so." Thank you for allowing me to bring up more evidence that the Genesis creation is fully accurate. I see Genesis 1:6 as saying that there was a time when God separated Earth from the atmosphere. The water above is the thick clouds. And four billion years ago the Earth was almost completely ocean, with the whole world completely submerged beneath a deep layer of hot water. Source Paul Davies 'The Fifth Miracle', p. 25. So the Earth was initially quite literally a globe of water. Genesis 1:6 was just describing (again accurately) the process of separating the atmosphere above from the water below, with the atmosphere above being "crushingly dense".

Thank you for our dialogue. Again, have a happy New Years.

/s/ Tom Wolff



1 Jan 01

Hi Tom W.

It's understandable that you assumed that Jesus (or God) appeared to the young Joseph Smith -- actually it was an angel named Moroni. This was a private experience, so we cannot verify it, just as we cannot verify that Moses heard God's voice from a burning bush, but many normal people have hallucinatory experiences that seem very real to them.

The main point of my discussion of the LDS church was that I can't tell the difference between THEIR deep faith and YOURS (or that of members of any other church). All of you folks tell me with equal conviction that your church is the only true one, and you ALL have alleged proofs, very similar in nature, that can't be empirically verified. Something, as they say, has to be fishy in Denmark. Similar "proofs" are a sign of similar beginnings, so a fraudulent beginning of LDS is a sign of the same for Christianity and other religions.

As for II Peter 1:5-9, you did not, as I asked, define "godliness." It appears that Peter was giving this advice to those that already believed in Jesus and expected to be rewarded with life after death for following the advice. My life is meaningful without a god-belief, and, from what I know about the brain and consciousness, I'd have to be insane to believe in life after death.

If, as you said, it does not "make sense" that the amount of energy to start the universe "just popped into existence," then why are you so willing to accept the idea that God made the energy "just pop into existence." Nothing is added to your knowledge by replacing one mystery with a greater mystery.

Although you have not yet questioned the many scientific errors and contradictions I have pointed out in Genesis, you continue to insist that the text is "fully accurate." How can that be? Imagine that we are both inspecting a car for sale "as is" to determine if it is roadworthy. I conclude that it is hopelessly inoperable because it has a cracked block, a broken crankshaft, a dead battery, and the carburetor is missing. You nod your head, but then tell me that you are impressed with the color of the paint and the appearance of the upholstery.

You stated, "I see Genesis 1:6 as saying that there was a time when God separated Earth from the atmosphere. The water above is the thick clouds." Excuse me, but the Earth was never "separated from the atmosphere." The early Earth had NO atmosphere, which then started forming from the gases escaping the extremely hot, semiliquid interior. As the planet cooled, water vapor condensed and fell to the surface, forming the first oceans. The author of Genesis could not have known the difference between the vacuum of outer space and the Earth's atmosphere. He no doubt believed that in the beginning, before the Earth existed, everything was water in all directions. He knew there had to be a gap in these primal waters to hang the lights in the sky above, define the face of the oceans below, and in between permit all terrestrial creatures to breathe. He would have known that any "thick clouds" would lie somewhere between the creatures and the lights in Heaven. It didn't bother him that waters still existed above Heaven. It ought to bother us.

You said that I am wrong "because of the presence of Truth." Seriously, what is "Truth"? How does one determine it?

Happy New Year,

Tom L.

1/7/2001 9:51 am Dear Tom L.,

TRUTH - You asked "what is truth" in your latest e-mail. Any discussion of Truth must start with John 14:6. Jesus is Truth.

How do we know if what has taken place in the past is true or not? To illustrate, I thought I would use our discussions. How does anyone (we'll call them 'Seeker') know that beginning on October 8, 2000, Tom Wolff began writing to Tom Lawson?

If Seeker wanted to investigate this, they could go firsthand and ask Peggy Wolff, my wife. Or Seeker could ask my children, perhaps they saw me corresponding with you. One could also ask you, or Dr. Olson, to see what you remember about what was said. Or the curious Seeker could go directly to the source and see what was said on the Twin Cities Creation Science website. This would be the best source to find out what was said by Tom Wolff to one, Tom Lawson. From this, we know that the truth is Tom Wolff has corresponded and has an ongoing discussion about the beginning of the universe with one, Tom Lawson.

How does this apply to the Bible? The Seeker looking for the truth is you and I, or anyone else looking to understand what the truth is about life. You and Dr. Olson could be likened to the apostles, as what was communicated was provided to you both. Your remembering what was previously said is contained in your memories. But the best source of what was said by me to you is the TCCS website. Just as the best source of what was said by Jesus to the apostles is contained in the Bible. It is easy to see why in America there is an average of 3.2 Bibles in each home. Bible literally means 'the Book'. And so, to know what the truth is about what Jesus Christ said while He was on earth, we have the best source, which is the Book, or the Bible.

How do you know who is telling the truth? You mentioned that some members of the Mormon church seem as devoted to their faith as I am to my faith in the Jesus of the Bible. There is no simple way to go about this, other than to say you need to investigate it for yourself. You already have discovered problems with the underpinnings of the Mormon religion. Have you searched for who the real Jesus is, and what He taught? Have you read the four Gospels about Jesus' life while He was on earth?

You also asked about the definition of 'godliness' for use in reading II Peter 1:6-7. In my Bible dictionary, godliness is defined as "piety or reverence toward God". In other words, one's connection and union with God. You are right that Peter is writing to believers, as he teaches that the meaning of life begins with faith in Jesus Christ.

I am leaving tomorrow for a vacation in Mazatlan, Mexico. I am on the Board of Directors for a Minnesota nonprofit that takes its donations and has assisted with the building of a community center to feed the poorest children in Mazatlan. Besides vacationing with my family, we will be volunteering at the community center, and seeing the wonderful things which are being done down there. I will be gone until January 15th, and so if I am slower than usual in my response, you know the reason.

Thank you for our discussion.
Have a blessed week -
/s/ Tom Wolff

1/7/2001 3:15 pm Dear Tom W.,

Since you are leaving tomorrow, I'll keep this short. We should consult with Ross, because the web file for our discussion is now too large and sluggish. It is either time for him to start a new file or for us to continue our discussion offline, especially the latter, since it appears that virtually nobody is reading the online discussion.

If "Jesus is Truth," then what is the point of consulting your wife, or your children, or Ross, or the web site to find out the true date when we started corresponding? How would you go about determining the truth of the Book of Mormon? Pray for a revelation from Jesus? I think not -- that might satisfy you and a few other Christians, but most people would demand a lot of verifiable, empirical evidence. I have read the four Gospels. They contradict one another in numerous ways. At the very least, truth must be free of contradiction.

Wishing you an enjoyable trip,
Tom L.


1/8/2001 7:26 am Tom L.,

"...I have read the four Gospels. ..."

When did you read them? What is your impression about Jesus from two eyewitnesses of Jesus (Apostle John and Matthew) and two second hand accounts of Jesus (Luke and Mark)?

Tom W.

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