Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drake Shelton vs. Ed Babinski's "Cosmology of the Bible"


I'm pretty sure I was comprehensive in my responses to virtually everything online that could be construed against the case in Ed's chapter in The Christian Delusion.  I guess it is too much to assume anyone responding to it would actually like Google to see what had already transpired.  As is, Shelton's article is everything I've already responded to, including most of the links he links to.

Shelton starts off with this:
What the opponents of the Bible have to show, is a scripture passage where the context lets the reader know that the passage is referring to the entire biosphere of the planet and asserts that the entire thing is flat.
I appreciate a goal post.  However, it is a little misguided and his position amounts to implausible agnosticism in my view.  It is as though despite the hundreds of references to cosmological concepts in various ways, not even once do any of the somewhat ambiguous statements refer to a flat earth or other aspects of primitive cosmology despite these views being prevalent in the same time period.  If the authors don't know correct cosmology (since it is not represented in their revelation of scripture per Shelton's chosen view), odds are they believe in false cosmology and when they write about cosmology they are going to get it wrong.  Somehow we aren't supposed to count that against inerrancy?  The Bible clearly smokes, but you can't prove it inhales!  Meanwhile, the liberal Christian scholars remind us that of course the Bible inhales, but they just don't care!

And skeptics roll their eyes at ALL the apologists.

So my general view that I've garnered from reviewing tons of material on the subject is this:
We have basically a near maximum amount of expected evidence from ancient writings that embrace a false cosmology.  These writings for the most part (except perhaps when describing the creation of the world, especially the particulars of the hard sky) are not explicitly about cosmology, there's not a cosmological adventure where characters voyage directly through the false ideas (kind of like in the book of Enoch), and/or none of the Bible writers are embroiled in an ideological war against "sphere-ists" where they'd need to be absolutely in your face about their flat earth views.  I wouldn't even say the Bible "teaches" primitive cosmology per se (again, for the most part), since there's no sermon about it or anything like that.  It's mostly taken for granted background information that manifests in most of the literary genres in the collection of books that make up the Bible, just as we'd expect it to be in those literary circumstances (that I've just described in my second sentence of this paragraph) and just like it was in all the ancient cultures at the time (as Ed points out that scholars document).   
Inspired characters, not inspired characters, narrators, and Yahweh, in poetry and prose all exhibit consistent evidence of primitive cosmological views.  It is the most straight forward appraisal of the evidence we have.  All the evidence supports this view.  Only a tiny smidgen of the evidence can be made to look contrary to this view (but can be easily explained in light of it), and Christian apologists are  forever stuck in that cliche' epistemological slum they live in where the best explanation is persistently ignored in favor of saving face for their allegiance to their preferred version of the religion.  If you believe your religion absolutely obligates you to intellectual honesty and intellectual integrity, then it follows you must relent in your defense of Biblical inerrancy at the very least.  And, if you give up inerrancy, but fall back on some version of general inspiration, why are we believing in the unfalsifiable spiritual matters, but not being impressed by the opportunities for cosmological correctness we could verify?  The skeptical case against any version of the Christian religion is confirmed and various Christianities are left shrugging their shoulders hoping you won't think about it too hard and will just accept some random ancient religious ejaculations just like they do.   
Anyway, let's go point by point.  I've actually provided ALL of Babinski's Bible links with commentary on the apologetic excuses and so this list of verses is rather random it seems and I'm not really sure where Shelton is coming from.  Where I've already responded, I'll link and summarize.

1.  Shelton says:
[Isaiah 40:22] does not say that the earth is flat.
That's technically true, but irrelevant.  Let's take both hypotheses (that the author is talking about a flat earth or a spherical earth) and try them out on the verse and see which fits best:
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.  
Shelton notes that "circle" can mean sphere or disk in this case, but "disk" makes the most sense because:
A.  It makes more sense for Yahweh to sit "above" a disk than "above" some random point on a sphere. 
B.  From the god's-eye-view, setting up a tent on a flat disk surface just makes more sense than trying to set one up on "top" of a curvy sphere.
So, sorry Shelton.  Isaiah basically does say the earth is flat.  One has to say the evidence leans strongly in that direction.

2.  Shelton claims things are "not literal" in Job 9:6, and I've responded to this common bit of misdirection here and here.  Basically, it is a fallacy to assume that poetic language indicates no mixture of literal belief.

3.  Shelton says:
Nowhere does [Psalm 24:2 For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the rivers.] say, " It is surrounded by the ocean".  He's just talking about the dry land. Genesis 1:10: says And God called the dry land Earth.
One might note the obviousness that oceans are founded upon the "earth" and that the earth is founded upon "lava" in the earth's core.  It may have looked like the land was laid on top of bodies of water, but clearly King David (or whomever) was wrong.  As Babinski points out, scholars document the prevalent belief that for whatever reason, the waters came first before the land.

4.  Shelton mentions the peculiarity of "four corners" when dealing with skeptics who think the Bible espouses an earth that is a disk.  Responded to here.  Basically, context determines that "four corners" must mean directions of the compass.  Not everything has to be literal, but the determining factor isn't Biblical inerrancy being saved.  : p

5.  This one deals with the many references to the "ends of the earth."  I've responded to Christian internet apologist J. P. Holding throughout this post, though especially here.  Basically, while it is true that the phrase can have a limited context, it is implausible that at no time do these authors ever intend to refer to the whole planet.  Especially since there is a glaring lack of sphericalish earth language to properly temper such an anachronistic interpretation.  

6.  Shelton says:
How would [Ezek 38.12] prove a flat disc? I have a navel. Does that mean I am a flat disc? This simply refers to their political importance and economic importance as they were in the middle of where most of the action in the world was happening.
Um, prove it?  How do you know that this isn't referring to geography?  It is probable that it both refers to geography and political/economic importance because the ancient Hebrews didn't bother distinguishing between the two!  In fact, they probably thought their theology predicted and entitled them to such a claim!  "Aren't we god's chosen people?  Well of course that means we're in the center of the world!"  We can't just lift that out of context conveniently as modern Christians who just want to see metaphors.

The issue of Jerusalem being at the center of the world has come up before.

7.  Satan takes Jesus up on a mountain to show him the whole earth with the implication that is a better vantage point.  I've responded to this point before.  Shelton assumes that both Matthew and Luke are on the same page and I point out that in all likelihood Matthew did not think things through and actually believed that a mountain vantage point was needed.  It seems Luke slightly corrected him with a more plausible mechanism, but kept the nonsense backdrop.

8.  Shelton says:
Rev 1:7 refers to the Coming of the Roman Empire to attack Jerusalem, thus Nigel Lee.  So literally it is saying the Jews, those who pierced him will see the Roman Army coming to destroy them., that's a lie.  It quite clearly says, "all the tribes on the earth will mourn..."  that's not just the Jews in Jersalem in 70 AD.  I don't know how you can bamboozle yourself otherwise.  I've responded to this issue before.

Shelton quotes Triablogue's Steve Hays in the Infidel Delusion (which I may or may not have responded to at length) saying this:
Suppose the verse does, indeed, conjure up the image of a flat earth? So what? Language is full of dead metaphors.
And I've responded here.  The problem is that these metaphors were alive and well at the time.  Sorry, Steve.  Next lame excuse.

9.  The issue here is that in Daniel's dream (in Daniel 4:10) he claims that this massive tree is in the middle of the earth and that everyone to the ends of the earth can see it (thus implying a flat earth).  Shelton claims that Daniel 4:22 limits the implications to just Nebudchadnezzar's kingdom, but the verses don't seem to actually limit the claim in that sense, unless Shelton really thinks that the author of Daniel spoke in light of full knowledge of the American continents?

I've responded to Steve Hays on this issue here.  

10.  I've responded to Gleason Archer and Holding on the issue (in Isaiah 42:5) of spreading out the earth here.  Basically the part about spreading out the animals *also* implies a flat earth since the animals in aggregate (not as individual road kill) are spread out on the flat surface of the flat earth.

11.  This one talks about Job 26:10 and Shelton insists that "inscribing a circle" on the waters to denote light from darkness is ambiguous because of the word for circle.  Babinski points to scholarship that has a much more interesting theory where light and darkness are created separately from light sources that I talk about here.  It makes little sense to speak of Yahweh doing something to the light and darkness when in reality light and dark are naturally distinguished because of the shape of a spherical earth.  Of course, odds are, the ancient Hebrews didn't know that.  Hence we get these bullshit concepts.


One wonders on the one hand if excuses for primitive Bible cosmology will continue to multiple well into the future, or whether we'll hit some stable plateau of the same dead end excuses with apologists stuck in perpetual Empire Strikes Back Luke Skywalker mode, ", that's not true.  That's impossible!!!!"


The Nerd said...

You had me at "inhales".

Ben Schuldt said...


Drake Shelton said...

The thing is Ben, you have the burden of proof and re-asserting your opinion through this article is not a proof. I read through the entire thing and was not impressed by a single statement.

Your atheistic philosophy has much work to do before you even get off the ground. I have ten questions before you:,50435.msg550364.html#msg550364

This is not a God of the gaps argument. I am saying that you don't have a theory at all. You don't even have a single demonstration off the ground.

Ben Schuldt said...

So in other words I did such a great job that you can't think of one specific thing to say against any of the points I made? lol, I'm sorry, I'm sure you are stuck in "the skeptic has to *absolutely* prove the case" mode and have no idea whatsoever of what an argument to the better explanation actually is or why such a thing is morally superior. You have philosophical grievances against non-theistic worldviews. Congratulations. That doesn't make the Bible inerrant.