22 August 2007

A New Omphalos?

In my wanderings today on the internets, I stumbled upon a fellow named Herman Cummings, who describes himself as "the foremost terrestrial authority on the book of Genesis", adding "Until you can disprove that claim, accept it as fact." With that comment, I was again transported into the wonderful world of Fads and Fallacies, Martin Gardner's hilarious account of cranks, crackpots, and fringe figures who seem to have stepped out of the pages of L. Frank Baum. Who can forget the Nephew of God? The Hungry Tiger? Or Alfred Lawson, the inventor of Lawsonomy? (His University of Lawsonomy used to graduate "Knowledgians" after a suitable course of study.) The "foremost terrestrial authority on the book of Genesis. Until you can disprove that claim, accept it as fact." With that self-description alone Herman Cummings has earned a place in that pantheon.

You may recall him as one of the sideshow acts at the Selman v. Cobb County School District circus (see If You Litigate, They Will Come at The Panda's Thumb). If so, you're doing better than I did. When I ran into the phrases "Observations of Moses" and "Biblical Reality", the name Herman Cummings meant nothing to me. It was only after googling the name that fragments began to come back to me.

What caught my attention was that Herman Cummings had published a book. Its title: Moses Didn't Write About Creation! (The exclamation point is his.) This is promising; an exclamation point following a simple declarative statement sounds like classic crackpottery, though it would have been more promising still if it had been and exclamation point following a command, or a statement with the word "you" in it. But still--promising indeed.

So comes the next test--is the book put out by a small sectarian or fringe publishing house? Or is it (even better) self-published? Let's see ... the book appears to have been published 6 August 2007 by PublishAmerica. Score! PublishAmerica is a modern-day version of the old vanity press--a POD or Publish On Demand press. We will print no book before its time. Nothing comes off the presses, so to speak, until it's been bought and paid for. Something like that, anyway.

So what is the point of his book? The title strikes no exceptional note--Moses didn't write about creation. So what? I, for one, never said that he did. (I never said that Prometheus wrote about the art of arson either.) Fortunately Cummings has been promoting his forthcoming book. What does he have to say about it?
The book promotes "Biblical Reality", which states that Genesis, written by Moses, was never about Creation (Week). Moses had written down (perhaps by one or more designated scribes) what God had revealed to him while he was with God on Mt. Sinai in 1598 BC. Creationism and theology have mistakenly believed that Moses was writing about how our Earth & universe were created, but not so. God revealed to Moses seven defined geological ages of the historical past to Moses. Even Moses didn't understand what he saw, but he just had it written down for later generations to learn and perhaps someday understand. That final understanding would not occur until December 1993, being about 3,604 years later. How timeless is the Word of God?
Timeless indeed. So what is Cummings getting at here? Is he pushing the idea that the "days" of Genesis represent lengthy periods of unknown duration. Not at all. It is true, we find out, that God created the earth and the universe in six days, but the six days described in the opening of Genesis are not those particular six days.
Our creation occurred 4.57 billion years ago (according to the science of geology), completing in six days (Exodus 20:11), with God "resting" on the seventh day of a 168 hour week. But God did not reveal that week to Moses. God revealed only one day from Creation Week, and one day each from the first week of the six following geological ages of mankind. The seven days which were revealed to Moses (aka "the Observations of Moses") were not revealed in chronological order, but in what's called "Biblical Order", which any theologian or "bible scholar" worth their salt should be able to ascertain.
In a later post he explains further:
The “six days of Moses” in Genesis chapter one are actually six consecutive (12 hour) days in 1598 BC that God revealed to Moses (on Mt. Sinai) from the ancient past. Each day was from the first week of each of seven different geological eras in “biblical order”. The only day of Creation Week which Moses saw was the “Fourth Day”. Creation Week was 168 hours, in 4.6 Billion BC, according to the geologist.
If I am not mistaken our writer is adopting the old notion that the "days" of Genesis were the days of Yahweh's revelation to Moses rather than the actual days of creation. Except that he has a new twist--each account was of a single day, and each of these days was taken from the first week of a different geological period. Why, I can't imagine. I suppose he explains things somewhere in his book, but don't expect me to be reading it too soon. Life is short, and the explanations of scripturologists are long indeed.

Herman Cummings has thoughtfully placed the first chapter of his book online for us, along with a set of comments here, and from them we learn a few further items from his repertoire. The universe, for instances, is three days younger than the earth. Oh, yes, and why does he accept the evidence of geology for the age of the earth but not the evidence of astrophysics for the age of the universe?
How can we possibly know what the make-up of a star is? [he asks rhetorically.] Have we sent a probe into the center of our Sun? ... If pretending to know the composition of planets, stars, and comets isn’t bad enough, many scientists also claim to know the ages of celestial objects. This is what I mean by “crossing the line”. ... We can examine the Earth, since we live on it. We have examined material brought back from the Moon, in such wise as we have visited it on several occasions. I accept the findings of the geologist that the Earth and Moon are close to 4.6 billion Earth years old.

It is reasonable to assume that the Sun is about the same age as the Earth, the Moon, and the other planets in our planetary (solar) system. But that is as far as the scientist can legitimately go. Only the theologian has a ‘license’ to go farther. ...Presently, the farthest galaxy that we can now observe is roughly 12 billion light years away from Earth. So it is assumed that it would initially take at least 12 billion years for the light that emanates from that galaxy to reach our planet. Since the scientist allows 3 billion years for that galaxy to evolve into it’s [sic] present observable state, we now have the universe being 15 billion (3 billion + 12 billion) years old. See how conveniently that fits into the “model” of the Big Bang?

If our universe (and galaxy) is 15 to 17 billion Earth years old, why is our Sun and solar system only 5 (or 4.6) billion years old? Also, what was happening during those missing 10 billion years??
There. I hope that's clear to everyone. I have to admit that I never thought of those ten billion years as missing, and more than I thought of the ten "lost" tribes as missing. And as I learned centuries ago (probably from Asimov's Intelligent Man's Guide to Science or Ley's Watchers of the Skies) exactly how we can determine the composition of a distant star I don't find his question on the subject particularly relevant. Offhand I would suggest that he find an introductory textbook on astronomy and read it, but he probably has his own explanations for the unreliability of starlight.

Herman Cummings' problem with science, however, doesn't stop there. According to his definition a theory is "a guess about the unknown, using scientific jargon." This is his own definition, supposedly boiled down from "a speculative idea that implies considerable evidence in support of a formulated general principle in an attempt to explain the operation of certain phenomena." Setting aside for the moment the accuracy of this definition, how on earth did Cummings get to "a guess about the unknown, using scientific jargon"? What happened to "considerable evidence"? "general principle"? and "explain[ing] the operation of certain phenomena"? Maybe he has some kind of explanation for this somewhere in the rest of his book, but as far as I can tell this is nothing but plain or garden pig-ignorance.

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