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[Chalice] Creation and the Flood: [Chalice]
Show Me the Evidence

Presented November 20, 2016, by Paul Miller

Listen to a recording of "Creation and the Flood: Show Me the Evidence"
31:40 minutes - 29.0 MB - Creation and the Flood: Show Me the Evidence .mp3 file.

Opening Words

CROWN OF CREATION
FROM THE GOSPEL OF JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

You are the crown of creation,
And you've got no place to go.
Soon you'll attain the stability you strive for,
In the only way that it's granted:
In a place among the fossils of our time.
In loyalty to their kind
They cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
We cannot tolerate their obstruction!
Life is change.
How it differs from the rocks.
I've seen their ways too often for my liking.
New worlds to gain.
My life is to survive and be alive
for you.

Readings:

FROM GENESIS, KING JAMES BIBLE

5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.
18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.
19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
5 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
12 And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.
19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

FROM THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH
The translation offered here was found at AncientTexts.Org, which does not mention the name of the translator. Some small adaptations were made.

[1] Gilgameš spoke to Ut-napištim, the Faraway: "Tell me, how is it that you stand in the Assembly of the Gods, and have found life?"
[8] Ut-napištim spoke to Gilgameš, saying: "I will reveal to you, Gilgameš, a thing that is hidden, a secret of the gods I will tell you!
[14] The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the Flood.
[19] Ea, the Prince, was under oath with them so he repeated their talk to the reed house: 'Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall! O man of Šuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu [i.e., Ut-napištim] Tear down the house and build a boat! Abandon wealth and seek living beings! Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings! Make [the seed of] all living beings go up into the boat. The boat which you are to build,
[32] I understood and spoke to my lord, Ea: 'My lord, thus is the command which you have uttered I will heed and will do it.
[48] Just as dawn began to glow the people assembled around me. The carpenter carried his hatchet, the reedworker carried his flattening stone,
[54] The child carried the pitch, the weak brought whatever else was needed.
[75] I set my hand to the finishing of the ship.
[80] Whatever I had I loaded on it: whatever silver I had I loaded on it, whatever gold I had I loaded on it. All the living beings that I had I loaded on it, I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat, all the beasts and animals of the field and the craftsmen I had go up.
[93] I went into the boat and sealed the entry.
[96] Just as dawn began to glow there arose from the horizon a black cloud. [the storm god] Adad rumbled inside of it, before him went Šhullat and Haniš [Sack and Suppression], heralds going over mountain and land.
[101] [The god of destruction] Erragal pulled out the mooring poles, forth went [the war god] Ninurta and made the dikes overflow.
[103] The gods lifted up the torches, setting the land ablaze with their flare.
[105] Stunned shock over Adad's deeds overtook the heavens, and turned to blackness all that had been light. He shattered the land like a raging bull, broke it into pieces like a pot.
[108] All day long the South Wind blew, blowing fast - and then the Flood came, overwhelming the people like an attack.
[113] Even the gods were frightened by the Flood, and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu.
Six days and seven nights came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land.
[129] When the seventh day arrived, the sea, calmed; the whirlwind fell still; the flood stopped.
[136] I opened a vent and daylight fell upon my cheek.
[141] On Mount Nimuš the boat lodged firm,
[156] I sacrificed: I offered a libation to the four corners of the world, I burned incense in front of the rising mountain. Seven and seven cult vessels I put in place, and into the bowls I poured [the oil of] reeds, cedar, and myrtle.
Just then the Mistress of the Gods arrived. She lifted up the large fly-shaped beads which Anu had made for their engagement: 'You gods, as surely as I shall not forget this lapis lazuli around my neck, may I be mindful of these days, and never forget them! The gods may come to the incense offering, but Enlil may not come to the incense offering, because without considering he brought about the Flood and consigned my people to annihilation.'
[171] Just then Enlil arrived. He saw the boat and became furious, 'Where did a living being escape? No man was to survive the annihilation!'
[180] Ea spoke to Valiant Enlil, saying: 'It is yours, O Valiant One, who is the Sage of the Gods. How, how could you bring about a Flood without consideration Charge the violation to the violator, charge the offense to the offender, but be compassionate lest (mankind) be cut off, be patient lest they be killed.
[198] Enlil went up inside the boat and, grasping my hand, made me go up. He had my wife go up and kneel by my side. He touched our forehead and, standing between us, he blessed us:
[202] 'Previously Ut-napištim was a human being. But now let Ut-napištim and his wife become like us, the gods! Let Ut-napištim reside far away, at the Mouth of the Rivers.'

CREATION AND THE FLOOD-SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE

One fine day, The 11 year old daughter of a bible-thumping couple proudly declared to me "Evolution is wrong, and I can prove it!" "Okay" I said "How do you know evolution is wrong?" She explained that God took a rib from Adam to make Eve, and women have one more set of ribs than men. If evolution was right, men would have as many ribs as women. QED. I knew it would be futile to refer her to any anatomy text, showing that either sex has 12 pairs of ribs. The Bible is right, so Gray's Anatomy must be wrong. No, you can't argue with an ideologue, so I just nodded thoughtfully.

Arguments for creationism are many. I heard a speaker in church (not this church) rant about the silly idea that the Earth is millions of years old: He said "Evolutionists say dinosaurs ruled the Earth for millions of years. Can you imagine how many dinosaur bones there would be after a million years? If dinosaurs were here for millions of years, we would be buried in dinosaur bones."

Many creationist arguments sound pretty convincing, though most don't. I try to keep an open mind, and I got to admit, the whole Christian deal sounds appealing. I would like to believe I was created in the image of an almighty, loving God, and that when this loving God killed most of humanity like a bagful of cats in the river, he only killed the bad guys and saved all the good guys; all eight of them, including the women. It would be nice to know that I just got to be good for one short lifetime, and when the rapture comes, I get on the escalator to Heaven, and enjoy eternal retirement with no worries about medicare or social security.

We tend to believe what we want to believe, but I try to base my beliefs on evidence. Science has been partially successful at explaining the origin of the universe and life.

I remember when the debate between Big Bang and Steady-State Universe was unsettled. Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle coined the term "Big Bang" to make fun of what he thought was a preposterous idea. Hoyle championed the Steady-State Theory; that the Universe is infinitely old and infinitely big. As galaxies move farther apart, new matter forms in the vacuum of space, so the average density of the universe stays the same. The universe is in a steady state.

In 1965, Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation was discovered. A constant noise was interfering with radiotelescope observations. Astronomers thought it might be from radio and television transmitters. Turns out, this radiation is coming from space, and it is everywhere. It appears to be radiation left over from the Big Bang. Cosmic Microwave Background radiation clinched the debate in favor of the Big Bang Theory. There was a creation event, 15 billion years ago.

Science has come a long way towards explaining the universe, and how it came to be, but we have a long way to go. Many mysteries remain, such as: Why are the fundamental physical constants, like the strength of gravity and the internal atomic forces, exactly as they are? If they were slightly different, life would be impossible. Why is there so much matter, and so little anti-matter? It is logical, according to known laws of physics, that matter and anti-matter should have formed in equal parts. Lucky for us, anti-matter is very rare. When matter and anti-matter mix, they annihilate each other is a burst of energy. How much energy? E=mc2, of course, thank you Mr. Einstein. It's a big number. If I dropped an ounce of antimatter on the floor, the energy burst would blow the whole earth to bits. We should all be grateful that antimatter is so rare, but we cannot explain why it is rare.

Science has come a long way towards explaining life, and how it began, but we have a long way to go. When the earth was young, like a mere billion years young, the Archean environment contained the necessary chemical elements and conditions for organic molecules to form, making the precursors to living cells. The chemical reactions are theoretically possible, but for everything to come together and react just right to metamorphose from random chemistry to biology seems ridiculously improbable. Even under the purposeful guidance of skilled synthetic chemists, inorganic raw materials have never been combined in a laboratory to form a living cell. It may have taken a billion years for life to form. Perhaps if a very patient and persistent chemist cooked a flask of primordial soup for a billion years, a bacterium might eventually form.

Science has come a long way towards explaining brain function, but consciousness is harder to explain. How is it that a blob of neuron jelly becomes aware of itself? Some neuroscientists believe that consciousness results from the extreme complexity of the system. This implies that a sufficiently powerful computer could become conscious. Would that count as creating life?

Science explains a lot, and a lot remains unexplained. Creationism, on the other hand, explains it all very easily. The universe and everything in it is the way it is because God made it that way. QED. For creationists, the Bible is all the proof they need. Heretic scientists like me would like supporting evidence before signing on to a theory.

Enter Scientific Creationism, the study of scientific evidence supporting Creationism and refuting mainstream science. Some of it is just plain silly, like the aforementioned Adam's rib argument, which is based on a popular anatomical fallacy, and the aforementioned mystery of missing dinosaur bones.

Not all Creationists are "Young Earth Creationists". Some are willing to accept translational errors in the Bible, or perhaps they would rather say translational artistic license. For example, God made the Earth in 6 days, but "day" could be a translation of "age". So God made man in the 6th age of creation. An age could be billions of years. To put it another way, God worked some really long days early in his career.

When I began researching for this sermon, I was amazed at the detailed complex arguments for Young-Earth Scientific Creationism. A conservative Christian friend gave me a book for my recent birthday called "In the Beginning - Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood" by Walt Brown, a Ph.D. mechanical engineer. My Christian friend who gave me the book is one of the most intelligent people I ever met, and well educated in science, so when he shares an opinion, I tend to listen, even if I disagree. This book presents an impressive number of arguments for biblical creation, with references and calculations, and lots of pictures. It's too much to slog through, so I skipped the references and calculations, but I did look at the pictures. I read much of the text, too, and it's fascinating. Here is an example of his many arguments that the Earth was created thousands, not billions of years ago.

If the universe was created 6000 years ago, how, then, is it that we can see galaxies billions of light years away? In 6000 years, light can travel only 6000 light years, so anything farther away than that should not yet be visible to us. The answer, says Dr. Brown, is that the speed of light was billions of times greater at the time of creation, and has decreased exponentially since then. His evidence is based on measurements of the speed of light over the last 300 years, which seem to show a slight decrease during that time. This was news to me, so I looked for confirmation from credible sources. No, all the credible evidence shows that fundamental physical constants, including the speed of light are not changing. Dr. Brown's claim is based on a study from the 1980's which has been discredited.

One key to Creationist arguments is the world-wide flood, which Noah and his family rode out in their ark. They say geological formations and layers of fossils were formed quickly during the flood, not over millions of years.

Was there a flood? Of course there was. Noah and Gilgamesh both hail from Mesopotamia, a flat land between two rivers. No doubt it flooded occasionally, and one would expect an exceptionally massive flood could have occurred; a flood that covered the whole world that the people in the Tigris-Euphrates valley knew about. It may be that a rain event coincided with a tidal wave caused by seismic activity or meteorite impact. Such a wave would have pushed a boat up-stream, in the direction of Ararat, where Noah's Ark is said to have landed. Another theory refers to flooding of the Black Sea when the Mediterranean Sea broke through the Bosphorus Straits. That's a long way from Sumer, but closer to Ararat. Maybe the story combines legends from more than one flood. Maybe Atlantis is under the Black Sea, but I bet Noah was Mesopotamian.

The Biblical and Sumerian texts are so similar, they must be versions of the same story. They both built their boats in a week, an incredible feat, especially for Noah, who was already six hundred years old, and his 3 sons. Ut-Napistim, hero of the Gilgamesh Flood, built an even bigger boat. It was square, covering nearly an acre, with 6 decks. In fairness to Noah, Ut-Napistim had a bigger construction crew. They both brought onboard animals and seeds to re-plenish the earth. The tree-hugger in me likes one aspect of the Bible version. God declared the first endangered species act, clearly commanding that Noah save every beast and every living thing that creepeth upon the earth, not just those of commercial value.

Most secular scholars agree that the Gilgamesh version predates the Biblical version, and a partial text has been found that predates them both. Noah's, story seems to be a monotheistic re-make of an old Pagan legend. Creationists beg to differ, of course. The Institute for Creation Science website says:

" . . . The divine inspiration of the Bible would demand that the Genesis account is the correct version. Indeed the Hebrews were known for handing down their records and tradition.24 The Book of Genesis is viewed for the most part as an historical work, even by many liberal scholars, while the Epic of Gilgamesh is viewed as mythological. The One-source Theory must, therefore, lead back to the historical event of the Flood and Noah's Ark.25 To those who believe in the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, it should not be a surprise that God would preserve the true account of the Flood in the traditions of His people. The Genesis account was kept pure and accurate throughout the centuries by the providence of God until it was finally compiled, edited, and written down by Moses.26 The Epic of Gilgamesh, then, contains the corrupted account as preserved and embellished by peoples who did not follow the God of the Hebrews."

So there, you silly simpleminded Heathens!

Is such a worldwide flood even possible? There is plenty of water to cover the planet if we flatten it by pushing all the mountains into the ocean. We can be sure that mountains are pushed up by tectonic plate movement too slowly for them to have risen out of the sea since Noah's time.

Dr. Brown begs to differ, and he has an alternative explanation for how the great Flood occurred. The "Hydroplate Theory" he says, accounts for virtually all geologic evidence on earth, as well as a variety of astronomical phenomena. His central thesis is that only a few thousand years ago the earth's entire crust consisted of a granite slab over 10 miles thick, supported by pillars of rock over an underground sea. That's the way God designed the Earth. Maybe He thought this vast underground reservoir would be useful to His people someday, but it turned out to be a convenient self-destruct mechanism, which he used when He decided to scrap His creation and start over. Losing patience with humanity, He merely had to start a crack in the Earth's crust, and the crust suddenly burst open, violently releasing the subterranean water and flooding the entire earth. Large masses of rock and water were ejected into outer space during this massive eruption, creating all the asteroids, comets, and meteoroids in our solar system. The immense slabs of broken crust, which he calls "hydroplates," undulated, heaved and slid thousands of miles in a matter of months or less, and then crashed into each other to form mountains within hours.

It is an ingeniously imaginative theory, especially if one reads without fact-checking. After a bit if scientific scrutiny, Dr. Brown's hydroplate world appears to be a brilliantly contrived fantasy. I googled "hydroplate theory" and found enough rebuttals and refuting evidence to fill another book.

Was there a flood? Yes. Was the whole world flooded? Quite possibly yes, the world that the ancient Mesopotamians knew was flooded. Was the whole planet flooded, even to the highest mountains ? No way.

For Creationism to be scientifically plausible, the theory can not include a 6000 year young Earth, or a planet-wide flood. There was a creation event 15 billion years ago, not 6000 years ago. Life began on Earth 3 or 4 billion years ago, whether by chance or by divine fiat.

A more reasonable middle road is intelligent design, or Creation Light, which accepts the scientific evidence and established physical laws. The beginning and evolution of life happened in accordance with the laws of science, guided by a purpose, or an intelligent design. This implies an intelligent designer, or a God of some sort.

Conventional Darwinian Evolution should proceed gradually, by random mutations and natural selection. Fossil evidence shows species tend not to change much for millions of years, then big changes suddenly occur. What causes these evolutionary spurts? Is there some sort of purposeful guidance?

A possible explanation has been proposed by Physicist Amit Goswami. People who have heard my previous talks may cringe at the mention of quantum physics again, but lucky for you, my time is almost up. I will try to be mercifully succinct.

On the subatomic scale of quantum physics, random events, like the decay of a radioactive atomic nucleus, or an electron jumping between atomic orbitals, depend on an observer to become real. If that makes no sense to you, don't worry. Even Albert Einstein said nobody understands Quantum Physics, and I won't pretend to understand it either. The point is, according to quantum theory, a conscious observer is necessary for a quantum possibility to become a physical reality. Physicists disagree as to what constitutes an observer capable of manifesting quantum events. Some say a conscious human observer is necessary. Some think it could be the collective consciousness, or God. Or maybe a cat or a sea sponge would do? Many scientists avoid the subject altogether, not wanting to confuse hard science with theology and metaphysics.

Dr. Goswami's theory says that the collective consciousness controls subatomic events, including gene mutations.

Dr. Goswami's ideas are too magical and mystical for many physicists to swallow. I haven't got my head quite around it either, but as an armchair quantum physics fan, I agree that science allows for the possibility that evolution may be purposefully guided.

Creation or evolution? Can we conclude anything beyond a reasonable doubt? Let's review what we know for sure.

There was a creation event, The Big Bang" about 15 billion years ago. A conclusive preponderance of geological evidence shows that the Earth formed about 5 billion years ago. No 6-day creation 6000 years ago.

The Universe is ideally suited for life. The fundamental physical constants are just right, as if they were fine-tuned for our benefit. We can't prove whether this is a happy accident or divine design.

Floods happen, but there is no scientific evidence that the whole planet was flooded any time in the last billion years. Such a flood is geologically impossible. The Grand Canyon was not formed in a week by Noah's Flood.

We can be sure that, early in the Earth's history, inorganic precursors reacted to form organic compounds, which eventually combined to form the first living cell. That they could have combined by chance in just the right way to create life is theoretically possible but seems ridiculously improbable. We can't prove whether this is a happy accident or divine design.

Species evolve through mutation and natural selection. How the many necessary mutations can accumulate to create new organs and new species is still a mystery.

Quantum Physics indicates that consciousness guides, or at least it triggers subatomic events. Some physicists believe this is the way the collective consciousness, (or God, which may be the same thing) guides evolution through purposeful mutation. Many physicists and Biologists find this idea preposterous.

Whether we are purposefully created, or an accidental physical anomaly, remains unsettled and hotly debated. The debate does demonstrate an aspect of human nature. We instinctively, stubbornly believe what we want to believe. It is unnatural and difficult to change our old beliefs. When confronted with contrary evidence, we instinctively argue more adamantly for our cherished beliefs. Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. It is futile to argue with an ideologue. For those who are curious and open-minded, the question of how we came to be remains a mystery that may be solved, or not, as science advances. It would be nice to know the answer, but for now I cherish the mystery.

Closing Words

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

Sources of interest:

CREATION AND THE FLOOD by Walt Brown
CREATIVE EVOLUTION by Amit Goswami
AmitGoswami.org

©2016 Paul Miller

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Miller, Paul 2016. Creation and the Flood: Show Me the Evidence, http://www.uuquincy.org /talks/20161120.shtml (accessed December 17, 2018).

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