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Dr. Allan Harvey's Response To A Critique By Ross Olson

For Dr. Harvey's original article click HERE.

For a critique by Ross Olson click HERE.

This is Dr Harvey's response to that critique.

From: SteamDoc{at}aol.com
Sent: Monday, January 21, 2002 8:48 PM
To: ross{at}rossolson.org
Subject: Re: Second Law

Dear Dr. Olson,

Thanks for your (long) note.  I fear I'm way too short on spare time to respond to even most of the details, so I'll hit a few points and then make some general comments, and hope it stays coherent as I'm writing in bits and pieces over a span of a week or so.

I do appreciate your writing, especially in a reasonable tone.  I get maybe a couple of e-mails a month in response to this essay.  About half are compliments, which are easy to take.  Most of the disagreeing ones are, unfortunately, sneeringly hostile or ignorant -- often people parroting whole sections from Henry Morris or (if they are slightly better read) Wilder-Smith in a way that shows they have no idea what they are talking about and haven't bothered to try to understand what I wrote.  I've given up trying to communicate with those in that category, but you have given some thought to things and therfore deserve some reply.

In a message dated 1/7/02 7:25:45 AM Mountain Standard Time, ross{at}rossolson.org writes:

I notice that although you recognize that the concept of information entropy
"is plausible enough to be taken seriously," when dealing with creationist
arguments, you tend to revert to the classical definition of thermodynamics.
For example, you maintain that energy from the sun can account for life on
earth by balancing the entropy accounts. But is there not a qualitative
difference between the formation of ice crystals, which have a repetitive
and predictable structure, and the Encyclopedia Britannica? In other words,
I would not expect raw energy applied to my computer's hard drive to write
the next version of Windows or even to improve the existing version.

I would not expect that either, but it would not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics, to which I am confining my essay.

You write that the mechanism for a naturalistic origin of life "is not so
clear." That is a gross misrepresentation!  Rather, I think, you should have
stated, as firmly as a physicist can state, that it is essentially
impossible. This is because on a scientific level, we do not simply lack
data, we actually have firm data -- that it does not happen and could not
happen. And on a Biblical level, if the Holy Spirit inspired Romans 1, then
God's existence, divine nature and eternal power are so plain from what has
been created that those who do not see it are without excuse.

I reject the misrepresentation accusation.  I daresay you are not qualified to make this "essentially impossible" judgment (I hasten to add that I am not qualified either, nor was Wilder-Smith for that matter).  Certainly there are unanswered scientific questions there, but the "essentially impossible" arguments I have seen are either arguments from ignorance or oversimplified probability calculations.

Since you mentioned Romans 1, let me digress a moment.  I think those who try to apply that verse to scientific biological studies are missing the boat.  What Paul was writing about was supposed to be plain to all, not just those who could make sophisticated biological probability calculations.  As somebody has observed, if you can't see God in a sunrise, you won't see Him in cellular biochemistry.

Also, I do not understand the connection you make between God intervening in
the creation of life and His continued intervention.

My point (if you are referring to the section I think) is that, if going from zero humans to two was a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then going from two to 6,000,000,000 is a much bigger violation (since entropy is a strictly additive quantity).  I presume you would not claim that God is violating the laws of thermodynamics each time a person is born. If going from two to 6 billion does not violate the laws of thermodynamics, then going from zero to two must not either.  You may claim, perhaps not unreasonably, that going from zero to two is unlikely for other reasons, but I'm talking about the 2nd law, not these other reasons.

Further, when God said that Eden was "very good," if that world included
many hundred-millions of years of disease, death and struggle for survival,
then God seems to be either cruel or uncaring. Moreover, He seems to use
methods that are very tedious and wasteful, in sharp contrast to the
Scriptural picture of a God Who intervenes spectacularly in Biblical
miracles, culminating in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, God is
patient, but He also notes every sparrow's fall and is not willing that any
human should perish – although some will by their own choice.

If evolution is the way God created, then there was death before sin – it is
even God's creative method. So why is death called the enemy and treated as
an intruder? Why did Jesus have to die physically to conquer sin and death?

There's a lot that can be said here, but I'll just offer a few words:
1) There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that plants and (non-human) animals did not die before the Fall.
2) One can make a good case that the (human) death brought on by the Fall was *spiritual* death, not physical death.  God tells Adam and Eve "the day you eat of it you shall die," but they did not die physically for many years.  If we take Paul's "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive," the life Christ gives (and, by extension, the death we have in Adam) is spiritual.
3) After the Fall, physical death is an enemy.  But not necessarily in God's design (why did he make carnivores?).  Arguments that amount to "God would not have created that way" presume to know the mind of God, and his ways are higher than our ways.  Evolution might appear to us like a "wasteful" way to create.  Just like incarnation with a peasant couple in a stable might appear like an inefficient way to redeem us.  The "wasteful" argument also fails because "wasteful" implies the waster has limited resources.  If God "spends" lavishly in creating rather than doing it in some miserly way, he still has an infinite amount of resources left, so can't be criticized as "wasteful."
4) God does not always work "spectacularly."  Sometimes, God is in the still small voice.  Sometimes, God works through peasants and fishermen.  If there's one thing we should have learned from the way Jesus confounded the Jews' expectations for the Messiah, it is that God does not always work in the way we would expect him to.

The discussion, as you can see, gets a bit far afield from just
thermodynamics.  This is partly because, used by the atheist, rebuttal to
thermodynamic arguments is important to make spontaneous appearance of life
seem plausible.  And, for the Christian, blanket acceptance of the secular
paradigm makes God seem irrelevant if not non-existent.

The most dangerous "secular paradigm" is the "God of the Gaps" view that, once we have a natural explanation for something, that means God didn't do it.  Blanket acceptance of THAT paradigm (which contradicts the Biblical teaching that God is sovereign over nature) is what I see as the biggest problem for Christians in this area.  If you accept that paradigm (which I might call the Dawkins/Johnson paradigm), then the Christian must oppose evolution as though the faith depends on it, putting up a big stumbling block to those who (rightly or wrongly) think the theory of evolution is a correct scientific description of how life got here.

And, just to provoke you further, I think that there really is a strong case
for a young earth. The unanimity of the opposition is related more to
censorship and rationalization than intellectual superiority. Please peruse
the Twin Cities Creation Science Association web site (www.tccsa.tc) for
more information.

This almost made me toss your e-mail without replying.  I feel that no reasonable person could look at the multiple lines of evidence for great age and come to that conclusion.  Unless you are one who takes the "appearance of age" position which can't be scientifically falsified (but which I feel makes God into a deceiver).  Try reading "The Age of the Earth" by Dalyrymple which I review under my Web page.  Or Glenn Morton's "Foundation, Fall, and Flood" or Hugh Ross's "Creation and Time."

Thank you for reading this far.  I will appreciate any feedback you have
time to give, and would also like, with your permission, to post your
responses on the web site

Ross S. Olson MD

A couple of more general comments:

1) I made my essay sort of narrow on purpose, to stick to my expertise.  A few times you chide me for not going off into biological probabilities, etc.  I am a thermodynamicist, so I confined myself to writing about *thermodynamic* systems and the Second Law of *thermodynamics*.  There may be areas where rough parallels to the Second Law apply, such as biological information (though I have yet to see that presented in a coherent way, with the possible exception of the work of Yockey).  But at that point, you are getting outside the realm of thermodynamics proper.  I say in my essay that I have some sympathy with the sort of biochemical probability calculations you advocate.  But those arguments are not thermodynamic arguments, so I don't go there.  You may go there if you wish; just don't claim to be basing your arguments on the laws of *thermodynamics*.

2) The more I prayerfully consider these things, the more I think we need to have our theology straight before arguing the scientific points.  This has become clearer to me since I wrote that essay.  I think that if we develop a healthy Biblical view of God's relationship to nature, most of our problems in this area go away (and evolution becomes no threat to faith).  As a result, there are other things I have written that I feel are more important than this Second Law essay.  If you want to see how I view these more important issues, please go to:
The most important essay there is "Science and Christian Apologetics."  After that, you could try "A Personal View of the Evolution Issue."

3) As I have said, I am not wholly unsympathetic to some of the arguments you mention, particularly those concerning abiogenesis.  DEPENDING ON HOW THEY ARE ADVANCED.  And this is a key point.  There are two ways a Christian might use these arguments:

3a) God is sovereign over nature, so finding a "natural" explanation for something doesn't rule out God, it just tells us how God did it.  Therefore, natural explanations for phenomena in nature (whether it be the evolution of life, or the formation of stars or mountains) are no threat to faith.  However, I find inexplicable gaps in natural history, which I use as an apologetical tool offering evidence for God.  But my apologetics do not depend on these gaps as their foundation, so if I am wrong about the "gaps" it does not mean there is no God.

3b) Evolution and Christianity are fundamentally incompatible.  In order for God to be the "real" Creator, he must have left "his fingerprints all over the evidence."  Natural explanations that make no reference to God mean that God didn't do it.  Therefore, these "gaps" I am proposing in natural history are essential in order for theism to be true.  If I am wrong about these "gaps" and the natural explanation provided by evolution proves to be true, then there is no basis for the Christian faith.

I hope you can see the horrid theology in (3b).  (3b) (known as "God of the Gaps theology") denies God's sovereignty over nature.  Its error can be easily seen by applying the same logic to things for which the Bible tells us God is responsible but for which our natural explanations are clearly correct, like rain or star formation.  It also errs by basing the faith on something other than Jesus.

You sound like you may be in the (3a) category, and I don't object to that.  However, I find that *most* in the "creation science" and "Intelligent Design" movements take the (3b) position, though they may not say so explicitly.  Phil Johnson is a prominent example.  Because (3b) is so harmful to our witness and such lousy theology, I believe those in the (3a) category need to loudly denounce the (3b) position, and affirm that it is theologically OK for God to work via his sovereignty over nature.  I discuss this more in one of my essays called "What does 'God of the Gaps' Mean?"

Allan Harvey

Dr. Allan H. Harvey, Boulder, Colorado   |   SteamDoc{at}aol.com
"Any opinions expressed here are mine, and should not be
attributed to my employer, my wife, or my cats"