Bronze-level articleOmphalos hypothesis

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The Omphalos hypothesis is a creationist idea asserting that the universe was created to appear very, very old (or simply "mature") despite being created not that long ago.

The hypothesis was promoted by the nineteenth-century naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, in his book Omphalos[1], published in 1857, although earlier examples of similar thought exist. The name comes from the mid-nineteenth-century Christian belief that Adam had a navel, despite never having been in a womb ("omphalos" is Greek for "navel"). So, the hypothesis stated that the Earth appeared old although it was not, just as Adam had a navel from a gestation he never experienced. Most modern creationists no longer believe that Adam had a navel.[2][3][4] Answers in Genesis has some articles roundly condemning this unfalsifiable 'hypothesis' and others explicitly endorsing it.[2][5]


[edit] God’s motives

God's motives in faking the age of the universe are not always explained.

[edit] Test of faith

Some believers see God's creation of things like ancient fossils and light from distant stars as a deliberate test of faith, while others do not believe that we should impugn God's motives and chalk it up as one of those enigmas of creation, like the problem of evil.[6]

The idea of a deliberately deceitful God is controversial to many theists, both in Gosse's time and since, and is one of the many reasons why the Omphalos hypothesis is not widely supported. Rocks that appear from radiometric dating to be millions of years old aren’t so old at all, God just made them appear old. Similarly, if astronomers analyse the results from their observations and conclude that the Big Bang happened 14 billion years ago, it didn’t really happen very long ago, God just made it seem so. God put us into a universe that appears to contradict the Holy Bible. Then God sends us to hell if we believe what God put into the world![7]

If God is up to making things appear to be what they are not, that habit may not be confined to things like stars, rocks, and fossils. How about making the Bible appear to be saying things that aren't so?

[edit] Making a ‘complete’ universe

Despite the above, it is not necessarily a question of deceit. Perhaps “God” wished to create the Earth complete with a past, much like a writer would create his own literary setting. That makes God look superficially better. Still, if God wilfully created the universe looking older than it is, as an omniscient being or even as an intelligent being, he/she must have known this would mislead observers.

It is a serious question as to whether it is logically possible to create a complete universe with complex living things without the appearance of a prior history. Does not a mature animal or plant bear the marks of its prior history? A tree has tree rings marking years of growth. An adult mammal has knowledge which it has gained from experience. A river flows within it banks which have been formed from earlier flows, depositing silts in the delta.

[edit] Were God's ways deceptive?

God told us, in the Bible, about the whole truth. He gave us the Bible for those things that he knew we could not find out for ourselves.

[edit] Omphalos and YEC

Omphalos asserts a young age for the universe, according to a Biblical tradition, and has been revived and promoted by some modern creationists. In spite of this, the wider young Earth creationist movement is usually considered to be distinct from the Omphalos hypothesis. Most creation science adherents reject the idea because they see it as presenting a wilfully deceitful God, and dispute the overwhelming scientific evidence of an old Earth rather than explaining it away as artificial evidence planted by God. For example, creationist spokesmen like Duane Gish, Kent Hovind, and Ken Ham claim that dinosaurs existed alongside humans in the age of Genesis, probably perishing in the Great Flood, while those supporting the Omphalos hypothesis would argue that dinosaur fossils are not actually evidence of any creature which ever lived – dinosaur bones are just some weird sculptures created a few thousand years ago, along with Adam's navel and the rest of the universe.

[edit] Compatibility with science

Scrappy: [Those hills] were made thirty thousand years ago.

Rincewind: Oh come on, they look millions of years old!

Scrappy: Yeah. Thirty thousand years ago, they were made a million years ago.
Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent

The hypothesis was lauded by Martin Gardner for being 100% compatible with science.[8] However, like many forms of creationism, it lacks falsifiability and therefore is not a valid scientific theory. As a philosophical theory, it is valid but comparable to thought experiments such as Last Thursdayism – in which the Earth is hypothesized to have been created last Thursday instead of 6,000 years ago.

"There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago." (Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Mind, 1921, pp. 159–60) [9]

The hypothesis fares poorly against Occam's razor, since the conclusions are counter-intuitive and can only be arrived at if we take some prior assumptions (namely that the Bible is correct) to each investigation of evidence.

Fortunately someone who ascribes to Omphalos is unlikely to hinder science or insist that intelligent design be taught in the classroom, since no scientific finding could really contradict their religion.

[edit] Knowing God

St Paul said that the nature of God can be known from the things that he created.[10] So if the Omphalos Hypothesis is correct, and the young universe only appears to be old, then Paul is saying that God is a deceiver, though of course, that's open to interpretation.

[edit] Omphalos hypothesis and creatio ex nihilo

The Omphalos hypothesis deals with the creation myth in the Abrahamic religions. However the same argument can be applied to any creatio ex nihilo. Wikipedia lists at least eight such creation myths besides the story accounted in Genesis:

All these myths can make the exact same claim: "<fill in deity's name> created the world (or universe) <fill in preferred number of years> years ago so that it looked as though it was 4.3 (or 13+) billion years old." However, people using the Omphalos hypothesis to support their own creation myth would be unlikely to accept one of the others on this line of reasoning.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. The subtitle, An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot, may make an allusion to the Classical story of Alexander the Great "untying" the Gordian knot by cutting through it. Charles Lyell, in his 1833 Principles of Geology: An Attempt to Explain .the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes Now in Operation, volume 1, page6 referred to "a desire manifested to cut, rather than patiently to untie, the Gordian knot"
  2. 2.0 2.1
  5. [1] This article claims that nothing in science proves the appearance of "age", only of "maturity", but explicitly endorses the idea otherwise.
  6. Christians regularly resort to 'divine mystery' when they cannot find a better answer.
  7. The faith-testing concept has been described as conjuring up the image of God burying dinosaur skeletons while, with a mischievous look on his face, saying, "That'll fool the bastards!" On the face of things it looks like a wilfully deceitful Creator - and the concept of such a God being a benevolent one appears implausible; that idea is implausible in any case. Can a God like that be trusted to tell us the truth about our salvation or about anything else?
  8. Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, second paperback edition,When? pages 125-127.
  10. Romans 1:20
    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
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