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Philip Henry Gosse

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Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888) was a young-earth-creationist contemporary of Charles Darwin. In his day, an enormous volume of evidence had been discovered that was only reasonably consistent with the Earth being much older than the ~6000 years that one would calculate from the Bible. Gosse thought of an ingenious reconciliation: all that evidence had been created only ~6000 years ago, because God had thought it reasonable to create the Universe as if it had had a history.

This theory was inspired by the old conundrum of whether or not Adam and Eve had navels, since they had not been born in the usual way. Philip Gosse decided that they had been created with navels, because that's what they ought to have had, and he extended this view to the Earth and the entire Universe. In honor of that, he used the Greek word for "navel" in his 1857 magnum opus, Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot.

But despite the ingenuity of that solution, it was universally dismissed, with some critics charging that it implies divine fraudulence, and Gosse became very depressed by its universal rejection. However, some present-day creationists occasionally invoke this hypothesis.

Philip Gosse's hypothesis is a good example of a "fake world" philosophical puzzle, like the "brain in a vat" puzzle and the world of the Matrix movies; it can easily be extended to other times, like last week or a few minutes ago.

Finally, a present-day Omphalos II would have to cover much additional territory, like family trees of organisms, the fossil record, radiometric dating, continental drift, the distances to the stars and galaxies, and the ages of these objects.

However, this should not detract from Gosse's excellent career as a naturalist.

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