Wednesday, August 29, 2012

James takes on Harbinger Seven, The Erez Tree Part 3 continued: taxonomy and evolutionary theory

This is a continuation of the last post.

Now. Even if the trees are each the original created Kind, this does not eliminate all similarities that can be observed among them and anybody can see that ALL conifers have similarities to each other, while experts can apparently see that certain conifers can be grouped together as having more similarities to one another than they do to others outside the group. So presumably the Pinacea family contains conifers that are particularly similar to each other according to expert assessment.

Cahn did his homework and he found scientific and linguistic similarities that ought to be regarded as supporting the harbinger claim. Again, in Hebrew apparently "erez" IS often used to denote different kinds of trees, despite the fact that the English Bibles have chosen to translate it "cedar." Hebrew is the underlying language, or are we to trust a translation over the original? Again, there are at least two places in the Old Testament, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert of Sinai, that the commentators object that the tree so designated could not possibly be a cedar because cedars can't grow there. And again, even the scientific Latin classification system shows a family resemblance between the cedar and the Norway Spruce that ought to confirm the intuitive sense of their similarity.

But the intuitive sense of the similarity is really the main case to be made for it in my opinion. Most of us reading the book simply SEE the similarity between the cedar and the spruce -- tall evergreen trees with needles and cones -- and the sycamores which have the same name and a similar appearance as well -- both being tall wide-branching leafy green trees. It's enough to confirm the connection between the harbingers and Isaiah 9:10 it seems to me. That is, it's enough to point us back to the message of national defiance of God in Isaiah 9:10, which is what it is meant to do IF it is in fact a "harbinger" as Cahn claims it is. The exactness the critics are calling for is inappropriate, it's hairsplitting, it's misleading. The apparent similarities are quite dramatic enough to serve the purpose. The very idea that there should be exactness from an ancient context to a modern one is rather odd. We read the Bible all the time to apply to our current situations without ever suspecting that it can't apply because our situations are not exactly like those of the ancient people.

Let's just finish off this theme from James:
Since The Harbinger purports to convey biblical truth, it seems very misguided to rely on an unbiblical theory of origins and development of life on earth to establish fulfilled prophecy.[THFOF p. 105]
Again, this is simply false, and misleading, like going out of his way to find something, anything, to object to. If there were a contradiction he'd have a point but there is no contradiction. Cahn simply does not use the Linnaean classification system in an evolutionary sense, to imply genetic descent. He never says anything to imply a common ancestor of the trees in question, he ONLY uses it to demonstrate the scientific recognition of similarities between certain trees, which is what the system was originally designed for.

Much of science DOES support the Bible if you are careful to avoid stepping on the semantic land mines planted by the evolutionists. But you have to first interpret the Bible correctly AND the science as well. As I argue in the previous post, reproductive isolation is not a sufficient definition of a Kind, and today representatives of the original Kinds aren't with us -- BECAUSE OF THE DEATH THAT ENTERED THE CREATION AT THE FALL (that's a BIBLICAL principle) -- but are represented by many varieties, some of which are reproductively isolated and some not. To fall into the reproductive-compatibility definition is in fact to fall into the evolutionists' way of thinking because that's how they define a species, although clearly that supposed species is simply a rare variation on the Kind that happens to have become genetically incompatible with the other members of the Kind. I don't claim to know a lot about genetics but I know enough to have an idea how this happens even within a given gene pool and I spend a LOT of time on my creationism blog explaining it. Yes, genetics is an extrabiblical science, but there's nothing in it that is inherently contradictory with the Bible and plenty that can be shown to elaborate Biblical facts. Again, if you are careful to avoid the evolutionist word traps. Same with the simple Latin classification of observed similarities between trees.

OK I'm repeating myself but it is hard to be sure I'm getting this said clearly.

James goes on in the same vein but with a slightly different emphasis:
Biblically, the ultimate question concerns both Isaiah's and the Lord's intent in Isaiah's prophecy. The text makes it clear that Isaiah was referring to replacing one specific kind of tree (fig-mulberry trees) with another specific kind of tree (cedars of Lebanon). He was not prophesying that just any tree that might be called a 'sycamore' in another language would be replaced by just any tree within the taxonomic rank of the Pinacea family, such as a Norway spruce.[THFOF pp. 105-06]
For some reason the phrase just popped into my mind:
The letter kills but the spirit gives life.
I guess I can't make too much of that but did want to report it for its expression of my own feeling as I read James' messages.

But again, the problem here is the recurrent problem with the critical perspective of James and so many of his fellow critics, the insistence that there can be no application of an Old Testament verse outside the context of ancient Israel, the odd insistence that any such application would have to be so exact ancient Israel itself would have to be recreated in the present.
Neither was Isaiah's prophecy a warning to be fulfilled with a couple of relatively insignificant symbolic events such as the exchange of one unimportant tree for another. The Assyrian army totally decimated the countryside, wiping out untold numbers of fig-mulberry trees across the land. In turn, Israel would replace them with the much stronger and more majestic cedars of Lebanon, symbolizing defiance and determination to return to her glory days.

It's puzzling how this could be identified as a precise match and literal fulfillment when there is no amazing scientific coincidence. Again, there is no match. There is no parellel. And there is no harbinger.
[THFOF p. 106]
Nothing Cahn writes implies anything about the PURPOSE of Isaiah's prophecy other than to describe the situation in ancient Israel, nothing to imply he thinks the prophecy itself was intended to be for America whether through "relatively insignificant symbolic events" or not. Again James is requiring an impossible exactness of situation to justify making any claims about the verse's application to America or to anything outside ancient Israel for that matter.

Once you've set such an irrational standard then you can go on to pronounce a failure to meet the standard as he does, as no match, no parallel, no harbinger. This is a sort of straw man. He's set up the argument in order to demolish it, but the truth of the match and the parallel and the harbinger exists in spite of his artificial requirements. This is what most of the book's readers immediately recognize, the matches, the parallels, the harbingers. It takes some strange reasoning to require more of them than is obvious.

James takes on Harbinger Seven, The Erez Tree Part 3: Does taxonomic classification of trees support evolutionary theory?

James goes on with his discussion of the many faults he finds with Cahn's presentation about this particular harbinger.

Cahn's reasoning reveals that he is depending on the taxonomic classification system to make his case. The taxonomic system is based on a hierarchy of seven ranks for classifying all living things on earth, which are:

kingdom - phyla - class - order - family - genus - species.

The first problem with appealing to this classification system is that it is based exclusively on evolutionary theory. In addition, as evolutionary theory evolves, so does the classification system itself, and it can change significantly over time. A lack of consensus often exists about relationships within and between ranks... [T]he system can be very subjective.
As a matter of fact, the system of classification was invented at least a century before evolutionary theory came along so that it's not "based on" evolutionary theory at all. It was devised by a Swedish botanist named Linnaeus and is useful for organizing living things into recognizable classes in spite of differences of opinion and in spite of evolutionary theory. Linnaeus did offend Christians by classifying human beings along with "simians" as "manlike" on the basis of anatomic similarities, which gave a foundation for evolution when it came along, and now of course the system is used in the service of evolution, but it remains a simple classification system as well, and shouldn't be dismissed by Christians.

From Wikipedia:
Linnaeus believed that he was classifying God's creation and was not trying to express any deeper relationships. He is frequently quoted to have said God created, Linnaeus organized.
Today, yes, it is interpreted to support the assumption of genetic descent from one "species" to another, as in this statement quoted by James:
The taxonomic tree...tells us that humans and armadillos are related, but not closely. We share the same class, but belong to different orders.
To which James replies:
This directly contradicts the biblical view of the way God has grouped life on earth -- which is 'according to kind.' Humans are simply not related to armadillos in any way.
But remember that the system was originally designed simply to classify living things according to anatomic features and did not imply genetic descent. It doesn't have to imply it now either, and I must say it seems like a case of trying to find anything at all to pin on Cahn to make an issue of this.

James goes on to discuss the difference between taxonomic science and Biblical creation, quoting Genesis 1:11 and concluding that
...the biblical biological classification system has boundaries marked off by reproductive compatibility. Among animals, even within kinds, there are often reproductive dead-ends because of sterile offspring (such as mules). If organisms (in this case plants) are not compatible in the realm of reproduction, they constitute a different kind.
This is in fact not true. The problem with this understanding of Kinds is that there are many subspecies or varieties of different Kinds that are known to have descended from other populations of that same Kind, have acquired reproductive incompatibility with that group -- have become "reproductive dead-ends" as far as the whole population is concerned -- yet are not sterile like mules but "reproduce after their own kind" within their own population just as the original Kinds did. Science done in the name of evolution is going to misname and misunderstand everything they observe but sometimes they do manage to simply describe actual observed phenomena in the process. They call this formation of new varieties "speciation," and call the new population a new "species" although it is in fact a variety or subspecies. It belongs to the same Kind as its parent population though it has become reproductively isolated from it, and in some cases this is due to genetic differences that develop in such situations, without any impairment of the new "species" to reproduce within its own population.

I've argued this sort of thing on my Fantasy of Evolution blog over and over. We don't have the original Kinds from the Creation any more. Or, to be more accurate, we have them represented in many different varieties, and most probably none of them is much like the original created individuals. IF THERE HAD BEEN NO DEATH, WHICH ENTERED AS A RESULT OF THE FALL, THE ORIGINALS WOULD STILL BE LIVING, AND MANY OTHER THINGS WOULD BE DIFFERENT AS WELL. My main point here is that most, and probably all, of the Kinds have branched out into subspecies whose ancestors are no long living. These separately get called species by evolutionists if they can no longer interbreed with parent or sibling populations, or even if they are simply not inclined to interbreed -- that IS the evolutionist definition of a new "species," so it's not just a Biblical concept that applies to the original Kinds. They consider this to be proof of evolution from one species to another but from the creationist point of view that's an illusion, it's simply God's design for variation within each Kind playing itself out to its ultimate expression along one genetic path or another.

In fact, as I propose over and over at my creationism blog, each new subspecies involves a reduction in genetic variability that ultimately leads to the end of all ability to vary or "evolve" further.

One of the arguments believers in evolution like to bring against the Biblical Flood is that there are too many species to have fit on the ark. This is based on today's proliferating numbers of species as they define them, but the original Kinds were not so numerous, and the subspecies that had developed up to the time of the Flood must have retained a great level of genetic variability since they were the progenitors of all the subspecies that formed since the Flood.

So for instance, it's a question whether the "cat" Kind on the ark was represented by many different Kinds which might have included lions, tigers, cheetahs, bobcats, mountain lions, all the domestic breeds, and so on, or if these all "evolved" since the Flood from one pair of cats on the ark that wasn't necessarily like any of them but contained the genetic potential to produce all of them. I think the latter must have been the case for many reasons, but also because the evolutionists are right that if there were a dozen different Kinds of cats along with that many of every other animal there wouldn't have been room on the ark for them all.

And I believe that Population Genetics is a good basis for arguing this. Certainly the Flood would have eliminated a huge proportion of the genetic endowment of each Kind by killing all but the few left on the ark, a situation known as a genetic "bottleneck" or "founder effect" which if it occurs now can seriously deplete a new subpopulation of genetic possibilities and in fact bring further "evolution" to a complete end. A case in point is the cheetah, apparently the product of a bottleneck that cut it off reproductively from other cat subspecies and caused such a severe genetic depletion that it has no opportunities left to "evolve" within its own gene pool at all. This, I argue over and over, shows that the very occurrence of "evolution" ultimately leads to an inability to evolve at all -- "evolution defeats evolution." Of course evolutionists wishfully insist that mutations will rush in to save the day and speed the cheetah along to life as a different species, but the lack of evidence for such a possibility is pretty glaring, and believe me, I've argued all this in many ways on that other blog.

But such genetic depletion wouldn't have yet been the case with those on the ark or their descendants. According to the "fossil record," the variety of life forms within one species or Kind was enormous before the Flood and in many cases quite different from living forms today. What is the fossil record? It's the preserved remains of billions of living things that happen to be encased in layers of different kinds of rock -- such as you can see displayed in the walls of the Grand Canyon for instance. Evolutionists claim it records the development of one species into another over time, time according to them climbing from ancient to modern up the ladder of rock, as fossils of one type are found in a layer of rock either above or below fossils of a related "species." But logically, from a biblical point of view all the fossils in the "fossil record" are of creatures that lived before the Flood, and the layered sediments were produced by the action of the water in that Flood. Attempts to account for the layering on the theory of millions of years for each to be deposited are really absurd.

There IS a sort of "evolution" that does occur, in other words, which apparently demonstrates that each biblical Kind was designed to produce interesting new varieties, and this continues in the present. Think of the enormous number of different breeds of dogs, yet all ARE dogs. If a few of the breeds become incapable of breeding with others that doesn't make separate Kinds of them. It's not politically correct to talk of human "races" any more but it demonstrates the principle. We're all related to each other back to Adam and Eve and yet obviously the human race has varied in some rather striking ways involving differences in skin color, stature, and many other traits. Somehow the genetic potential for all variations of human beings was "in" the genetic endowment of Adam and Eve, and continued with great variability as well through Noah and his sons and daughters-in-law, who were the progenitors of all human beings today. The variety of human beings before the Flood should have been much greater than we've seen since the Flood, but even since the Flood it's clear that the genetic endowment of human beings survived even that severe genetic bottleneck with great variability, as did that of all the animals.

So why am I going into all this? Because David James' idea of the biblical Kinds doesn't square with reality. He treats each separate tree as a separate Kind because of course they all reproduce "after their own Kind." I don't know enough about plants to understand their reproductive systems but I'm aware that evolutionists treat them as "evolving" and undergoing "speciation" just as animals do, which suggests that they also have the built-in genetic potential to vary into different types that in some cases can lead to inability to breed with the "parent" population. In which case it would be highly improbable that ANY of them is the actual original Kind God planted at the Creation, the same as it is with animals, but varieties have branched out -- descended from-- the original in great abundance since then, just as we know is the case with animals. Meaning the different tree types within a Linnaean classification COULD be genetically related.

Which are descended from which I'd agree is probably impossible to determine in most cases. Darwin wrote interestingly about this (I have a post or two on that subject at the other blog), as he objected to the subjectivity of the standards for determining which population was a species and which a variety. In those days they still recognized that there WERE varieties of what they regarded as fixed Kinds or Species, although as Darwin made clear the designations were usually arbitrary and often fanciful except where a particular population was known from observation to have descended from another. Darwin of course changed all that with the notion that everything descended from everything else. And at my other blog I blame this partly on "creationist" biologists and geologists of the time who were not true to the Biblical record but had gone off in the fanciful directions Darwin rightly, yes, RIGHTLY, criticized.

All that information may not be necessary, I'm too tired right now to figure it out, but the point of writing it was to argue with James about his view of the biblical Kinds as if we have those same Kinds today.

However, perhaps none of that was really necessary to the main point, which is that the taxonomic system does NOT derive from evolutionary theory and doesn't HAVE to be used to defend the idea of universal descent. And Cahn only uses it as the neutral classification system it was originally intended to be. As most of us do. I think in terms of such classifications at times and I NEVER have the evolutionary explanation in mind.

But since there is such a thing as "microevolution" or descent with modification WITHIN the Kinds, it is possible depending perhaps on earlier reproductive systems that have stopped operating, that the Norway spruce, the cedar, the fir and the pine did all genetically descend from an original conifer if one wanted to make that case instead of merely taking the group as defined by anatomic similarities. It's possible. And if they are genetically related, having descended from an original parent type, the likelihood of any of them being a representative of the original created Kind is remote to nonexistent. (However, there are plenty of reasons to believe that plants are not biblically to be regarded as "living things" as animals are anyway. God did not order Noah to preserve them on the ark but left them to survive the Flood if they could by other means.)

But again, the important point here is that Cahn did not use the taxonomic system in any way that implies evolution, and it's only James' wrong assumption that it ALWAYS implies evolution that has fueled this particular argument against him.

James takes on Harbinger Seven, The Erez Tree Part 2: Does "erez" only denote the cedar?

To answer the question whether Jonathan Cahn simply made up the equation between the Hebrew word erez and the whole family of trees called the Pinacea family, he sent me his notes on the subject that he took for the writing of his book. They are rough and when he has time maybe he could make them a bit easier to follow, but even in their present sketchy condition I think they demonstrate that there are many sources that affirm that erez does refer to the whole family. Its exclusive translation as "cedar" in the English Bibles may have to do at least partly with the many contexts which clearly point to that tree.

However, there do remain the verses in Leviticus and Numbers where erez was translated "cedar" and yet some commentators are quite definite that it couldn't have referred to the cedar of Lebanon because it doesn't grow in the desert where the Israelites were wandering at the time, thus making one clear reference to its use to refer to trees other than the cedar.

Strong's on the other hand insists that the word always refers to the cedar, as having firm roots not shared by the other members of the pine family, specifically arguing against Celsius who applied it to any conifer. So there is some disagreement.

Nevertheless the preponderance of reference material does support Cahn's contention that the word is generally applied to the broad category and not always the specific cedar.

He also told me that he has a cousin whose name in Polish was the name of a tree (which tree he didn't identify but apparently not a cedar) and when he moved to Israel they changed his name to Eres. Anecdotal of course but along with the following references a nice confirmation of the claim that in Hebrew the term is often used to refer to many trees and not just the cedar.

Here are the notes as he sent them to me, minus his various emphases which don't translate well into the Blogger software:
Here are a few of my notes from over 2000 pages of research

From Jamiesson Fausset and Brown - Classic Commentary on the Bible
ON Levitcus 14:4 Where speaks of CEDAR – EREZ in wilderness

“Cedrus Libani cannot be meant here, for that famous tree was not a native of the Sinaitic desert.

As the word eres is used in a wide sense to denote any CONIFER it has been supposed by many that the juniper (juniper oxycedrus) (((other is juniperus Phoenicia – same?))))) is referred to , as several varieties of that shrub are found growing abundantly in the clefts and crevices of the SInaitic mountains.

Quote from JF&B at BLB: cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop--The cedar here meant was certainly not the famous tree of Lebanon, and it is generally supposed to have been the juniper, as several varieties of that shrub are found growing abundantly in the clefts and crevices of the Sinaitic mountains. [I added this from Blue Letter Bible: Faith]
Another Source:
‘erez’ -applied in a loose way to allied trees, such as junipers and PINES

The entire entry on “cedar” on pages 197-198 reads as follows:

Large evergreen tree of Lebanon, prized for its use in the construction of public buildings;

generally, any EVERGREEN including the juniper bush. …..

The Hebrew ‘erez, rendered “cedar” in all English versions, is most likely a generic word for THE PINE FAMILY


Cedar (Hebrew: erez; Arabic [arz, “the latch) There are eleven groves of cedars on the Lebanon mountains, which have been visited by travelers recently……..

The reference to cedar-wood int eh Scripture do not always mean the cedar of Lebanon – as, for instance, when at Sinai (Leviticus 12:6).

The word means also the PINE, Cyprus, fir and juniper

Some plant names were used for more than one species, such as erez (cedar) for the true cedar, THE PINE, the tamarisk and probably the juniper, while other plants were given several names

HISTORY OF PHOENICIA – BY George Rawlingson, M.A. (1889)

[27] Ibid xxvii.5. The Hebrew /erez/probably covered other trees beside the actual cedar.... THE PINE would have been more suited for __than the cedar

THEOLOGICAL WORDBOOK FO THE OLD TESTAMENT – R.Laird Harris – Gleason L. Archer, JR. Bruce K. Waltke

160 EREZ. CEDAR - A TREE OF THE PINE FAMILY, one which grows best in a high and dry region. The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 23a), says that the inhabitants of Palestine called ten different trees cedar.

Rab Judah said: There are four kinds of cedar – ((ARZEEM/EREZ plural))) cedar ((EREZ)), kedros.((KETROS))) Pinewood and cypress. [What is ] kedros? – R. Idra stated that in the school of R. Shila it was defined as mabliga, though others held that it is gulmish. He [Rab Judah] differs herein from Rabbah son of R. Huna; for Rabbah son of R. Huna reported that in the school of Rab it was stated that there are ten kinds of cedar ((,ARZEEM/EREZ))) (Included is PINE

CEDAR – Hebrew erez – the Cedrus Libani
Almost all the biblical mention of erez refer to the cedar of Lebanon, even when this is not explicitly stated. In Psalm 148:9 the reference to cedars (“fruitful trees and all cedars”) is apparently intended as a generic term for the various non-fruit bearing trees, THE EVERGREEN VARIETY of which, post-biblical literature, was denoted by the term erez. Four CONIFEROUS TREES (VARIETIES OF PINUS and C) were included under this term by some,

And 10 and even 24 types of EVERGREEN by others (RH 23a).


CEDAR – common name for the genus Cedrus three or four species of large trees native to mountainous areas of North Africa and Asia. Cedar trees belong to the pine family, the members of which have needle-like leaves and, like all confiers, bear their seeds on scales clustered into cones. … Although no true cedars are native to other regions…

The best known cedar is the cedar of Lebanon, mentioned often in the Odl Testament .. the Temple .. etc - it is native to Asia Minor,a nd today only a few original groves remain… Trees

The name “cedar” is also applied to other conifer trees E � e ' hE 8 ft:.25in;text-align:justify;mso-line-height-alt: 12.0pt;mso-hyphenate:none;tab-stops:-.5in'>Various Spruces

Various Pines




About 50 or so plants – in Pinaceae Family

About 40 different Families

Pinaceae Family includes:

Various Firs

Various Cedars

Various Spruces

Various Pines

PINE (Pinaceae)
Pine is the common name for thePInaceae family, which are resinous woody trees, normally found in northern temperate zones, and characterized by their needlelike, usually evergreen, leaves. The Pinaceae reproduce by means of cones rather thanflowers, and have winged seeds suitable for wind distribution. The PINACEA family is the largest of the CONIFERS

In 1745 and 1747, the 2 volumes Of CELSIUS’ “Hierobotanicon”. The latter are usually regarded as being among the foundation-stones of this study.

Celsius ‘Hierobotanicon,’ i. 106) it The word erez is used in a wide sense to denote any CONIFER