10 October 2006

David Snoke's "A Biblical Case for an Old Earth"

David Snoke is a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. His latest book is A Biblical Case for an Old Earth.

Facing the facts

First of all, I must say that I like the way Dr. Snoke is thinking, when he says:

We must face the facts: if the Bible is wrong, utterly wrong, about the history of our origins, then we should dump it. (p.120)
Of course the Bible is wrong, utterly wrong, about the history of our origins (and just about everything else). But Dr. Snoke is reluctant to dump it. His challenge, then, is to try to find a way, any way, to interpret the Bible so that it does not conflict with science.
In many people's eyes, I have probably lost before I begin, because no matter what I argue from the Bible, they will say, "But you have come up with this just because you want the Bible to agree with science." I freely confess to this charge. (p.9)

Saying as little as possible

Snoke's little book is remarkable for how little it says about the history of life or the age of the earth. You'd think that a book about an old earth would say how old it is. But if the author has an opinion on the subject, he doesn't say so in his book. The closest he comes is this:

In this chapter [Chapter 2: The Scientific Case] I have argued that the world looks as though animals and plants have been living and dying for millions of years. (p.43)
From which, I guess, he (sort of) thinks that life on earth is at least several million years old. It seems that Dr. Snoke, like Ann Coulter, is not particularly interested in the details.

Here are just a few questions that he doesn't address:

  • How long has life existed on earth?
  • How old is the earth?
  • How old is the universe?
  • Is the fossil record reliable and what does it say?
  • How long have humans existed?
  • Were all of the species created in the beginning, or did God intervene periodically by creating a bunch of new species while causing others to go extinct?
Old Earth Creationism

Throughout the book, Dr. Snoke makes it clear that although he accepts an old earth, he rejects evolution.

Many people seem to assume that if the earth is as old as science indicates, and animals have lived and died during that time, then evolution must have occurred. Not so! (p.44)

An old-earth view is not synonymous with evolution. (p.193)

...evolution, which I reject... (p.164)

Lord of the Fleas

Dr. Snoke spends two chapters on the important scientific question of whether animals suffered and died before Adam and Eve sinned. Evangelical Christians are divided on this issue. I discussed his views in a previous post (For thy pleasure they were created), so I’ll skip over them here, except to say that he believes that God purposefully designed animals to prey on one another from the very beginning.

God … is not just the way we would like him to be. We may hate the wrath of God, but we cannot say it is illogical to believe in it. What is illogical is to believe in a God who would never harm a flea when we see lots of harmed fleas around us. (p.96)
Utterly wrong non-negotiables

Dr. Snoke admits that he "wants the Bible to agree with science." But he says there are three biblical "nonnegotiables" which science cannot contradict.

  1. "Adam was one, real, historical man."
    (Adam was specially created by God just like it says in Genesis. And all humans are descended from him.)

  2. "Noah was one, real, historical man."
    (Snoke thinks the flood was local, making biogeography a bit less embarrassing. But he insists "that the flood killed every other person on earth except those on the ark, so that every person today is descended from one of Noah's sons.")

  3. "Life in al its diversity was created by sovereign, miraculous acts of God."
    (Evolution did not occur.)
Dumping the Bible

"If the Bible is wrong, utterly wrong, about the history of our origins, then we should dump it.” His non-negotiables are utterly wrong about the history of our origins. I guess it’s time to dump the Bible.


Anonymous said...

How very sad that there are so many people like this Snoke character, who no matter what, strive to make an utterly useless and inane piece of crap make sense. It just goes to show that the old saying about educated idiots isn't far off the mark, especially where religion is concerned. Since everyone is so convinced that these "holy books" were/are the divine, inspired word of god, I find it amazing that there's NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING divine in them, i.e. show me any idea, any information, any anything, that could have only come from "god". It's impossible because it all has the unmistakable fingerprints of ancient man, complete with all his fears, supersititions, and ignorance. Only by playing little mind games can one pretend there's any sense to any of it and this Snoke character does exactly that. As they say, figures don't lie but liars figure........

Anonymous said...

"he believes that God purposefully designed animals to prey on one another from the very beginning."

Bugger! Thats why my pet anteater starved to death despite all those coconuts I gave him. But I dont understand Gen1:30 says he should have ate it though - what do you mean genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other?
Always wondered how the loonies ignore the fact that during the flood, all fish life on the planet was not killed - put a goldfish in the sea or a btterfly fish in your garden pond and watch what happens. And for those who claim it was only a local flood, how did the ark end up in the mountains of ararat? Well we all know the answer

Billy Sands

Unknown said...

You ever read answersingenesis answer to this? Its the first and last question I ever looked at on that site.

It says, and I quote as well as I can remember: "Despite the fact that all the evidence points to an old Earth, to accept it we would destroy the credibility of the bible and therefore must stick to the bible."

As I said, once I read that I immediately left the site, haven't been back since.

sattvicwarrior said...

your pretty much RIGHT on . thanks for sharing:)

Anonymous said...

That's a new one on me: that the entire human population was confined to a small area destroyed by a local flood. Still utterly ahistoric, but at least it's a clever attempt at harmonization.

Baconeater said...

There was a time when the world's population was localized in Africa around 60,000 years ago, however no sign of a great flood.

I think that believers who genuinely seek answers about evolution and the ancient earth wind up at a crossroad.

Some choose reality, and some just put their head in the sand

ProofOfDesigner said...

I've read most of Snoke's Book this week as well as many books from other scientists such as Hugh Ross (www.Reasons.org). From my perspective, Snoke's is intentionally not writing arguments to convince a staunch athiest to believe the Bible, but to deal with a serious mix-up within the religious communities on how to read the Bible in light of scientific research. Instead, Snoke's book is written to readers who have read Hugh Ross (such as The Genesis Question) and Michael Behe's work on our world reflecting the actions of an intelligent designer. Snoke references both of these authors directly in his book.

Instead, Snoke's concern is that many loud religious people have preached a "religious" and somewhat "dysfunctional" view of the sequences of events recorded in the Bible in ways that does not represent the actual Bible texts being referenced.

Snoke's comparison of the Catholic Church in the middle ages with the issue of the movement of the earth is right on point for Snoke. The church wrongly promoted the science of the movement of the earth by holding to isolated verses in Psalms and Isaiah that made abtuse references to the stability of the earth's foundations. The "tension" that Snoke is dealing with is how many young earth religious people are falling into the same trap as the middle ages in the area of Bible interpretation.
If someone is interested in seeing the "wonders" of the creation accounts as compared to modern science I recommend Hugh Ross (a scientist of cosmology) and Michael Behe (a scientist for intelligent design) for more details. Snoke's book is directed at the issue of Bible interpretation, not a strong defence of the actual issues of science.

Alpana Mandal said...

I just read a book that had a whole new perspective to the Adam and Eve story as explained by a Hindu saint - http://daysofalps.blogspot.com/2009/09/adam-and-eve-yogis-perspective.html - It's also too unbelievable to be true, but its a new story!

JMS said...

Snoke is writing to believers. Thus he doesn't answer many of the questions you seem to think he should. But surely the author has no obligation to write for someone outside his target audience, does he?

This would be like me decrying Dawkins' "The God Delusion" for not addressing questions such as the nature of Salvation, Atonement Theory or Progressive Sanctification.

Christians have always held varying views on the intersection of Scripture and Science. Here's a brief video summary from the course I teach on this very topic:



Forrest Charnock said...

Snokes is speaking to gutless and uniformed Christians , not to believers.
Why is it , seeing most of you claim to be more intelligent than the majority do you have to resort to outlandish lies to make your case?
Answers in Genesis , nor any creationist organization has ever said that the evidence points to an old earth but we have to believe the Bible. Jake3988 is lying through his teeth. Here is a list of over 100 scientific evidences for a young earth.
The man who created the Terra supercomputer program which N.A.S.A. {who pays him an enormous sum to work for them as they consider him the world's foremost expert on the subject which he is} and everyone else on earth who studies plate tectonics, weather forecasting and earthquake prediction uses is a creationists.
He wrote the program to describe Noah's Flood. Of course secular scientists use a different starting assumption when they use it but the program is the same, the science is the same and it has always been a creationist science just as natural selection is.
If you studied the creationist argument you would know these things. Origins science has more to do with the world view of the interpreters than science or facts. We all have the same facts and we all use the same science.
You should read the R.A.T.E. report. it is just not true that all "real" scientists believe in great ages and those that don't are idiot bible thumpers. You never hear about people like Dr. Baumgardner who invented Terra and N.A.S.A. depends on to to handle its earthquake predictions or Dr, Damadian who invented the M.R.I. or Dr, Austin who presented his paper showing the Red Wall Limestone was formed catastrophically to 1000 of the world's best geologists and recieved a standing applause. You have been brainwashed into believing there is no scientific argument against millions of years. If you knew the history of science you would know one of the best was inadvertently created by the evolutionists Dr. Libbey who discovered c-14. They forgot to tell you that if the earth was more than 30k years old c-14 would have reached equilibrium and it has not and that dinosaur bones , diamonds and coal have way to much c-14 to possibly be 100k years old, much less millions or as with diamonds billions or that all coal dates the same regardless of depth.
You have been treated like mushrooms, it should made you angry.
You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.

Snokes is theisic evolutionist/progressive creationist, he hates Bible believing scientists and presents himself as a Hebrew/Biblical scholar when he is anything but.

Jake has obviously never read anything at any creationists site. Even if it was true that he read one thing there {which it cannot be from his lie} it would still show the gullibility and scientific ignorance of the materialist. If you don't know the arguments against your theory you have abandoned the scientific process completely and are participating in group think, you are believing what you were told to without question. Creationists study the opposing view and I have never personally met a single evolutionists who had a clue about the origins of their own belief system much less a clue about the opposing view. Even Charles Darwin was more logical that you guys, he said if you can't make the argument either way you know neither view and in that case he was correct.
I can ague for or against evolution but all I see here are people who site a weak minded compromiser like Snokes who knows little more about the scientific arguments for creation and against evolution than you do and then attacking the intelligence of people whose arguments you never bothered to read. How could you miss the fact he hates creationists? Perhaps you need to reassess your reading comprehension skills, they aren't making it!


Anonymous said...

Difficult to know where to start! How about, what colour (or race) was Noah? Moving on from that, since we are all descended from him, how did we achieve such racial diversity in such a short time, particularly if you don't allow natural selection?

Frank Cox said...


It would not be so difficult to know where to start should you bother to learn the arguments against your view, how else can you decide truth? Obviously you have accepted what you were told to, as the majority does.
You remarks about the time needed for racial diversity and not allowing for natural selection is evidence of a common misunderstanding of the science, the history,and the Bible not to mention what creationist teach.
There are twins, one white, one black so the time necessary for complete racial diversity is as short as 1 generation. Just type "Black and White Twins" in Google.
There is only one race, the human race .God created us with incredible diversity. The genetic code could not have created itself and there is no process known to science that could create genetic information, it is a product of intelligence.
As far as natural selection creationist have been using it to explain the Bible for thousands of years, 16th century Catholic theologians were hammered with the same poorly thought out arguments secularists and liberal theologians use today. The American Bison was thrown in their face as "proof" the ark was not big enough to hold the animals and they answered it is just a cow that has adapted to its food and environment over time, sound familiar? Noah needed only 2 bovines, 2 dogs, 2 cats. etc,perhaps as few as 5000 animals no more than 16000.
Natural Selection was first presented as a scientific theory by the creationist Edwin Blyth in 1835-37 and 1/2 of the first edition of the "Preservation of Favoured Racist in the Struggle to Deny the Existent of God" a.k.a. "The Origin of the Species" was spent trying to refute Blyth's work. Darwin swore he never read the papers until afterwards but who did he have to answer to? It is also noteworthy that he never really discussed origins in the Origin.
The famous Marxist and anti-creationist Steven J. Gould proved he lied by finding a copy of Blyth’s scientific papers with Darwin's notes all over many years before he ever started writing his first edition. It seems to me people forget Darwin was not a scientist but an amateur naturalist. His only University degree was in theology , he was not even the naturalist of record on the Beagle.
Natural selection has everything to do with creation and nothing to do with evolution. Evolution would require novel genetic information to arise by itself from matter continuously for no reason at all in perfect order and natural selection sorts existing genetic information and always results in a permanent loss of genetic info.
Please educate yourself, to even suggest that creationist deny natural selection is akin to the denial of the holocaust, like claiming the world is flat or that Obama is a brilliant economist.

BTW- Noah was probably olive skinned or middle brown but anything is possible seeing as he had 3 sons and 3 daughter-in-laws. Evolutionist forget that secularist have been stunned by their own research in recent years which shows natural selection happens at rates as high as ten million times what was historically believed. The creationist have been saying that for thousands of years, that there was ample time for a single pair of wolves or middle brown horses or Noahs descendants to populate the earth with its current diversity. Secular science supports this rapid change and using a low figure of .5% population growth over 4500 years starting with Noah’s family gives you right at 6.5 billion people today.

Unknown said...

You all are quibbling about details that Snoke never meant to address with this book. The bottom line Snoke is trying to make is that the Bible's account of the origins of the universe and of mankind can indeed be consistent with todays views that the earth is millions and millions of years old. To me, it makes perfect sense. Why would a God of the eternal past and future feel the need to cram creation into a literal seven day week?

Forrest Charnock said...

To Jake 3988:

You made the statement that Answers in Genesis stated that the evidence all pointed to an old earth but they deny it because the Bible says otherwise ,would you mind providing a link? All I have ever heard them say is the evidence has to be interpreted and they believe the case that the universe cannot be so ancient is strong. Perhaps you should be more like Darwin, he felt it necessary to know both sides of an argument.
On the Other hand Prof. Todd said this:
it should be made clear in the classroom that science, including evolution, has not disproved God’s existence because it cannot be allowed to consider it (Todd 1999, p. 423, emphasis added).
Professor Todd concluded that even if “all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic” (Todd, 1999, p. 423).
That says it all.

Forrest Charnock said...

To Kristin:

Anyone who has ever read Snokes book and the Bible knows that he made no case at all. He and Hugh Ross repeat 200 year old stories about pre-Adamites who looked human, made super glue, built complex dwellings requiring high level math, buried there dead and cared for their wounded and claims they were animals , soulless humans. That is not what the Bible says and neither does it allow for millions of years or a local flood. They really do not believe the Bible , their authority is "science"
Their problem, and yours as well it seems, is they really don't care what God said He did . Whether he created in a millisecond or a trillion years is not the question, the question is authority, is the Bible the word of God or not. He said He spoke the world into existence in 6 24 hour days about 6000 years ago and though you will be hard pressed to find many Hebrew Professors at any major university in the world that still believe that God created all in 6 days and the flood was global but you will never find one who will agree with Ross or Snokes or that will ever say that is not precisely what Moses meant to convey. If it is then you might want to check out the scientist who are not compromisers and see what their argument is . Think about this, if God needed billions of years to create what about the New Heavens and the New Earth? Did Jesus say-Lazarus, in 4.6 billion years come forth from the grave? Or did He say these water pots will be wine billions of years from now or arise and walk but not quite yet?
There are scientists, some of the world's bests scientists that say their is no conflict between operational science and the Bible . Ross and Snokes are saying their is no conflict between the atheistic interpretations of historical data and the Bible but their case have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
If there was death before sin then Jesus Christ died for nothing, that is irrefutable. If there was no original sin, no first Adam, how then can there be a last?
Also imagine a flood in the Mesopotamian Valley. Why did God have Moses spend 120 years building an ark when he could have simply walked out of the valley in a week? If you have a sense of humour imagine a flood held in on 3 sides by mountains and terminating on the beach in Saudi Arabia?
Jesus compared His second coming to the flood, If Jesus Christ said it was a global flood how can a person claim to be a Christian if they say he was mistaken?

Celad said...

Whatever anyone else may think, the Bible is scientifically correct in the very first verse – time and space had a beginning. (I'm an old earth creationist.) The rest of Genesis 1 is in the correct sequence scientifically, too. How did Moses (the presumed author) get that right? Check out the Reasons to Believe website, reason.org. http://www.reasons.org/explore/type/todays-new-reason Is a good place to start.