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Friday, April 16, 2010

Musings on Science and Creation

I was watching a PBS special program recently, part of their Nova series. I find Nova to be absolutely fascinating because it frequently deals with the natural historical record of the universe. This particular episode was on the topic of "blue hole" diving in the Bahamas. I had never heard of blue hole diving, but soon learned that it is a type of very dangerous, but potentially highly rewarding cave diving. Thousands of years ago, sea level was not so high as it is today in our era. The Bahamian Islands are composed largely of coral, and natural erosion forces have created a network of spectacular underwater caves which often have a depth of 250 feet or more. In these miniaturized ecosystems, there are eons worth of sediment, stalactites, mixtures of fresh water and salt water (responding to the ground table and sea level), and assorted chemistries attributable to the life forms which inhabit such caves. The caves are a natural museum for the preservation of the skeletal remains of past life which at one time surrounded the blue hole. Bones and shells which are frequently found are of nearly museum quality, naturally preserved by the waters, and virtually undisturbed for nearly their entire existence.


Many ideas raced through my mind as I processed what was unfolding on my TV screen. At one point, geologists were shown slicing one of the cave's stalactites, using a high speed diamond tipped saw blade. The cutting revealed many layers, each of which indicated a season, and the climactic conditions that existed in each season, extending back even through several ice ages. While there is no natural iron content in the Bahamas, there were deposits of iron dust in the layer immediately preceding each ice age. I learned that each ice age is anticipated by a massive build up of dust from the Sahara Desert across the ocean, known for its high iron content. Interesting.


Those who watched this show, depending on their particular beliefs or agenda related to God, might see this and think to themselves, "Ah, more evidence invalidating the Genesis account of creation!" But, does it really, or is this yet another example of seemingly sophisticated but in reality simplistic thinking in which we humans often indulge? Who told us that the earth is only approximately 6,000 years old? That is written nowhere. It is a guess, based largely on interpretation. Even if one embraces the so-called "gap theory" creationism, who told us that each day of the Genesis account is an actual 24 hour day? Certainly, we're all familiar with the scriptures which indicate that for God, a day is as a thousand years, but who is to say that even that is literal, as opposed to a figurative description to make the relativity of time and space understandable for a generation of humanity which largely predated modern science? These are all man-made assumptions, some of which are actually taught as part of the official doctrines or dogma of different church groups. But, they are no different from any other extra-biblical teachings which frequently dog organized religion. It is an attempt to legalistically spell out all of the specifics, and to provide answers that are often not even implied. If a Creator wanted us to focus primarily on our own human lives, wouldn't there be a little mystery behind the ultimate beginning of mankind, and the ultimate fulfillment, or end?


Time as we know it is relative to a fixed point in the universe, broadly our own solar system, and specifically our planet. Our time is not absolute for the entire universe. As an example, as we examine what might constitute a day, or a year, relative to the rotation and orbit of the planet Uranus, it's a no brainer that these values will differ quite widely from what we experience on planet Earth. Since these values would vary exponentially throughout the cosmos, for an eternal, omniscient being to communicate with His charges, He would need to link Himself to their own understanding of these things, although He Himself is not constrained or confined by such boundaries. He would have no problem understanding us, but the probability of our own human miscommunication, or misunderstanding relative to Him and amongst ourselves would be high. This is especially true of the generations of people who lived prior to Copernicus, Galileo, and our own Albert Einstein. The time periods in the creation narrative, at least as seen from the Creator's perspectives, would be subject to skew as interpreted by man.


The only terms a writer could use to describe elapsed time to a bunch of pre-Einstein goat herders would be the relative words "day" and "night". If this written description was indeed inspired by the aforementioned Creator, He would have known that once mankind developed sufficiently to understand relativity, the description would still remain appropriate in its reinterpreted, or expanded form. Whether a creator used a slow, gradual method of creation (evolution), or a fast, instant process is largely irrelevant. The creation narrative in Genesis can lend itself to the "Big Bang", expanding universe, and the evolutionary process just as well as it can to instantaneous creation, although to me it makes more sense for an eternal being to take His time. There would be no need for hurry.


Some might wonder about Adam and Eve, whether they were literal created beings, or byproducts of a guided evolutionary process. Part of any creative process involves introducing components into a project at the time the project is prepared for them. Those who have maintained aquariums and terrariums have a deep appreciation for this ecological principle. Anthropologists acknowledge that the human species made an incredible, observable leap forward in terms of accumulated intelligence and ability to preserve and share this intelligence dating from approximately 10,000 years ago. Despite the denials of the 6,000 year/literal 24 hour types of creationists, we know that there are distinct sets of fossils related to specific stages of mankind's development. There is adequate room for the introduction of an Adam, and an Eve into this system. At some point or other in an evolutionary process, one would expect to find the first beings with modern brains, both hemispheres communicating under single control, and for these to be common ancestors for all people with some version of that modern brain today. A Christian would be quick to point out that the writers of the New Testament believed in Adam. Both Jesus and Paul seem to have been convinced that the characters in the Old Testament literally did exist.


Do our geological records invalidate the Bible? As a truth seeker, I don't know that I'd be comfortable rushing to such a judgment. Science presents a neutral evidentiary trail, and often seeks to interpret or explain it. In its purest form, it neither presumes, nor denies a creator. That is left to the individual. The modern church has no problem whatsoever in incorporating Galileo's now much confirmed model of our solar system, and the other astral bodies into belief, although this must have been a source of residual confusion and debate during the generations surrounding his lifetime. What of Darwin's more recent research, and much of our modern science? Is it not possible that the church today and some prominent Christians are behaving in a way similar to the that of the church during the time of the Renaissance? And, would we really respect their integrity if they did not treat their cherished beliefs in a loving, repspectful way, cherishing them, and attempting to preserve them? That is exactly what we'd hope for them to do.


BB

30 comments:

Robert Hagedorn said...

Eden garden sex?
The lyrics stink.
But the scandal's about evidence.
So forget about lyrics that stink.

www.TheFirstScandal.blogspot.com

Corky said...

There has been a lot of reconciling the Bible with science going on for a long time, starting with Galileo.

However, it amounts to denial of the obvious. Not only did the ancients believe that the sun revolved around the earth - God did too, if the Jewish scriptures are God-breathed, that is.

When Joshua shouted at the sun to stand still and the sun stood still for a whole day, the writer meant that the sun stood still. Joshua did not shout at the earth to stand still and not revolve, he shouted at the sun, commanding the sun to stand still.

I know, that's an old story but the OT is full of flat earth geocentric references. Excuses can be made for them but that's all they are - excuses.

If the thing was true, there would be no need for excuses, reconciliations with science or apologetics.

One day the Bible will join the other books of mythology at the library - where it belongs.

Ralph said...

At present Darwin's ideas are coming under attack as a result of emerging ideas in epigenetics. Instead of random mutations driving a gradual evolutionary process, we begin to see much more adaptive processes that tend toward specialization within various environments.

As to philosophy, it was Augustine who incorporated Platonism into christianity as we know it today. The mystical notions of Plato seemed to incorporate well into the ideas of what they recognized as christianity.

Also, we tend to think of the Rennaisance as the period when the shackles of the Middle Ages were broken, but recent historians point out that such was not the case. For example, it was quite common knowledge to educated people of 1000AD that the earth was a sphere, not flat, as the general stories tell us today.

Peter Abelard, for example, in the 12th century, argued in favor of logic, and insisted that it be applied even to sacred mysteries.

William of Conches, another medieval person, recognized that in order for natural philosophy to be worthwhile, nature had to enjoy autonomy. Even at that time(1100s), it was recognized that if natural knowledge was to expand, there had to be the study of laws of nature apart from the intervention of God.

And then there was John Buridan, a medieval christian philosopher who developed the idea of "impetus", which was the forerunner of newton's law of inertia, with a description quite similar in many ways.

Impetus, said Buridan, "would last forever if it were not diminished and corrupted by an opposing resistance or a tendency to contrary motion".

That was a couple of centuries before Newton. It was also Buridan who put forth the idea that the earth rotates.

The concept known as the mean speed theorem was also developed in the middle ages, using a graph to show the relationship between an accelerating object and the Pythagorean theorem, later developed by Galileo to show the rate at which objects fall toward earth.

It was also christian mathematicians and philosophers who began to realize that Aristotle's ideas had many, many flaws, but the emergence of humanism, unfortunately, sought to re-establish Aristotle as the official source of logic, reason, and truth.

While Kepler sought truth because of his deep christian faith, Galileo never mentioned the relationship between his ideas on the rate of gravity, and the mean speed theorem developed by a medieval group called the "Merton calculators", who came along much earlier.

These developments of the Middle Ages assumed that if God created the universe, then he did so by a process of rreasoned conclusions, and that the human mind could discover those reasons by observing the universe.

However, the much earlier Hebrew teachings were that the human mind is not consistrent with God's mind, and cannot discover God by its own powers of reason.

Aquinas hoped to establish the authority of the catholic church by showing that logic, reason, and God were fully consistent. He failed.

The earlier Hebrew teachings had said "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways".

Strangely, it was the legacy of the christian philosophers of the Middle Ages who left us a powerful concept of logic, mechanical processes, and eventually a clockwork universe. This evolved into the natural sciences we see today, but it was finally realized that if the human mind could discover it by reason, why, exactly, was God needed? And, since reason could not discover either the authority or existence of God, the meaning of God had to be assigned by the human mind. It did not exist independently.

At best, in the scientific world, God was parasitic, merely a need arising when no other explanation would do.

But in fact, science had only demonstrated what Paul had written long before. The natural mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to God. Every effort to find truth would result in no evidence of God.

Neotherm said...

There are no contradictions between the Bible and the findings of science. There, of course, can be all kinds of contradictions between traditional interpretations of the Bible and science. Most of the confusion lies in idiosyncratic interpretations of words or, even worse, interpretations of translations. Sometimes allegory is not recognized as such. Linguistic archaisms are endowed with modern meanings.

There are people for whom the Bible is complete nonsense and those for whom it makes complete sense. If you follow the audit trail, it leads back to some personal predisposition.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Yes, but even in idiosyncratic interpretation of words, there arises, of necessity, an infinity of undecidable propositions, which leads yet again to Romans 8:7 and the inability to properly decide truth in any absolute sense.

If the natural mind is not subject to God, then how does one determine God? As BB seems to indicate, there may be some type of brain transformation, but even that would fall into the category of "natural" since it is physically measurable to some degree. It becomes possible, in time, to model a computer brain so that it incorporates exactly that same measurable quantity into the computer itseelf, so that whatever transformation BB describes, it is a programmabe, mechanical process such that a computer is equally a "son of God" to BB.

If we determine "sonship" by any measurable decision procedure, that procedure becomes fully programmable into any computer. it is capable of making any decison we are, and in fact, to the extent we can embody "God" by our decisions, that computer can become, to every human definable process, GOD.

If this seems absurd, it is equally absurd to assume that we can "upload" the definition of God into any human decision system, such as either church or state.

The very instant any special relationship to God becomes definable, that relationship is subject to programming, laws, and collective agreement on decision procedures.

If, therefore, the natural mind is subject to God and his laws, there is no rason why a computer cannot be subject to God and his laws, since we are talking about deicsion processes that are measurable, and therefore subject to mathematical simulation.

We are forced, thereforwe, by the very nature of this understanding, to agree with Paul' statements in Romans 9:16-22: It is not of him that wills or runs, but of God that shows mercy.

This would be the only valid proposition by which God created man, and man did not create God.

Since, under Godel's theotrem, there exists no human government system thayt can represent all truth, human government is eliminated as an "absolute" form of authority.

But this corresponds to Romans 8:7 for the reasons I outline above.

This which is "spiritual" does not and cannot lie within human choice. If it did, then we could program a computer spiritually as well as physically, so that it could be a 'son of God' with the 'Holy Spirit'!

That in itself eliminates all power of church or state to claim such representation.

Corky said...

Neotherm, I think belief in God and the Bible leads back to how much a person wants to believe it.

If it makes sense to a person that Joshua made the sun stand still just so he could slaughter some more people, then there's just not much help for them.

If someone believes that Adam lived for 930 years, it's a sign that they will believe anything except the facts.

Belief in the Bible leads to the rejection of facts. The modern trend toward making the Bible all allegory only means that people can make it say whatever they want it to say even more than ever.

For example, I just discovered that "Gone With the Wind" is an allegory and the Civil War never happened.

Neotherm said...

Corky:

You are correct, if by writing that wanting to believe in the Bible you mean that it is a personal, spiritual experience. It is that.

The Biblical events that you refer to that are miraculous would, of course, not correspond to anything we know in the natural realm. This, of itself, does not prove that the events did not happen. For that matter Icarus may have flown too close to the sun. Why I believe in God and do not believe the Icarus story is, ultimately, personal and spiritual.

The Bible is not "all" allegory
as you state. But clearly some parts of it are.

"The facts" are not a sacred body of a priori truth. This is just human knowledge that changes over time. The "facts" prior to the Germ Theory of disease are different from the "facts" now. No doubt the facts in the future will be different from what we believe today.

In the last analysis, belief in God and the Bible has a spiritual foundation. You will not prove or disprove it by sifting through the material realm.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Both Corky and Neo make the simple point that there exists no authorities. You will believe what you will believe for the reasons you choose to believe it, which again points to the fact that any truly meaningful decisions will be made by God if there is one, and not man.

The only possible compromise in the situation is freedom. What people chose to believe or not believe is to be protected by the presumption of innocence.

If you have a belief in God, that is your right. If not, that is alaso your right. Since any decision as to whom is 'elect' can only rest with God, and that can only be proven once the "prgram runs", all people are therefore created equal. To paraphrase Paul, there is no jew, no Gentile , no slave nor free, no male nor fmale. All are equal in their right to live according to their convictions.

Since no absolute truth can be proven, "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law", and due process is equal judgement of peers, not religious authority, not state authority.

Hah! I did manage to work law into the discussion. :)

Neotherm said...

"Some might wonder about Adam and Eve, whether they were literal created beings, or byproducts of a guided evolutionary process."

It is plausible that Adam and Eve were a Neolithic farming couple and the product of classical evolution based on natural selection and random genetic change. And that they were imprinted with the image of God. But at the same time, all other humans alive at that time were likewise imprinted. And thus began, abruptly, modern human civilization. Hence, Eve was the mother of all living in the spiritual and not biological sense.
This is compatible with the poetical account of Genesis.

But I tend to believe that Adam and Eve were the only Neolithic humans who were imprinted with the image of God and that we are all literally descendants of them.

Genetically, based on Y Chromosome DNA and Mitochondrial DNA, all humans are descended from a small collection of men and women. That in itself is a surprising result. (The hanging question is where did this small group come from and why so few.) The concept that there was just one man and one women is kind of a subset of these findings. For the one Adam and one Eve idea to be valid, some genetic engineering or manipulation would have been required to account for observed genetic diversity.

I also believe that evolution was guided. Many Christian scientists believe evolution was random and the reptilian line could have given rise to advanced beings just as easily as the primate line, for instance. I think not.

In general, Christian scientists believe only a small number of Mediterrean peoples are actually biologically descended from Adam and Eve -- people in the Near East and neighboring areas.

This could be true. The surprising result would be that most of the people of the United States and British Commonwealth are not only Gentile but they are not even descended from Adam and Eve.

I wonder how all the British Isrealites sitting UCG congregations, who rejoice in their flesh, would feel about that?

-- Neo

Corky said...

Neotherm said...
The Bible is not "all" allegory
as you state. But clearly some parts of it are
.

And "clearly", which parts would that be?

The reason I ask is that some things that were clearly literal a few years ago are now clearly allegory. Let's put a stamp on what is literal and what is allegory, ok?

I'm waiting . . .

Neotherm said...

Corky:

I see that I did not communicate clearly. The intent of my post was not to say that there is a standard way that all interpret scripture. The intent was that the interpretation of scripture is complex and not everybody interprets it alike.

I regard Genesis to be poetical and others, who are Christian, regard it as literal. I think the literalists have more explaining to do than I have.

This is something known to atheism. This term encompasses a great diversity of belief. Atheists do not speak with a single voice. But I doubt that the lack of unity leads to a renunciation of atheism. I am sure there are some central tenets that are held in common or atheism would not exist as a class.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

The standard interpretation of the bible is easy, and i've answered all challenges so far.

Romans 8:7. The natural mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to God's laws, or god for that matter, else we'd be able to prove "him".

This being so, it is inescapable that you will have infinite speciation. Further, since this is so, there can exist no decision procedure by which you can interpret God in any human fashion.

If you argue "for" the bible, you are forced to conclude, along with the atheists, that there is no "standard" interpretation, nor can there be.

Next, assume that if there is a God, we should be able to prove it by special healings, signs, whatever.

But suppose there actually was such evidence, up to and including restoration of amputated limbs.

You got to a person who has that power, and he says, "Do as I say, or no healing. Do as I say, or your spouse or children die".

Real primitive stuff.

Jesus says don;t follow anybody claiming such authority, and paul says there is no decision procedure to make such a decision, and we argue there is no God because he doesn't step in and force us to do as he says so he can heal us and spoil us and make us totally dependent on some human authority as his representative.

Yeah, right.

It's not that there is no God, there is no God who does what we would have him/her/it/them to do.

author@ptgbook.org said...

The problem with thinking that the days of Genesis are figurative days, meaning indefinite periods of time, is that they are described as day and night, and if you can take that figuratively, then you can take anything in the Bible figuratively.

People become conditioned in the first chapter of the Bible to interpreting anything that they do not agree with as symbolic, not literal, not because internal evidence in the Bible indicates the language is figurative, but because the reader feels more comfortable with a fiturative interpretation.

Neotherm said...

author@ptgbook.org:

I believe that the argument you are making is that greater detail makes something less poetical. I would disagree with that. A metaphor remains a metaphor even though greater detail is employed. If the Genesis account had broken each day down into hours, it would not alter the metaphorical quality of the account.

Proverbs tell us that wisdom stands on a street corner and she cries out to fools. If we were to say that wisdom stands on the street corner and wears a blue dress and leather sandals, it would not make this any less a metaphor.

I agree with R.J. Berry and others that the poetical language of Genesis maps to real events but remains a literary framework for the creation account and does not use strict chronology or scientific explanations.

Does this mean that the Bible can be explained away as merely figurative and without substance? No, when the Bible is being figurative it is usually obvious from inherent characteristics. When David fought in such and such a battle, we can be relatively assured this is a literal account. When wisdom stands on the corner and cries out we can be relatively assured that this is figurative.

Whether scripture is literal or figurative, it is intended to convey truth. Whether we recognize if something is literal or figurative probably does not make that much difference.

Christ told a parable about the Good Samaritan. Was he citing an event that he had heard about or did he make the parable up from whole cloth? I believe he made it up and used the fictional account to convey a specific truth. How important to the fundamental truth was the precise nature of the account? I would say not very important.

Overall, it seems that this issue is much more difficult for Christians that it is for non-believers. Many fundamentalists have a meltdown when considering the literary nature of some passages of the Bible. I believe this really in origin comes from a legalistic state of mind. Armstrongists and ex-Armstrongists, I would guess, probably get hung up on this more than others.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

More likely that the story of Genesis(Garden of Eden, six days of creation) was borrowed from Persian mythology. The Tower f babel has similarities to the "Nam Shub" of the earlier civilizations prior to Babylon. In fact SF writer Neal Stephenson writres a most fascinating story called "Snow Crash" in which he deals with disease created by computers that wipes human minds clean, literally deleting the content. He does a good bit of study into that period of mythology.

As for the Good Samaritan, Jewish lawyers and Pharisees of Jesus' day were already beginning to set the nation of israel apart, as "better" than their neighbors.

A lawyer asked jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him a question in answer: What is written in the law? How do you read it?

Then, of course, the lawyer states the two great commandments.

But the lawyer, then hedges and asks "Who is my neighbor?"

Anybody who reads the Old testament knows that Israel was to treat the stranger as one of their own. Whatever was lawful for Israel, the "stranger in thy gates" was to receive the same respect because "ye were strangers once in Egypt".

This respect for strangers was repeated in the Old testament, so the lawyer really had no excuse for such a stupid question. This relates to Luke 11:52, where Jesus condemns lawyers for "taking away the key of knowledge".

In law, the Pharisees and lawyers were setting themselves up as official interpreters, claiming themselves as masters or rabbis, having their understanding passed down from the oral traditions given to Moses.

It was against this very practice that Jesus quoted from the OT, saying "in vain do ye worship me, teaching for commandments the tradtions of men".

These same traditions influenced early creation stories, stories that borrowed from persian mythology just as the Pharisees began to build on Persian concepts of traditions and called them laws of God.

Jesus challenged that so-called authority, telling his followers to call no man master, rabbi, or father. There were no authorities. The law was open to all and the "kingdom of God", represented within the law, available to all men, including Samaritans, gentiles, all humankind, echoed by Paul. No Jews, no Gentiles, no slave or free, no male nor female, but all are one. All are created equal.

"What says the law? How readest thou?" Jesus said nothing about the authority of traditions. What is the lawe on the matter?

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

I frequently see in various scholarly sources that the account in Genesis was borrowed from this or that ancient source. Why? Because they are similar.

But there is an implicit bias in this. It states that the Hebrew version must be a clone. Nobody says, for instance, that the Hebrew version and the Persian version perhaps came from the same source. I attribute this to the anti-supernaturalistic bias of academic Judeao-Christian studies.

I believe it is the case that many peoples have a creation story that has similarities to the Hebrew account. (Usually, these accounts are subordinated to the Hebrew account in plausability because they incorporate some fantastical ideas.) This should serve as corroboration of the Hebrew account rather than a support for the idea the some ancient Hebrews plagiarized the account.

-- Neo

Retired Prof said...

Neo points out: "I believe it is the case that many peoples have a creation story that has similarities to the Hebrew account. (Usually, these accounts are subordinated to the Hebrew account in plausability because they incorporate some fantastical ideas.)"

Right you are. I simply refuse to accept creation myths (such as those of the Navajo, the Hmong, and the Norse) that fail to feature the cloning of a female from a male and that lack a talking snake. Any story without those details is just too fantastical to be plausible.

Ralph said...

I tend to go with the general hisotrical accounts. In the book of Nehemiah, we see accounts of Israel's return to its homeland, but in fact the majority of Jews seemed quite satisfied with their success in Babylon, establishing trade routes along the borders of the newly developing Persian empire.

A miniroty of Jews did return to their homeland, financially supported by their more successful Jewish brothers, and you see much influence in the OT of Persian power. Several scriptures that christyians attribute to prophecies of Jesus actually speak of the grandeur of Cyrus, and were later said to be about Jesus.

While Ezra and Nehemiah tell of a return to Israel to get the people back in tune with the law, the influence of Persia was always there, since Persia was the dominant empire.

Many parallels exist between Zoroaster and Mithras, and Persians detested idols, were highly "spiritual" in their approach. Pharisees are said to derive their title from "Pharsee" or "parsee" or "Parsi". Persian.

The "leavening of the Pharisees" which Jesus condemned would later be felt in the form of Mithra celebrations incorporated into christianity.

This is why Paul focused strictly on the promise to Abraham, which pre-existed the traditions, and stories inherited from Babylonian and persian influence. It is also why he pointed out that there exists no process by which we may "incorporate" truth into our systems of thought.

There exists no such decision procedure to do so. By tying the concepts of predestination to the birth of Isaac, and by teaching that all those "of Christ" are born of the promise to Abraham, of the same conditions, Paul eliminated any possibility of any human claiming authority as God's representative.

Ralph said...

Its' interesting that if you actually look at the ideas of the rabbis as they devreloped thorugh history, you see a parallel to the old WCG ideas of purification and being set apart thorugh the keeping of the laws, with established leaders(HWA, GTA, etc) acting as the masters to teach us what God expects.

That is exactly what jesus condemned among the Pharisees, and said niot to follow any rabbi or master.

Again, paul's theology eliminated any such approach, since, as a former Pharisee, he stressed that the promise to Abraham was not open to freewill choice, so neither the Pharisees nor any other group could claim it.

Neotherm said...

Retired Prof:

It is really a matter of degree. Given the symbology of the Bible, the idea that a speaking serpent represents the Adversary is not beyond the pale.

On the other hand, if a creation story has the earth riding on the back of a giant turtle, I would say that is beyond the pale. But that is not the entire story, of course. If on closer questioning, the giant turtle is really a symbol of gravity or some other cosmic force, this might seem plausible. If the giant turtle is simply a giant turtle, we might have concerns.

What I am saying is that fanatastical statements must be evaluated in context and are of uneven quality.

C.S. Lewis felt that all myth contained something of the divine. It was just packaged in a different way. Another viewpoint.

-- Neo

Baywolfe said...

Both Jesus and Paul seem to have been convinced that the characters in the Old Testament literally did exist.

I would state, rather, that both Jesus and Paul were familiar with the stories of the OT. Much like we are familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk, and others, and quote things from those stories like "Magic Beans."

It does not, necessarily, conclude that they believed them to be real people. Jesus referring to "the sign of Jonah" as proof he was the Messiah, only appears to also be proof that Jonah existed, when examined from one particular viewpoint.

And equally valid viewpoint could be Jesus saying, "No Sign at all!" by referring to Jonah.

Corky said...

Hah. Giant turtles or giant pillars, what's the difference? And, just how is the earth's foundations fastened to them?

Of course, we know that the pillars are standing in and out of the water but what's holding up the water?

Yes friends, the bible story really is just as ridiculous as other creation myths.

Ralph said...

Unfortunately, Corky, you fail to deal with statements of such physicists as Paul Davies, who points uot that even the scientific notions of the earth's beginning start to resemble turtles on top of turtles. His book "Cosmic Jackpot" goes into this in more detail.

But what proofs do we have, really, that Jesus was the messiah? By Jewish standards, very few. He failed, right alongside all the other self proclaimed messiahs.

The principle of truth, therefore, again, comes down to the simple statement in Matthew 24:23: no point in following any of them.

The natural tendency of the human mind is to say "follow none of them except...."

But again, the very instant you start defining, you fall victim to Godel's theorem. truth starts splintering toward infinity, ad so do religions, and you have Matthew 10:34-38 as a result.

Unfortunately, science, in trying to explain the universal beginnings, once thought, in accordance with Aristotle, that the universe was always here. No good. Hubble started getting these measurements corresponding to a beginning that later became known as the Big Bang. But the Big Bang produced "turtles" in the form of Many Worlds Theory, and then the idea of "inflation" was added as a mathematical possibility, but that created yet more "turtles' in the form of an infinity of infinite universes. Turtles in the form of infinity, all the way 'down".

Unfortunately for both atheists and christians, Paul and Jesus stand well ahead of the pack, simply tellig us there exists no decision procedure by which to show any relationships, thus producing both religious and scientific turtles, and that there is no point in following any of them.

Paul anticipated the whole process, it would seem.

Byker Bob said...

Baywolfe,

I've seen your name before, but have no idea what your spiritual outlook or world view might be. You make a valid point. But, it would seem that at least in some cases, Jesus did more than just be familiar with the Old Testament patriarchs. No doubt you recall the passages describing the transfiguration. You know, that little gig with Moses and Elijah?

The reason that whole episode is so very important is that it symbolizes the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, and the ushering in of the new covenant. It is one of those critical missing understandings from Armstrongism. Had it been understood, it's difficult to imagine the many differences that it could have made in all of our attitudes, how we were handled while our minds were all open to God, and our current spiritual conditions. This site probably would never have been needed.

BB

Corky said...

Yeah Ralph, the "turtles all the way down" thing can be applied to the beginning of the physical universe. I agree. The fact is, physicists simply don't know what was before the beginning of the universe.

Infinite space? Nothing? Another universe or a string of universes? And, what was before that? Was it universes all the way down?

To my human mind (because I have no other kind) there was a beginning and a cause of that beginning.

Maybe in the vacuum of infinite space something spontaneous just happens, like the quark that apparently just appears from nothing.

To add a god though, would just complicate it more, because then we would have gods all the way down.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Corky, precisely what fills my mind. There has to be a beginning, but where and how. If "God did it," whence came he, it, etc., and whoever that supposed entity was, what was the source of it?

Does it all begin a mere thirteen or fourteen billion years ago, or does it go back beyond that to an endless eternity of beginnings?

My creationist friend just says God always was. How can that be? Nothing else always was. What is "always" anyway?

This is probably an unknowable.
What gets frustrating is all the "knowing" answers to the unknowable. I'm going to just plead ignorance, for the forseeable future, that is.

Corky said...

Allen C. Dexter said...
This is probably an unknowable.
What gets frustrating is all the "knowing" answers to the unknowable
.

Exactly. Some imagine they know the answers that are inherently unknowable with our present knowledge. It is pure arrogance to pretend to know all the answers and try to force others to believe the same thing. It is far better to say, "I don't know" than to pretend knowledge one doesn't have.

Purple Hymnal said...

"In fact SF writer Neal Stephenson writres a most fascinating story called "Snow Crash" in which he deals with disease created by computers that wipes human minds clean, literally deleting the content. He does a good bit of study into that period of mythology."

I can recommend this book, as well. Bit of a dense read, and rather low on (a rather farcical) plot, but interesting nonetheless, and pays dividends for thought invested into it.

The same thing can be said of any complex literary construct, I believe.

Purple Hymnal said...

I'm with Allen and Corky on this one (and I find it vaguely humourous that Neo fails to see the explicit animism in the stories of BOTH the talking serpent, and the giant turtle).

I really do believe the "god part of the brain" is what has allowed us to survive and build human civilization; not because a god, gods, or gods all the way down, actually exist. Belief in something external to one's self recruits the character traits of both empathy and compassion (Golden Rule/ethic of reciprocity, anyone?), as all other human beings besides one's self, are obviously external to ourselves, but compassion and empathy with others are not inherently hard-wired from the beginning.

As children, we see ourselves as the centre of the universe. As we get older and (hopefully) mature, the "centre" no longer holds, and if you achieve what the Buddhists call Enlightenment, you realize there IS no "centre" at all; some take this to mean either there is no God or all is god, in the panentheistic, NOT the anthopomorphic sense.

Taking panentheism as an example, to rely on inaccurate and not even authored by their namesake three-thousand-year-old Middle Eastern texts as authority is a mistake because, if panentheism is correct, then every atom and all of their sub-atomic elements, within our brains, are all a part of the same "god-flavoured soup", and so is every other human being's. (At least, according to panentheism.) So, to say the human mind "cannot know god" is a nonsensical statement, at least when applied by theologies that deal with a panentheistic foundation (such as Hinduism or Buddhism, or even the Pleroma of the Gnostics), versus the Hellenized Judaism of the Marcionite texts' influence.

Viewing the god idea from a panentheistic perspective, all IS god, so to say that one part of the whole cannot "know" any other part of the whole, or the sum total of the whole itself (whether we consciously understand that knowledge or not), is patently ridiculous. This patently ridiculous idea, in my opinion, is what has directly led to the xenophobia, isolationism, and self-superiority, of the anthropomorphic religions/theologies that are extant today.

"Love God and your neighbour" is simply a command to see beyond our own noses, to live in community and harmony (some of the time at least) with the rest of the hairless primates we have evolved from/are co-descendants with. Has this evolved as a survival trait, or is it just a by-product? Does it really matter, if it brings peace to a larger number of the population, than would exist otherwise?

That's my take on it, anyway.

Ralph said...

Interesting ideas about God. Corky, you made my point. No matter how you try to enviso9n the beginnng of the universe, about all you can say, once you consider all the possibilities, is that chance, so far as we can conclude, is how it came to be. Some random spark. But a random spark from what? There was nothing to spark from.

This one blew my mind when i was about twelve. Try to imagine non-existence, nothing in an absolute sense. Whoa! It scared the crap outta me. But what is the most scientifically possible explanation? It just happened.

OTOH, you propose that adding God is just adding gods all the way down. True. Which is why, strangely enough, that Paul proposes that since there is a God, there would exist no possibloe decision procedure by which we would or could demonstrate any special relationship. So, whatever IS proposed as God to rexplain the unk nown will be subject to the samwe random chance events, producing exactly the results we see today, and predicted by jesus himself in Matthew 10:34-38.

Therefore, however you look at it, you have a parellel between Paul's statement in Romans 8 and 9, and jesus' statements in Mathew 10:34-38, along with the obvious choice in Matthew 24:23 to follow no such group.

Oh, and Corky, as you say, to your human mind(because you have no other type of mind)there was a beginning and a cause of that beginning. Hubble seems to have confirmed that fact. But Paul stated liong before that the natural human mind is enmity against god and cannot be subject to God, which would produce the same results in any attempt to explain God.

Retired prof, as you point out, since the universe had a beginning it would seem that god had a beginning. But then, human knowledge tends toward infinite speciation(Godel's theorem), so we have that old "enmity against God" thing.

The religionists try to overcome the impossible, while reading the obvious statement of Romans 8:7, and somehow bridge the process by using a process which the scripture itself says they do not possess! How do you do something you cannot do? With God's help? How would you know?

it always boils down to proof, no matter how you look at it, and for that, both sides end up with turtles all the way down.

Purple, the 'god part of the brain" is an interesting study, tht need to build something bigger than ourselves.

I'm convinced that it comes from our genetic replicative algorithm, to borrow from Dawkins. Since the genes seek to replicate themselves with as little variation as possible, they will have the natural tendency to minimize change within their own controllable environment. "Birds of a feather" tend to produce common concepts of god. In terms of evolution, a sound strategy.