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While on holiday with the OBT in July 2009, I was loaned a copy of "Hartnett (John) - Starlight, Time and the New Physics: How we can see starlight in our young universe", to see what I thought of it and, if possible, to write an account of these views as a reply to the person who submitted the book. The book is divided into two parts:-
The person who submitted the book is a German sympathiser with “Acts 28 Dispensationalism”, who believes in young-Earth creationism, and so is enthusiastic about the book’s claims but is without a mathematical background. So, while he can applaud the results, he can’t really evaluate the arguments. Mike, who asked me to review the book, is a mathematics teacher, but one without the time to review the mathematics, which is postgraduate material beyond both his and my level of expertise. The stance of the OBT towards doctrines that are only too likely to be false (young-Earth creationism) or obnoxious (eternal conscious torment of the wicked) is to look for alternatives within the constraints of a Bible taken to be inerrant. The OBT and I parted ways many years ago, details here.
I’m not sure how to order the correspondence on this topic, so have decided to include my (so far) final thoughts – as expressed in an email to Mike – in this Note, which chains back to earlier correspondence in the usual manner. You can print the lot by following the link at the bottom of this Note. I’ve made the occasional clarificatory tweak, and removed the private portions.
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: Einstein and All That
I sent you a "holding response2" to the email-stream below3 back in January, with the promise of researching further. I've done quite a bit of digging, and have read one of Carmeli's books ("Carmeli (Moshe) - Cosmological Relativity: The Special and General Theories for the Structure of the Universe"; if "read" is the right word for skimming a book full of mathematics I don't understand). I still can’t really grasp the physical theories, partly because they presuppose a good mathematical and conceptual understanding of Einstein's Special and General theories, which I don't really have, as well as the mathematical intuitions of a working theoretical physicist. Even so, there's something very odd about them. But - if correct - they would seem to answer some puzzling questions about the rotational stability of spiral galaxies - and since no other theory has a response to such questions without ad hoc assumptions, then maybe Carmeli's theory is as principled as any. Carmeli has it that - instead of (or as well as) c being a universal constant, so is the total amount of "cosmic time", the inverse of the Hubble constant. He counts time from now going back to the Big Bang, which seems to be upside down (though if he's right, then it doesn't matter); I just don't understand what "cosmic time" is supposed to be. You'll have noticed in the papers I sent you the other day ("Carmeli (Moshe) - Lengths of the First Days of the Universe" & "Carmeli (Moshe) - The First Six Days of the Universe"), that if you add up (Carmeli’s estimates of) the lengths of the "Genesis" days, and a few more days thereafter, that they end up summing to a time longer than the age of the Universe - but that's probably the whole point - you can't add times linearly in Carmeli's theory any more than you can add velocities linearly in SR. But it's all very odd. You can measure velocities, but how do you measure "cosmic times"?
I have three main gripes with Hartnett's book.
Incidentally, I'm currently reading "Walton (John H.) - The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate". While he believes in creation ex nihilo, he doesn't think that Genesis 1 is talking about this, but about God arranging the functions of the cosmos (ultimately with man in mind) and that it presupposes the scientific world-view of the day, which is not thereby given a nihil obstat.
I was going to write something in opposition to your "history is bunk" ideas, but haven't got round to it yet. I wrote the blurb below in January, and wasn't really happy with it. This is all very complicated stuff, but here are a few more random thoughts for what they are worth ....
There are many questions about authority in this correspondence (yours with Stephen Glasse). Bullinger is mentioned twice, as though he is some sort of oracle. Well, he was a scholarly man, and greatly to be respected, but that doesn't make all his views into authoritative statements. The world is full of scholarly men who disagree. The oracular statements in question are:-
Well, why should we believe these statements? All they really say is that things would be simpler if we could just take the Bible at face value and ignore any clashes with what we see, or are told to see, outside of it. Yet it is clear (and admitted by Stephen) that the Bible sometime intends to be taken literally, and sometimes figuratively, and it's a case of determining which is which. The difficult questions arise when it looks likely that the human author intended himself to be taken literally, but where, maybe, the divine author did not. We all know the rumpus with Galileo and whether or not the Scriptures that say that the earth does not move should be taken literally or figuratively. Basically, we can only tell by looking at the external world. Who knows whether the original author believed in storehouses for the wind, but one presumes the divine author didn't, as there are no such things.
This question of interpretation, and the seeing of "all truth as God's truth" is a large one, and one that causes a certain class of fundamentalists (if they are taken seriously) inadvertently to place a stumbling-block in the path of well-meaning and honest Christians. True, the first quotation from Bullinger above doesn't say that one cannot be a Christian, and yet believe in evolution, but one can't be a believer in divine revelation. Well, surely this is plain false - it's a matter of the interpretation of revelation that's at stake. Now, I agree that "squaring" evolutionary theory with the Bible is a tough ask - though some - indeed many - who would claim to be evangelical Christians seem to themselves to have squared this particular circle, but attempting to force people to believe what seem to them plain falsehoods on pain of being deemed spiritually second-class cannot be a good thing. How does anyone know that Biblical literalism is the path of the strong, rather than the weak?
Stephen quotes Hartnett's rejection of some of his creationist predecessors' work as though this is unequivocally a good thing. Now, Hartnett is right to do so, as the theories of Barnes4 and Setterfield5 were very light-weight and easily refuted, and ultimately brought disrepute upon creationism. Most creationists aren't scientists, so seem to be willing to accept anything that supports their case. But this rejection ought to be a warning, in that no doubt the Hartnett/Carmeli theory will be proved incorrect in due course if anyone can be bothered with it. Now this isn't a council for despair in the acceptance of scientific theories. All theories should only be accepted in proportion to the evidence. Most people are not capable of evaluating the evidence, and go along with the consensus without question except when the theory impinges on what they otherwise want to believe. But some theories are clearly better supported and more centrally embedded in the consensus over-arching world view (if there is one) than others.
Something ought to be said about why insistence on young-earth creationism and other clunky attempts to interpret the Bible as a science book can be counter-productive. Why (if we do) do we accept the Biblical revelation at all? There are lots of revelations off the shelf, all mutually contradictory when literally interpreted, and some more obviously false than others. Why should we accept the Bible, rather than the Koran, say? Islamic fundamentalists claim that lots of scientific truths were revealed first in the Koran (a very dubious claim from what I've seen, but some clever scientists make such claims). Well, there's a very strong pull to literalism as it seems objective and less open to the whim of interpretation than a more "spiritual" or allegorical approach. And I agree, but you can't have what's not provided. Why do we turn to the Bible (if we do; but rather than the Koran, say) other than because it's the Holy Book of the culture we were brought up in, and the natural first port of call for seekers after truth? Dispensationalists don't believe in private revelation or the appearance of angels (or maybe even the Trinity) in suits, or at least not in the circles I've moved in. We accept the Bible (if we do) partly, at least, because the Biblical revelation seems convincing. But some parts are more convincing than others. Some have to be taken as part the package deal, at least by those who like the content of their faith cut and dried. Others find giving up the scientific stories too much to stomach - there's a grandeur in a universe that obeys strict laws and evolves in accordance with them, and they find the idea of something cobbled together 6,000 years ago, with no explanation as to why this beautiful creature is the way it is, or this disgusting parasite the way it is, somewhat underwhelming.
Footnote 4: The thesis that the decay of the earth’s magnetic field implies (when extrapolated backwards) a young Earth, because otherwise the field strength would have been effectively infinite. This thesis fails to take account of polarity reversals, so the extrapolation fails.
Footnote 5: The thesis of “c decay”. See "Setterfield (Barry) - Geological Time and Scriptural Chronology" and "Norman (Trevor) & Setterfield (Barry) - The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time".
Sent: Sunday, January 24, 2010 3:59 PM
Subject: Re: Einstein and all that ...
Thanks for the email and for the copied correspondence. I'm interested in the topics discussed, and did rattle off a response on the train on Friday. But re-reading it, it all seems a bit of a rant that deserves more careful consideration. So, I'll need a bit of time. But before embarking, I have some questions. Would the discussion just be between ourselves, or with Stephen, or with you for forwarding to Stephen? It affects the style as well as the content.
Who is Stephen, where does he live, what does he do, is he a scientist or mathematician, how did he get into dispensationalism, etc?
I'm afraid I've been "sitting on" the book by Hartnett – "Hartnett (John) - Starlight, Time and the New Physics: How we can see starlight in our young universe" – though I've read it through, bar a detailed study of the appendices. I had the vague idea that I might mug up on General Relativity, and see if I could evaluate Hartnett's theory mathematically and scientifically, but this is a ridiculous idea, as this is a job for a professional mathematical physicist, which I am very far indeed from being. So, all I can offer are some philosophical points, which can seem something of a cop out. Were you hoping I might comment on the whole email stream, provide feedback on Hartnett's book, or both?
I don't know anything about Hartnett and Carmeli, beyond what can be gleaned from the Web. See John Hartnett’s Home Page (Link - Defunct) and biographies of Moshe Carmeli (Link (https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Carmeli/) or Link - Defunct), and some further links below. I'm sure more time spent rummaging would enable one to derive a fairer picture.
It looks like Hartnett is an experimental physicist with a sideline in "emergent ideas in cosmology". He reports publishing a paper in Foundations of Physics (Link - Defunct); paper stored at Link (https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008FoPh...38..201H/abstract) - paper available free at Link (https://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0705/0705.3097v2.pdf). It looks to me - from Wikipedia (Wikipedia: Foundations of Physics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Physics)) - as though (despite the very distinguished editorial board) having something published in Foundations of Physics doesn't indicate any sort of acceptance of the proposal by the scientific community. It looks like a forum for more off the wall approaches in areas where mainstream physics is currently stuck; a good thing, however. I suspect though, that papers published there are more likely to be wrong than mainstream, less ambitious and less revolutionary offerings. However, he's also had things published in the International Journal of Theoretical Physics (see, for example, this paper (Link - Defunct), which builds on Carmeli's work). I must say, I thought that there's something fishy about a cosmology that has 5 dimensions, one of which is not a fundamental dimension, but involves the other four - but that's a purely aesthetic judgement, and the fact that it's being discussed at all must mean that it's a possibility that doesn't strike everyone as nonsense.
So, Hartnett and Carmeli do seem to be (or have been) respected scientists / mathematicians. Hartnett has extended Carmeli's work, and I don't know whether this extension is respected - but it does appear in peer-reviewed journals, so it's not just one of his private projects. He's also collaborated with Carmeli, if a joint paper cited in his book is anything to go by. I don't think that Carmeli's work has been accepted by the mainstream, but it seems to be being discussed. This doesn't mean that it's right or wrong, only that it's not open to non-specialists to cherry-pick it because they happen to like its alleged implications for what they want to believe. And note that the implications for Young Earth creationism are Hartnett's deductions from Hartnett's extensions to Carmeli, and not Carmeli's own deductions. Hartnett's proposals seem to make the Earth a very special place from a cosmological perspective, and I guess that would be difficult for most mathematical physicists to take seriously.
There seems to be a catena of questions here - whether Carmeli is right, whether Hartnett's extensions of Carmeli are right, and whether Hartnett's applications of his theory to the Bible are right. It would take a lot of effort to investigate all this, but my focus would have to be on the last link in the chain. That, and the other issues raised by your correspondence with Stephen.
Incidentally, I tracked down a copy of Hartnett's book2 at Creation Ministries (Link (https://creation.com/)) for under £8 including P&P, so I can hand back the copy you loaned me when we meet. I had a rummage on Amazon for Carmeli's books - but they are too expensive3, and too difficult to bother with at the moment.
I'm afraid I can't remember the context (if I ever knew it) of the capitalised extract you quote from Stephen's email. But if the expansion of the universe is accelerating, wouldn't that imply that it's even older than was thought? I think that Hartnett gets round the starlight problem by having the Earth-clocks running very slowly during the creation days (so the universe can take billions of years to create, it just didn't look like that to Adam). Not sure what this has to say about the current state of affairs. I will need to investigate.
Finally, there's a reference to a mysterious "friend from Cambridge" in Stephen's emails, but not in yours. Who is this? I hope it's not me.
Footnote 2: It pains me to have to support this outfit, though I’m sure they mean well. At least they seem to be admitting that the latest “discovery” of Noah’s Ark is a hoax.
Footnote 3: In fact, I’ve subsequently purchased and “read” "Carmeli (Moshe) - Cosmological Relativity: The Special and General Theories for the Structure of the Universe".
Footnote 3 (CORRESPONDENT)
This is an edited correspondence dump – in reverse date sequence – between Mike and a correspondent. My initial response is here. Any immediate comments I have on this text appear as footnotes within this page.
Sent: 22 January 2010 09:25
Subject: FW: Einstein and providence
Below, is the correspondence I have been having with Stephen Glasse, the person who gave me the book ("Hartnett (John) - Starlight, Time and the New Physics: How we can see starlight in our young universe") I passed on to you. This is for your information and, if you wish and have time, your comment. In one paragraph he writes about the author of the book:
I really don’t know anything about these two people. Do you?
From: Stephen Glasse
Sent: 20 January 2010 22:06
Subject: RE: Einstein and providence
Thank you for the reply and I probably owe you a full explanation. It was in the June/July 2008 issue of Search that I read Sylvia’s study on The Two Trees in the garden of Eden in which she asserted that they should be understood figuratively. This struck me then and still strikes me now as a far-fetched interpretation and I was also disturbed by the repeated description of the ‘literal’ reading of the text as involving “‘magical’ trees”. This seemed to me to be a classic ‘straw man’ if you like because no one who believes in the existence of such trees in the garden would ever describe them as ‘magical’. This struck me then as an attempt to get around the paucity of evidence for a figurative reading by providing a false account of the alternative. To quote Andrew Kulikovsky
In Gen 2:9 we read,
The author having then described the rivers that flowed from the garden informs us
We continue to read further references to eating the fruit of the garden in 3:1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 17, 22 interspersed with references to the sewing of ‘fig leaves’ (in contrast to the skins of 3:21) and the acts of ‘seeing’, ‘taking’, and ‘giving’ (3:6).
Now it is surely impossible in such a context to justify Sylvia’s figurative interpretation. To quote Dr Bullinger
It is one thing to take a literal truth and then apply it later in a figurative manner but it is wholly another to do the reverse. It is, of course, true that Dr Bullinger himself regarded the serpent of Gen 3 as being a figure of speech for an ‘angel of light’ ie. Satan but he provided immensely strong evidence: the interchangeable nature of nachash and seraph in the brass serpent account in Numbers; the structure of Gen 3 which sets up a parallel between the nachash and the cherubim; and Paul’s reference to Satan as an angel of light in 2 Cor 11 the same chapter in which he refers to Eve as being deceived by the serpent (verses 14 & 3 respectively). But no comparable evidence was provided in the Search article and it seems impossible to justify it from the immediate context.
Sylvia makes arguments on the basis of texts like Proverbs 3:18; 11:30 and 13:12 but in these texts the tree of life is used as a predicate of a metaphor ie X is a ‘tree of life’. This says nothing about the tree of life itself. The article reminded me of the attempts people make to force Scripture to fit with their faulty science so I thought I would send you Dr Hartnett’s latest book ("Hartnett (John) - Starlight, Time and the New Physics: How we can see starlight in our young universe") as an example of recent Creation Science especially as Michael is a mathematician.
In regard to your other points I agree that one should not accept Dr Hartnett’s theory just because he’s a creationist. He may very well be wrong. But it does deserve honest consideration. He is a PhD physicist at a major Australian university and the basis for the book comes from his published research with Moshe Carmeli the Einstein Professor of Theoretical Physics at Ben Gurion University who was one of the leading authorities on relativity. Prof Carmeli predicted the acceleration of the expansion of the universe TWO YEARS PRIOR TO OBSERVATIONS WHICH CONFIRMED SUCH ACCELERATION. Dr Hartnett has developed Carmeli’s cosmology and asserts that the solution to starlight travel time falls naturally out of the equations. Furthermore he is extremely critical of previous creationist attempts to resolve the issue even ones that he has been involved in and he stresses the limitations of science so I think he deserves better than an immediate dismissal. Furthermore, your receiving of the book coincided with your article on relativity and Einstein which, of course, might be of no significance whatsoever but then again who wants to resist the Holy Spirit?
I am already aware of the alternative readings of Gen 1-9 and I have a fairly technical work in front of me. But the fact is that it doesn’t matter whether there are differing viewpoints amongst Christians what matters is whether they are defensible. None of the alternatives can avoid the fact that God wrote, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work .......... for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth” and they can’t avoid the fact that they exist purely as ad hoc attempts to harmonise scientists’ theories with the Word of God. Was it not Dr Bullinger who wrote,
Subject: RE: Einstein and providence
To: Stephen Glasse
Date: Wednesday, 20 January, 2010, 9:16
I did not say that my friend from Cambridge was an Acts 28 dispensationalist. In fact there many Bible believing Christians of all theologies who do not hold to a 6 x 24 hour creation. Scientists are indeed fallible, as Richard Dawkins. It is surprising how scientific data can be interpreted in different ways. Quite often the scientist will interpret data so that it fits into their overall scenario of historic events. That is true of evolutionists; it is also true of young earth creationists, as I learnt when we lived in the USA. Also, just as we find there are different types of evolutionists and different theories of evolutions, we find that Young Earth scientists also differ amongst themselves ... again, as I found out when we lived in the USA. In fact, my view is that you cannot apply the term science to anything from the past. Science means setting up a theory or model and proving / testing the theory it by experimentation. An experiment others can perform and other verify or gainsay the theory or results. One cannot do that with many of Dawkins’ ideas / theories; quite simply no one was there and no one can repeat the experiment. This is also true of the ideas / theories put forth by Young Earth Scientists; no one was there and no one can say whether or not their ideas are correct. Amongst Young Earth Scientists there are a number of theories as to what happened at the flood; how it was caused etc. Which one is correct! I don’t know, but I don’t think any of them can be subject to correct scientific scrutiny. Christian Scientists did more good when they spent their time and energy showing the flaws in evolution. Once they set up Young Earth Science as opposed to Old Earth Science, and set up their rival theories, they then opened themselves to many of the same scientific criticisms as Evolutionists. We have no way (scientifically) of verifying or gainsaying their ideas / theories. Some Christians, when they read that these Young Earth Theories fit a biblical scenario, immediately accept the Theory ..... but that is not good science. There are a number of Theories of Creation held by different Christians and which are in the booklet we publish called “Theories of Creation”. There are good points and difficult points within each of them, and if you haven’t read the book, you may care to obtain a copy.
Many years ago a book came out in Germany proving that was lived on the inside of a massive sphere, so that we were literally in a closed universe. A number of Christians, especially in Holland, accepted this because the person who wrote the book had a few Bible quotations to support his idea. This came up at a conference I was speaking at in the Hague. Although the book was in German I could see that all the Mathematical equations were correct and held for that world. However, all those equations were inversions of all the equations were use and so they were bound to work. All the person had done was turn everything inside out – i.e. inverted the physical world and so he had to invert the equations. So I don’t believe we live inside a massive sphere, even though the Mathematics works for such a universe.
From: Stephen Glasse
Sent: 18 January 2010 19:43
Subject: RE: Einstein and providence
In regard to your friend from Cambridge3 I would be interested to know whether he holds to a literal 6 x 24 hr creation period as taught in Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:8-11 and affirmed by Dr E W Bullinger for example or whether he has compromised in this area. His views in this area will no doubt affect his attitude towards the ‘content’ of the book. It’s very sad when Christians will stand up for truths such as Acts 28 dispensationalism but reject the testimony of the Holy Spirit on more fundamental matters such as CMI are proclaiming. How can we mourn or even criticise the failure of our brothers and sisters to grasp dispensationalism when we dismiss such crucial truths in the early chapters of Genesis?
Praise God for Charles Ozanne’s recent work on Bible Chronology though.
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here and he really does have good reasons for rejecting Dr Hartnett’s work. After all scientists are just as fallible as anyone else and Dr Hartnett is no exception to the rule.
From: Stephen Glasse
Sent: 16 July 2009 22:07
Subject: Einstein and providence
It’s amazing how God goes before us is it not? I have just received the latest edition of Search and to my surprise you mentioned how you studied Einstein's theories at university and you cited a series of quotes from the great scientist. Well just the day before I posted you a copy of "Hartnett (John) - Starlight, Time and the New Physics: How we can see starlight in our young universe" in which the physics professor John Hartnett uses the Israeli Moshe Carmeli's expansion of Einstein's theories to the Cosmos to solve the problem of distant starlight reaching the earth in Genesis 1. Plenty of maths in the appendices as well!
Footnote 2: This seems to be available at this Link - Defunct. It continues to strike me as misguided to insist that the only interpretation of Genesis is the literal one and that without the supposed facts behind this literal interpretation being true, the whole Christian gospel collapses. This is because if the Earth isn’t young, and their arguments are sound, then the Christian gospel collapses; which for many would be bad news.
Footnote 3: Some of the email trail seems to be missing here. I did snip out some irrelevancies, but not this. I presume this shadowy individual is me.
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