Scientific Creationism (Beginning)

I’ve been around science since I was in diapers. My mother read to me from the Time-Life Nature and Science series before I was in kindergarten. I used to wake up early and skip school to watch the Mercury and Gemini space launches. And I’ve been aware of the church vs. evolution dispute since elementary school.

I have the good fortune that my father subscribed to magazines put out by the Creation Research Society and others arguing for Scientific Creationism (young earth creationism believed to be provable by science). I’ve been immersed in the theory as long as can remember!

But my father also enjoyed the writing of John Clayton, who taught Christian evidences based on an old-earth viewpoint. It was confusing but exciting to read so much material about science and the Bible.

By the time I enrolled at David Lipscomb College, I’d become an ardent Scientific Creationist. I knew the Second Law of Thermodynamics argument. I knew the holes in evolutionary theory. And I looked forward to enrolling in Batsell Barrett Baxter’s class on Christian evidences.

Baxter wrote I Believe Because …, which was the first serious work on Christian evidences in the Churches of Christ. I’d owned a copy since high school, and I finally enrolled in his course. He spoke of additional studies he’d done and the science he was still learning as he delved more deeply into the study. And then he mentioned his objection to young-earth creationism, which he considered unworthy of serious consideration.

I was shocked! I mean, the great Batsell Barrett Baxter, the voice of the Herald of Truth, the very personification of the 1970s Church of Christ, announced that he believed the earth to be billions of years old! And so (you’ll not be surprised to learn), I raised my hand and challenged him on it.

And Br. Baxter very calmly, very patiently explained how he’d ridden down the walls of the Grand Canyon on a donkey, seen the fossils and the geologic layers. He said there’s no way the Grand Canyon was only 6,000 years old! He’d seen it with his own eyes.

Well, I’m a stubborn guy, and I wasn’t convinced. But my mind was opened. If the great Batsell Barrett Baxter could endorse old-earth creationism, then I could at least consider it and not be a heretic!

As an adult, I’ve taught Christian Evidences in Sunday school class more times than I can count. I’ve read LOTS of books. And the first few times I taught it, I taught young earth creationism.

But over time, I became convinced that it’s just not true. And here’s why —

* First, the more I studied the work of Henry Morris (one of the founders of the Scientific Creationism), I concluded many of his arguments are just plain intellectually dishonest. I’m not an expert in all types of science, but when he got areas where I truly know my stuff (mathematics, physics), he was just dead wrong.

* Second, his evidence didn’t add up to his conclusions. The “scientific” evidence he cited didn’t consistently line up with an age for the earth of 6,000 years. Rather, there were huge variations in the claimed age of the earth. If science proves a recently created earth, then why doesn’t the evidence say the same thing? Rather, Morris seemed content to disprove prevailing scientific orthodoxy, but disproving evolution or the Big Bang or whatever is a far cry from proving a young earth of 6,000 years.

* Third, scientific orthodoxy was rapidly moving toward a Big Bang, teaching creation out of nothing, light before stars, and time as a part of the creation. I mean, cosmology was beginning to support the Christian position in every way — other than the age of the earth.

* Fourth, many young-earth creationists argued that God made the earth to look old. Fine. It’s a theory that may well be true and that cannot be disproved scientifically. But if that’s what God did, why are the same people saying science proves a young earth? I mean, if God made the earth to look artificially old, why wouldn’t the science support what God did? Why feel the need to prove scientifically that the earth is young while simultaneously arguing that God himself made it look old? Why would God make it look old but leave some evidence of recent creation? If God wanted the earth to look old, with fossils that are millions of years old, wouldn’t he have done it perfectly?

* Fifth, as I learned more and more about my Bible, I learned that God taught us that we could learn about him from what he created. Therefore, I couldn’t see how he could have created a fictitious history. In looking at the stars and the molecules, I should find the real God. I mean, if God is who we believe him to be, science should be a very Godly enterprise. Just as you can learn a lot about me by reading my writings, we should be able to find God’s name written all over the universe. Science is therefore the study of God.

* Sixth, I couldn’t shake this image of Baxter’s donkey ride down the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to Dinosaur National Monument. I’ve dug fossils out of limestone cliffs myself where I grew up. I have friends who were taught that Satan planted those fossils to tempt God-fearers to deny God. But I think God planted those fossils there to teach us about God.

* Seventh, I just hate people trying to impose false dichotomies on my thinking. I mean, many an atheist argues that we must accept either evolution or God, an old earth or the Resurrection. They say we can’t believe both. Well, what else would an atheist argue?

But then the preachers started arguing the same thing. Either come to church, believe in Jesus, and go to heaven or else believe in the Big Bang and evolution and be damned.

The young-earth creationists actually quote atheists saying this as authority for their claim!!

Well, when Christians are citing atheists for theology, they’ve plainly become seriously confused people. And so, I decided I should take a fresh look at the evidence.

I began with John Clayton’s book Evidences of God. Clayton is a member of the Churches of Christ and a geologist who teaches an old-earth creation.

Clayton refutes the notion that the fossils in my hometown buried in limestone are a product of the Flood. Clayton explains that limestone does not come about from a flood but from a very different process.

Well, I took chemistry in college, and I know that calcium carbonate is formed the way Clayton explains, not the way the young-earth creationists claim. Hmm …

And because of my love for physics, astronomy, and cosmology, I’ve kept up with science. And as the evidence came in, the atheists were unhappy. They didn’t like the ever-increasing evidence of a Big Bang, because they thought it gave too much comfort to the Christians!

But the Christian community was just as unhappy as the atheists! We didn’t like the Big Bang either.

As a result, many Christians found themselves, once again, in league with the atheists, with both sides being unhappy with the science!

But then things began to change. A new group of Christian scientists came to forefront, arguing for “intelligent design.” The Intelligent Design theorists accepted an ancient universe and found evidence for God in the fine tuning of the universe, in the statistical impossibility of life forming spontaneously, and in molecular biology.

Meanwhile, Hugh Ross, an astronomer, began a series of books showing the consistency of modern cosmology with scripture and Christianity.

More recently, Francis Collins, who headed the human genome project, wrote The Language of God, defending Intelligent Design from a biological perspective, showing how evolution does not contradict a belief in God and his scriptures.

And so, I find myself on the side of both God and the astronomers, scripture and the biologists. Obviously, there are scientists who argue against faith in God, just as there are Christians who argue against faith in science. But science is God’s self-revelation. The more we know of it, the better we see God himself.

I can go out in to the country and be amazed at the beauty of the stars and feel drawn toward God. If I pull out a telescope and see the moons of Jupiter, like Galileo, I feel that much more amazed and that much closer to the Creator. And if I use the Hubble telescope to see stars from over 10 billion years ago, created only shortly after the Big Bang, my sense of amazement only grows — and I feel all the closer to the Maker of it all. I mean, just imagine being able to see the Creation as it happened! It’s a great privilege given only to those alive today.

My grandparents never got to see what I’ve been privileged to see. I hope my grandchildren see things beyond even what I’ve seen. And I desperately hope that they realize that what they are seeing is the hand of God — and that no one is telling them that you can’t believe both in God and an ancient universe. After all, I’ve seen pictures of stars being made!

This is called the "Pillars of Creation" because this is a picture of stars being made billions of years ago.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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26 Responses to Scientific Creationism (Beginning)

  1. Cary says:

    Thanks for this post. I almost threw out my faith in high school because of a church class taught by an ardent young-earth anti-evolutionary biology teacher who was making Christianity look completely intellectually unfeasible. But then, by accident, I stumbled upon some of John Clayton's materials and it restored some sanity for me by showing that Christians can be scientifically reasonable.

  2. Pingback: Ironic Faith: Science « One In Jesus.info

  3. Lynn says:

    If Earth is 4.6 billion years old and not 6,000 to 7,000 years old, then we might as well forget our faith and forget about God and worship the moon, sun, stars and planets. Have you not read anything in the book of Genesis? The geneologies testify to the young age of the earth. The flood explains the fossils and the ice age. Have you never seen the damage from a flood in which it only rained three days? Imagine the damage from a 40 day rain plus all the water from the springs of the earth being released.
    Another thing is that all the scientist that believe in an old earth always begins from the supposition that the earth is billions of years old. How do you think this affects their conclusions? There are over a hundred different tests for determining the age of rocks and fossils. The ones that yield young dates outnumber the ones that yield old dates but it's the tests that fit the theory of evolution that are used because scientists don't want to believe the earth is young.
    Have you ever seen a polystrate fossil? There are a great number of them. Their existence flys in the face of those who believe in an old earth.
    The biggest conclusion for a young earth comes from Genesis 1. God created everything within six days. That doesn't leave any room for any biological or botanical life prior to the first week.
    As for God making things look old when he created everything. I don't buy that either because that would be a falsehood. He put physics in place to support our life on this earth. When we marvel at his creation, we can only wonder at the power he controls to create the heavenly bodies and the fact he's given us the ability to see them immediately without waiting billions of years for their light to reach earth.

  4. Larry Short says:

    Just need some lattitude here. So many things are possible. 2 Peter 3:8 TNIV •But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

    Also if the the human life span could change from 1,000 years to 100 in just a few generations, we certainity do not have a handle on God's time.

    Those days of creation could have been millions of years each. I'm with the God didn't have to fake fossils group, so I tend to endorse age.
    One more thing to ponder. How many years were Adam & Eve in the garden? If you beleive they sinned quickly, it may reveal your tendancies! Perhaps the all those fossils came from animals living & dying while eons passed in the garden.
    Anyway we are far from being able to nail this down. It seems the mechanism (nothing to something) and order (lights, oceans, plant, sea lifte, then land life) of creation fits both science and Genesis. Maybe we will get a grasp on time later.

  5. Rich says:

    I seem to have a radical idea on this 24 hour vs millions of years 'day' in Genesis 1.

    One of the basic tenets of science that cannot be proven is that all rates of change have remained constant (predictable) throughout time. This means that dating the oceans based on the rate of change in salt content can be accurately assessed based on today’s rates. Likewise, techniques based on carbon 14 dating assume a consistent change rate. The speed of light has always been the same, etc.

    Have these rates always been the same? I've always been curious what it meant that God rested on the seventh day. Why does He need to rest? Perhaps He did create the universe in six 24-hour periods and then on the 7th day slowed down all of the physical processes to the rates we see today.

    Just an unprovable thought.

  6. Jay Guin says:

    There's a book by Gerald Schroeder in which he points out that general relativity shows that in an intense gravitational field, time changes speed.

    If you take the density of the universe at the time of quark separation (when matter first appears) and do the math (and I've checked this), to an observer at the edge of the universe, the time frame from quark formation to now is … six days.

  7. Charles says:

    Refreshing! I am very dismayed at the way the "new circumcision" of Creationism is taking hold of many churches.

  8. aaron says:

    Jay,
    How do you interpret Genesis 1?

  9. Jay Guin says:

    Aaron,

    I interpret Gen 1 as heavily figurative. It refers to "evening" and "morning" occurring before the creation of the sun. It refers to the separation of light and darkness before the creation of the sun. It speaks of waters above being above the sky.

    And yet even the ancients knew that morning and evening were when the sun rose and set. They knew that light comes from the sun. They knew the clouds were below the sky.

    The language isn't this way because of ignorance of nature, but because it's not meant to be understood in a purely scientific way.

    And yet there are statements that make perfect sense in today's understanding of the cosmology. In fact, light was created long before the sun. Photons dominated the universe long before star formation.

    And as noted in a previous comment, Gerald Schroeder has shown how the time from quark formation to today would appear to be six days long to an observer at the edge of the universe when quarks were first created.

    The language is often figurative, but not always. "Day" is obviously figurative, as there were days before the making of the sun. Or, at least, the days were relativistically perceived.

    There are lots of excellent resources that I suggest at http://oneinjesus.info/2008/09/01/scientific-crea….

  10. aaron says:

    So at what point in the Bible does figurative language stop and actual events begin? Were Adam and Eve real people or not? What about the rest of the Old Testament? If the creation account is figurative, I find no clear break where we can say "this is where the figurative language stops."
    The reason I ask is because there are people who would say that if significant portions of the Bible are figurative, even tho they are recorded as history, then that casts doubt on all the stories of the Bible, including Jesus, even tho he may be loosely based on a real person. And that means there is no Second Coming to look forward to, so why be a Christian?

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Aaron,

    Is the Lord really a shepherd? Am I a sheep? Are elders also literal shepherds? Do they tend literal sheep?

    We died when we were baptized, right? Did we literally die? Are we literally resurrected already? We were buried in baptism? Is the baptistry a literal grave?

    The scriptures are FILLED with figurative language. Some chapters are almost nothing but figures of speech. Others use figures of speech in midst of literal text.

    It's a frivolous argument to claim that if any of the text is figurative then it's all figurative. It's just ludicrous beyond imagining to suggest that there are no figures of speech at all in the scriptures. I mean, whoever first conjured up that argument must not have spent much time reading the prophets!

    So how do we tell? Well, you can't always tell. But most of the time, a little common sense is quite enough. We know that elders are like shepherds, not literal shepherds. We know that something like death happens in baptism, or that some part of us dies, but that we don't really die in the literal sense of the word.

    That Gen 1 is deeply figurative would be obvious, too, if we hadn't made such a big deal out of denying that it contains figures of speech. I mean, those who so argue are pursuing an agenda, not exegesis.

    There are, of course, many passages where the boundaries between figurative and literal language is unclear. Read Isaiah's and Jeremiah's prophesies of the return from Exile. It's not entirely obvious what's literal and what's not.

    Just so, people dispute over which parts of Revelation are literal and which are not. Everyone has a theory.

    And none of that causes us to doubt the inspiration of the Bible. It may cause us to doubt our skills as expositors, but not the truths revealed in the figures of speech.

    Why, then, do we up and decide that any hint of figurative language in Gen 1 destroys the entirety of scripture? It doesn't really make sense. We wouldn't dare make such an obviously false argument in any other context.

    Now, how do we decide what's literal and what's not? Within certain limits, we can do that by letting God reveal himself. He's repeatedly told us that he reveals himself in scripture.

    (Rom 1:20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    (Psa 8:3-4) When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

    Now, if we believe that, then we should consider valid scientific evidence to be, like scripture, a part of God's self-revelation. That helps us distinguish the figurative language from the literal.

  12. aaron says:

    The Bible is certainly filled with figurative language. But usually it's obvious, like when a metaphor is helping to explain something, or a prophetic vision is being described. The problem I'm talking about is when it's recorded as history.
    Maybe it's just me, but it seems that calling the creation account figurative causes serious problems with the rest of biblical history. Adam was formed on the sixth day. The story then goes into him and Eve being deceived and sin coming into the world, and the curses that resulted. Then it talks about their children and things that they did. Later a genealogy from Adam to Noah is recorded. Then the story of Noah and the flood. In all of these stories, specific details are given and stated as historical facts. In Luke 3 a genealogy from Adam to Christ is recorded. This is what I mean when I say I can't figure out where or how to differentiate facts from non-facts in Genesis.
    In light of what science and the Bible say, I think the simplest solution is that God created an earth mature and ready to be lived in. He gave Adam and Eve full grown bodies, even though scientifically we know that humans start as a fertilized egg which grows into a fetus and so on. He made fruit-bearing trees so that they could eat, even though scientifically we know that trees have to grow from a seed in the ground and it takes a long time to grow enough to bear fruit and you can count the rings inside to know how old they are. He created mountains, valleys, and oceans even though we know it takes millions of years of tectonic plates moving against each other to create mountains and so forth. Starlight and star formation, same thing. So, yes we have an earth that evidence tells us would have taken billions of years to form NATURALLY. But it didn't form naturally!
    Doesn't this solve the problem of Genesis vs. science?

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Aaron,

    I have no quarrel with the earth-created-old theory. It may well be true. God certainly has the power to have done it that way, with light from distant stars already on the way to the earth.

    My biggest complaint is with those who take that theory and then claim that the evidence supports a young earth — which seems to suggest God made the earth look old but did a poor job of it.

    I'll admit that it's not my preferred theory. I think the earth is ancient and that Gen 1 corresponds remarkably well to modern cosmology. I like the idea that the earth and the stars reveal God's workings more directly.

    But the earth-created-old theory may actually be right.

  14. This was a beautiful post –– I’m glad to have come across it.

    I think the earth-created-old theory looks too much like God playing games. God has the right to do that of course, but do we really think that’s who God is? And moreover, does Scripture as a whole even suggest it’s meant to be literal––even when it’s not obviously using metaphor?

    I hope this isn’t going too far afield of the question, but in the Bible as we find it, God repeatedly inspires people to write in the styles of their day, even when it doesn’t line up with our sensibilities of how literal we would want God to make things.

    In the different Gospels, the stories of Jesus are told in different orders, and often with different words. Luke begins with a preface saying that he did reserach in order to write his Gospel, and massive literary evidence suggests he used Mark as one of those sources, where he often changes Jesus’ wording. Revelation is written in a literary form (apocalypse) that was incredibly common in Judaism before his day, and which was largely figurative. Jude directly quotes 1 Enoch, one of those apocalypses, which I don’t think *anyone* thinks is historically a work of Enoch himself. Hebrews borrows Platonic images of an earthly shadow reflecting a heavenly reality. Paul says he’s giving his own opinion on whether people should marry. Ecclesiastes claims it’s written by a teacher who is reflecting on life experiences and sharing the wisdom of his findings.

    I’m sure people have proposed solutions to all these issues that allow them to read things literally. But why shouldn’t we instead ask whether God is *showing* us through the examples above that the text is not always meant to be taken literally? The only reason not to do so is if we start with an idea of what Scripture must be and force every text to fit that idea. Many Christians will disagree with me on this point, and I hope we can still worship as brothers and sisters. However, I think the perspective I’m arguing has more actual evidence in the Bible.

    God also inspired the form of Genesis 1, and that form implies a figurative account, designed as an alternative to creation stories that were popular in the ancient world. We frankly should have come to that conclusion even before scientists started finding evidence of evolution and an old earth. Thanks for all your work, and I hope my comments here can add to, rather than detract from, the conversation.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Thanks, Scott. That’s one from a long time ago. I had to go back to see what I’d written!

  16. Charles McLean says:

    Jay, I appreciate your objection to being placed on the horns of a false dilemma. Unfortunately, I find dogma on both sides which is resistant to reason. You have shown some of the logical objections to the literalist creation view. I would also suggest that some of my scientific friends suffer from the same problem. Darwinian evolution seems to fly in the opposite direction from Newtonian physics. In the world of biology, things move from chaos to order. In the world of physics, entropy is reality. This conflict seems problematic at the least.

    I doubt that the reality is “either, or, or something in between”. I think the truth of creation is something beyond. We have simply been too proud to admit what we don’t really know– on both sides of the argument.

  17. Thank you, Charles. Those from both extremes who may side either with literalistic view (“young earth, 7×24 hr days, etc), or with those “naturalists” who seem to have a vendetta to eliminate God, have something in common. Both positions start with the same assumption — that the universe, earth, and mankind came into being using a physical means that We can understand in our finite human minds. Note the capital “We.” Christians can place themselves in the seat of God every bit as much as unbelievers can. And I also agree that the idol that replaces God is pride. And we are totally blind to it.

    I hope to expound on this further on another site, saying about the same thing as in your post but using probably a million times the verbiage.

  18. aBasnar says:

    When and how and why did death enter the scene in an “old earth scenario”?

    When were humans created? How? out iof dust or out of monkeys?

    Once you go away from the six days presented in scripture you will face a host of questions taht stand in stark conflict to every bit of salvation history.

    Alexander

    P.S.: When and why did “modern scholars” adopt the “old earth” theory?

  19. Alabama John says:

    It doesn’t really matter anyway. What came first, the chicken or the egg.

    it is fun and something to think about and guess.

    My guess is as good as yours!

    At the Smithsonian, there is a famous BIG painting of Eve naked in the garden laying down. It was quick to see she had a navel and she wouldn’t of had one.
    Even masters get it wrong.

    I do understand we do not come near understanding God and His power so He made it as simple as He could for us and even then see how we confuse it.

    Like me trying to explain how a gasoline moter works to a class of 2 year olds. Imagine their explaining it to their parents that night.

  20. rich constant says:

    i would suggest that everyone read this little book.

    i read this about 10 -12 years ago and it had a surprising impact on me concerning the relevance of the law and the prophets and their fulfillment.
    “the act of the trinities faithful love for the creation.

  21. rich constant says:

    God and the New Physics | Book by Paul Davies – Simon & Schuster
    Read excerpts, watch videos, get book reviews and more about God and the New Physics at Simon & Schuster.

  22. I would agree that the Old Earth scenario creates some problems for the nature of sin, where it came from, etc.

    My own reading is that the early Genesis stories are given to explain not a chain of events that happened, but rather as fables to explain the current state of affairs –– in other words, the Adam and Eve story explains what brokenness of relationships look like, and it shows us that in some sense we all choose the “free” world of pain and suffering rather than an innocent life of dependence on God. The flood story shows us that our sin deserves annihilation, and that trying to “rid the world of sin” would be a vain effort, because even starting over with the righteous Noah, things still went wrong. The Tower of Babel story shows us that when we put our heads together hoping to do good, we are just as likely to do something horrible (e.g., Atom bombs).

    Of course it’s more complicated, but I’m trying to be relatively brief. Also, these readings can be tricky to work into the NT interpretations of the passages (like Paul in Romans), but I think it’s doable if we’re willing to be creative. And let’s face it, Church of Christ folks are willing to be creative (think: God burying fake dinosaur bones) when something theologically important is on the line.

  23. Alp36 says:

    One thought that I keep having when the “big bang” is discussed is the fact that even though we (men) have found a way to convert mass into energy as Einstein showed, so far as I can determine only God has converted energy to mass.
    Isn’t that what the “big bang” describes? To me the enormity of space and the “big bang” itself prove that God is who He says He is. (Scientists now are beginning to question the BB)
    Also, the linage of man that God created was for the purpose of bringing a Messiah into the world, not (IMO) the general populating of the earth.

  24. Jay Guin says:

    Charles and Company,

    I apologize, but time constraints keep me from delving into the Creationism discussion at this time. It’s a favorite topic of mine, but I’m not willing to get into unless I can do so fully. And I can’t right now.

    Remind me sometime after New Years. And after I finish the unfinished series I’m on.

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Rich,

    God and the New Physics is a great book — but really challenging. I’ve read it twice, but it’s only for those who love science. It’s a challenging read.

  26. mike bramalea C.o.C says:

    God leaves the door wide open in regards to the actual age of the universe in the following ways.
    1. Inspiring the use of the Hebrew word “yom”, we translate it to English as day, when in fact it is more correctly translated to a period of time represented by the context from the point of view of the observer. In the case of Genesis 2.4 the entire creation process, as witnessed by the creator.
    2. To God a day is like a thousand years. The word “like” also leaves the door open to mean a great length of time. Knowing his children have a limited capacity to conceive this vast period he “dumbed it down” for us.
    3. “God cannot lie” therefore whether by testimony of his word or his creation there cannot be any deceit in it. There can also be no conflict between them.
    4. The science we use to calculate time is mathematically sound and consistent, meaning it can be repeated over and over with the same results.
    There was a time called the “Dark Ages” where the “Church” put to death anyone who would challenge the “fact” that the earth was the center of the universe. We know now that they were inflicting their own beliefs on the scriptures, in effect adding to them. If man’s pride,and need to seek followers after himself didn’t exist think,of how close the world would be to God today.
    If we seek his truth with humility he will reveal it to us plainly. We are instructed to test every word of man against the word of God, but we are a stubborn people, just as he has accused us repeatedly. So when faced with good science we need to question our understanding of the scriptures so we can keep the two sources of knowledge in harmony.
    Understanding that God’s word never changes we have to study to understand where we went wrong in our comprehension. If it means going back to original language translation it’s our obligation as Christians to do that in order to remove the stumbling blocks that hinder the spiritual longing of the science minded seeker.

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