Last Sunday, we ran a piece in which we discussed two scholars advancing the view that one could hold two contradictory views on the age of the Earth at the same time: “In our lives, and in our teaching, we reject that divide. As the Jewish New Year approaches and we welcome in the Hebrew year 5780, we don’t feel at all confused about when the world was created: It was formed around 5 billion years ago, and it is also 5,780 years old. Why, we ask, must we choose?”
Here’s our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon’s view:
It’s a great pity that after 80 years of discussing the Great Schism between religion and science (CP Snow) or 20 years since the warfare thesis was exploded, this article tells us to get used to it, all the great thinkers were schizophrenic. I’m reminded of Empress Theodora and her unsuccessful battle defending Egyptian Monophysites from the schizophrenic Niceans. In other words, this debate is truly ancient, crucially trinitarian, and will never go away.
What does it mean to say it is crucial?
If all we want is a cease-fire between the warring tribes of science and humanities, then schizophrenia is a well-tried method, requiring only the annual sacrifice of those who transgress the boundaries. But if we want progress in either theology or science, then we must wrestle with these borderline cases.
Einstein discovered relativity principally because he was willing to reject Newton and Kant’s metaphysics with its 3D phenomenal universe for some 4D hyperbolic spacetime. Cantor, handing off to France, Moscow, and finally to Goedel were able to stop the bulldozer of logical positivism by rejecting Plato’s (and Aristotle’s) metaphysical infinities. The real infinities of an uncreated eternal universe were shattered by Lemaitre’s (and later Hawking’s) proof of a cosmic beginning. JEDP fragmentation of the Old Testament was finally laid to rest by linguistic and archaeological discoveries of the last 50 years. Bultmann and Barth many other 20th century schizophrenics were upended by, among other things, reluctant discoveries of NT texts dated to 90AD. It was Chesterton who said, “He who marries the culture will soon be a widower.” Schizophrenia may allow you to keep your job, but you will have to wear black the rest of your days.
Rob is also the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent, Vols 1 and 2.
See also: Two contradictory figures for the age of the Earth can be true at the same time? Many of us simply avoid getting involved except to try to blunt the persecution of unpopular views. For one thing, it isn’t self-evident that geologists are always right either. I regret the fact that scientists were once ridiculed for believing that the Earth has tectonic plates.
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