Time and Omnipotent Designers

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Some people argue that contemporary science can't be right about how old the earth or the universe is, because an omnipotent being wouldn't need to take that long to make a universe. Thus the young earth must be true. Others argue from the opposite end that intelligent design arguments are inconsistent with an omnipotent being, because they involve God inputting information over a long process. (See, for example, SteveF's July 25 comment at 5:47 pm in this comment thread on this post.) I don't think this sort of argument works in either case.

If the designer is God, then God should be able to do something over a longer time or a shorter time. Young earth creationists are right that God could have created everything instantly. But the argument undermines the young earth view as much as any other, unless the young earth view holds God to have created everything instantly. It doesn't hold that but takes the period of creation to be six days. Why would God need six whole days to create everything? God could have created instantly. If it's implausible for God to do something over thousands or millions of years (because God could do it in a shorter time), then it's implausible for God to do it in six days (because God could do it in a shorter time). The mere possibility that God could have done it over a shorter time does not mean that God would have done so. A divine being with omnipotence could choose to work over a very long time or a very short time, and neither should seem more or less likely without an understanding of the purposes such a being might have for working over a longer or shorter time.

The hypothesis that there is a designer, particularly if one of the possibilities is that the designer is omnipotent, does not make it more or less likely that the designer worked over a long or short time. The length of time is not evidence against God. What's interesting is that the reverse is not true. Length of time issues may count as evidence against naturalistic explanations, precisely because they do not involve beings who can do anything (and thus can work instantly or over a longer time).

If we think natural forces are the only things at work, and we discover without a doubt that humans came into existence suddenly and without a natural explanation, we would begin to find non-natural explanations much more plausible. If we discover that several unlikely occurrences within a very short time were necessary for human life, it does raise the plausibility of an intelligent explanation behind why they all those unlikely events not only occurred but occurred so close together, particularly if they are all required for something of great significance.

So I do think there is a disanalogy between arguments for an omnipotent designer and arguments against one. The arguments for one rely on the unlikelihood of certain facts given no omnipotent designer. The arguments against one rely on particular conceptions of an omnipotent designer that don't capture all the possibilities. That's why the former arguments at least have a chance, while the latter arguments don't even get off the ground.

4 Comments

I guess you could call me an "old earth creationist" - I came to the conclusion that either the earth is old (as I stood taking a photo of my daughter in front of a cliff face full of fossils) or God designed earth the way that it is for the express purpose of fooling us.

very well argued, also very difficult to ever come to a conclusion.Since the past only leaves slight hints of influence on the present, and they will fade in the future due to life's constant change. Scripture also gives very limited details and in an ancient language,which makes it very difficult to go beyond the simplest interpretation with any certainty.
I don't see how we could really seperate all the components of the universe to determine which came first, since their are so many possibilities.
seems to me that the Genesis account is more of a description of God's character being creative than a chronological history of the earth. I think the Genesis account is inspired of God and is for our edification giving us the most foundational belief of all, God created everything.
But our understanding of reality and scripture should be complimentary to one another,and if it doesn't, we don't understand them correctly.

I have a friend who is struggling with this whole thing and just doesn't buy the "God created" is the point. I don't have a problem with this: The point is not HOW God created, but rather THAT He created.

Have you ever heard Dr. Ken Hovind speak on the age of the earth and creation? He's a "Creation Science Evangelist" based out of Pensacola, FL, and I think he gives the best evidence that I've ever heard for a young earth. You can watch his seminars at his website, www.drdino.com

Jeremy--I just want to say thank you for your site. You have one of the most intelligent Christian blogs out there.

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