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How to Avoid Twisting the Bible and Abusing Science

Earth from above showing thunderheads above the ocean reflecting sunlight, photo credit: NASA

[Originally published as the conclusion of the ongoing series responding to a Christian defending the view that the rotation of the earth changed dramatically at the time of the global flood: Faulty Speculations on the Pre-Flood World: Part 2]

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Troy: Your ilk is mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3-5 as one of the mockers that say things remain the same since the fathers fell asleep, discounting the changes that occurred from the Flood.
Lisle: The problem, of course, is that there is absolutely no biblical or scientific evidence that the flood would affect (1) the tilt of the earth or (2) the length of days. None.

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Let’s apply Troy’s reasoning to a silly example that should highlight the error. Suppose someone claimed,

“Before the global flood, human beings had six arms each instead of just two, and they could fly by flapping those arms. At the flood, God removed their extra four arms so that they could not fly away and escape it. We know this is true. After all, what Bible verse says that people only had two arms before the flood? None! And what Bible verse says that people couldn’t fly before the flood? That’s right — none! So, clearly, I’m right!”

Of course, any rational person would point out that having two arms is normative for a healthy human, and there is no reason to think that the flood would affect that. But then suppose the person responded, “Your ilk is mentioned in 2 Peter 3:3-5 as one of the mockers that say things remain the same since the fathers fell asleep, discounting the changes that occurred from the Flood.  Your argument is that ever since the fathers have fallen asleep, [people having only two arms each] remains the same.” Of course, that is exactly Troy’s argumentation. But no rational person would accept that.

In a very real sense, science is all about separating those things that God holds constant (underlying laws of nature) from those things that God allows to change (local conditions, erosion rates, sediment formation rates, etc.). Things like lunar recession are based on laws of physics, such as the dipole inverse cube relation and conservation of angular momentum. God does not allow these physical principles to change. This is why we can predict eclipses down to the second even centuries in advance. The movement of the earth and the moon is based on very basic laws of physics which God holds constant for our benefit.

However, plate tectonics, erosion rates, sediment deposition — things that today are very dependent on local conditions, are obviously things that God allows to change. And we would expect drastic changes in such conditions during a global flood. But, we can only reasonably draw that conclusion because we assume continuity in basic principles!

In other words, we presume that gravity, the laws of motion, and chemistry worked the same way during the flood year as they do today, allowing us to compute some things about the increased erosion and sedimentation that took place then. If everything changed during the global flood, even laws of nature, then we could not conclude anything about erosion rates, tectonics, etc., since these are physical processes that are subject to the laws of nature.
Troy: In your calculations, what rate of lunar recession did you calculate around 6,000 years ago?
Lisle: Since lunar recession is inversely proportional to the sixth power of distance, and since the current rate is 3.8 cm/year, the distance 6025 years ago would have been 751 feet (229 m) closer.  Thus, the rate of recession would have been faster than our current rate by ((384,401 – 0.229)/384,401)-6 – 1 which is 0.0004%. So, the recession rate was still essentially 3.8 cm/year. This is what I meant when I said that on the biblical timescale, the recession is well-approximated by a linear interpolation.
Troy: Also, what do you have as the cause that commenced the Flood and fractured Pangaea?
Lisle: The leading hypothesis is that God used accelerated radioactive decay which created sufficient heat to start runaway subduction of the original oceanic crust. Hot spots may be where the fountains of the great deep burst forth. There is some evidence to support this, but we don’t really know. If you want to believe that an asteroid impact delivered such heat, that may be plausible too, but it would not significantly affect earth’s rotation rate or tilt without vaporizing the oceans thousands of times over.
Troy: Do you also reject a literal ice/water canopy existing around the atmosphere from creation till the Flood?
Lisle: That sounds like the canopy hypothesis, which I have discussed elsewhere. The Bible mentions waters upon/above the expanse, but it uses the word for liquid water (mayim). So this would not be ice or a vapor canopy (which use different words). Rather it could well be water droplets in suspension. Whatever these waters above are, they are not something that collapsed at the time of the flood because they are mentioned later in Scripture. Psalm 148:4 mentions the waters above as still existing at the time that Psalm was written — many centuries after the flood.
Troy: Thanks
Lisle: You are welcome.

The main error in Troy’s claims is the fallacy of the appeal to ignorance — asserting that something must be (or is very likely) true purely on the basis that it has not been proved false.

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In reality, Troy’s claims have been proved false. We can calculate the effects of lunar recession from physics principles and show that it has slowed the earth by only 0.105 seconds per day since creation. Furthermore, we can demonstrate that the earth has not experienced any significant change in tilt or in rotation rate due to asteroid impacts within the biblical time frame since these would have vaporized earth’s oceans many times over.

Troy could appeal to supernatural intervention, but that would require Scriptural justification. And we find none.

From a hermeneutics perspective, Troy’s error is the appeal to silence: arguing that something must be (or is very likely) true on the basis that the Scriptures don’t explicitly state the opposite. It is tantamount to claiming that all people before the flood had six arms each since the Bible never specifies that they had only two. But such a claim is baseless. Having exactly two arms is normative for healthy people today, just as 24 hours is normative for solar days.

Thus, we would need powerful biblical or scientific evidence to believe that such things were otherwise in the past, and we have no such evidence. None. On the contrary, God has promised to uphold His creation in a (basically) uniform way for our benefit, promising certain repeating cycles in nature. God specifically includes the day and night cycle as part of His creation covenant (Genesis 8:22; Jeremiah 33:25).

Dr. Jason Lisle portrait

Written by Dr. Jason Lisle

Dr. Jason Lisle is a Christian astrophysicist who researches issues pertaining to science and the Christian Faith. You can find his ministry at Biblical Science Institute.com.
Dr. Lisle double-majored in physics and astronomy with a minor in mathematics at Ohio Wesleyan University. He then went on to obtain a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, he used the SOHO spacecraft to analyze the surface of the sun, and made a number of interesting discoveries, including the detection of giant cell boundaries.
Since then, Lisle has worked in full-time apologetics ministry. He wrote a number of planetarium shows for the Creation Museum, including the popular “Created Cosmos.” Dr. Lisle has authored a number of best-selling books on the topic of creation, including: Taking Back Astronomy, Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky, the Ultimate Proof of Creation, Discerning Truth, and Understanding Genesis.

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