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June 1991

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Originally published in Creation 13, no 3 (June 1991): 9.

Read letters about baby Methuselah and chaos physics.

Baby Methuselah?

Dear Editor,

I enjoy reading your magazine and would like to add a point to your very convincing article titled ‘Could the "days" of creation be long periods of time?’ (Vol. 12 No. l, p. 40) by Dr. A.C. McIntosh.

Many people say a day of creation could be a thousand years or a thousand years a day because of what is written in II Peter 3:8. Methuselah (the oldest man in the Old Testament, who lived to be 969) shows how unreal this could be. If a thousand years were a day then he would have lived to be 23 hours, 15 minutes, 12.6 seconds. But if a day were a thousand years then Methuselah would have lived to be 352,958,000 years old! Way out of proportion don’t you think? I thoroughly enjoy reading your easy to understand magazines.

Vicki M. Lawrence, (age 15 years), Cranbrook, Western Australia.

Chaos restores interest

Dear Editor,

Your recent comment on developments in Chaos Physics (Vol. 12 No. 4) was somewhat pessimistically couched solely in terms of whether chaos might constitute part of a ‘major intellectual threat to Christendom’ or ‘an escape route for evolution’.

Chaos, it seems to me, comes as a humbling and yet revitalizing shock to a physics too long conditioned to believe that the only interesting phenomena to be studied occur either on the scale of the very large (cosmology), or the very small (subatomic particles). Whatever the difficulties of trying to understand the creation, or of making predictions where the Uncertainty Principle holds sway, there was a feeling abroad that the systems we observe at the ordinary, human, day-to-day scale of events were somehow well understood and ought to behave in a predictable way.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the humble pendulum behaves predictably only when starting conditions involve small pushes and small swings. As the frequency of small pushes is changed, its motion can become chaotic. Systems can be governed by well-known laws of motion and yet be capable of a wide range of behaviour, sometimes chaotic and inherently unpredictable. What chaos does is to free us from the rigid determinism of the Clockwork Universe, which Laplace and others felt would make God unnecessary, and yet still allow us to hold to an underlying order and the rule of law. Chaos also deals an uncomfortable blow to mechanistic reductionism, the idea that systems can be viewed as composed of smaller parts. and that when we look at the smaller parts they are simpler and easier to understand. Unfortunately we must now face the fact that the behaviour of many systems shows a fractal self-similarity which reproduces the same degree of complexity at all scales within the system. Hence it won’t appear any simpler whether we look at it close up, or in the large scale.

Perhaps it is the word ‘chaos’ which makes some Christians uncomfortable, but I don’t think the findings of chaos in physics or the other sciences will offer much comfort to the theory of evolution. For me, what it does is to restore interest and fascination to the study of what’s going on at my scale of things in the order of creation, and to remind me that God’s wisdom, displayed in that creation, reveals new subtlety, complexity, and delicate beauty, whenever I take it for granted.

Tim Passmore, Joslin, South Australia.

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