Sunday, May 27, 2012

For Reality Snitch: my thoughts on religion and evolution

Reality snitch sent commence in response to my article on "Dawkins is not a great scientist."

Reality Snitch:

Richard Dawkins is a scientist. He has a doctorate in philosophy. He employs doctors and reports back there findings as fact. These facts then go through a "christian" collander and are then deemed as pro- or anti- christian.
I didn't say he's not a scientist. I didn't say he doesn't have a Ph.D. He's not a great scientist. Atheists talk about him as though he's Einstein and he's not. I said the hge stack of degrees he has are mostly honorary. Mostly they give thouse in exchange for speaking at commencement.

Reality Snitch:
Also, I would like to point out that the two discoverers of DNA, Rosalind Franklin and James Watson, were both atheists. So, before using all this convenient scientific analegy to prove an otherwise ridiculous point is plain typical. Typical of christians to try and back up there religious beliefs with scientific discoveries that have been in no way linked or creditted with god.
I would like to hear your views on evolution if you are willing to write a blog about it.

Hard to tell what he thinks he's saying here. First he thinks the fact that Watson and Franklin (it was actually Krick who worked with Watson it's debatable weather Franklin should be counted or not--what was the religious view position of Krick?). I don't know what real difference it makes weather they were atheist or not. That does not make science some sort of atheist enforcement mechanism. I don't know what means by "scientific analogy." He then lapses into stereotyping and Christian bashing. Chriristians are stupid they say stupid things so therefore I must be stupid too. He thinks that pointing out Christians contributions to scinece is trying to link the discoveries to God. I have no idea what all the cheap apologetics people get up to. The most often made argument is simply that Christians have contributed to science so there's anti-scientific about Christianity per se.

He asked for my views on evolution. I don't calim to be an expert, I understand fairly well for a layman.I'm a Darwinian. I don't have any big radical notions about I just am pretty mainstream in terms of what's taught in public schools and state universities. I think what he reallyk wants to know if how I reconcile Genesis with science? I would think, based upon what he said so far, what he really wants to hear is that I'm some wild eyed YEC so he can make fun. Sorry to disappoint I don't even see how a creationist can be a scientist. You have to have an open ended outcome to be a scientist and if a creationist ever came to the conclusion that evolution happened he would be out of the club. So that means their conclusions have to be pre set.

How do I reconcile Genesis and evolution? When I was a kid I tired to do that by taking Gensis in a highly metaphorical way. After going to a very liberal seminary it dawned upon me that this is totally unnecessary. We can understand Genesis not as "metaphor" but as "mythology."

to understand this please read my essay on Biblical revelation. I ask the reader please read the whole thing. I will post part of it here now:

"The Bible is Just Mythology"

The most radical view will be that of mythology in the Bible. This is a difficult concept for most Christians to grasp, because most of us are taught that "myth" means a lie, that it's a dirty word, an insult, and that it is really debunking the Bible or rejecting it as God's word. The problem is in our understanding of myth. "Myth" does not mean lie; it does not mean something that is necessarily untrue. It is a literary genre—a way of telling a story. In Genesis, for example, the creation story and the story of the Garden are mythological. They are based on Babylonian and Sumerian myths that contain the same elements and follow the same outlines. But three things must be noted: 1) Myth is not a dirty word, not a lie. Myth is a very healthy thing. 2) The point of the myth is the point the story is making--not the literal historical events of the story. So the point of mythologizing creation is not to transmit historical events but to make a point. We will look more closely at these two points. 3) I don't assume mythology in the Bible out of any tendency to doubt miracles or the supernatural, I believe in them. I base this purely on the way the text is written.

The purpose of myth is often assumed to be the attempt of unscientific or superstitious people to explain scientific facts of nature in an unscientific way. That is not the purpose of myth. A whole new discipline has developed over the past 60 years called "history of religions." Its two major figures are C.G. Jung and Marcea Eliade. In addition to these two, another great scholarly figure arises in Carl Kerenyi. In addition to these three, the scholarly popularizer Joseph Champbell is important. Champell is best known for his work The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a great book and I urge everyone to read it. Champbell, and Elliade both disliked Christianity intensely, but their views can be pressed into service for an understanding of the nature of myth. Myth is, according to Champbell a cultural transmission of symbols for the purpose of providing the members of the tribe with a sense of guidance through life. They are psychological, not explanatory of the physical world. This is easily seen in their elaborate natures. Why develop a whole story with so many elements when it will suffice as an explanation to say "we have fire because Prometheus stole it form the gods?" For example, Champell demonstrates in The Hero that heroic myths chart the journey of the individual through life. They are not explanatory, but clinical and healing. They prepare the individual for the journey of life; that's why in so many cultures we meet the same hero over and over again; because people have much the same experiences as they journey though life, gaining adulthood, talking their place in the group, marriage, children, old age and death. The hero goes out, he experiences adventures, he proves himself, he returns, and he prepares the next hero for his journey. We meet this over and over in mythology.

In Kerenyi's essays on a Science of Mythology we find the two figures of the maiden and the Krone. These are standard figures repeated throughout myths of every culture. They serve different functions, but are symbolic of the same woman at different times in her life. The Krone is the enlightener, the guide, the old wise woman who guides the younger into maidenhood. In Genesis we find something different. Here the Pagan myths follow the same outline and contain many of the same characters (Adam and Adapa—see, Cornfeld Archaeology of the Bible 1976). But in Genesis we find something different. The chaotic creation story of Babylon is ordered and the source of creation is different. Rather than being emerging out of Tiamot (chaos) we find "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Order is imposed. We have a logical and orderly progression (as opposed to the Pagan primordial chaos). The seven days of creation represent perfection and it is another aspect of order, seven periods, the seventh being rest. Moreover, the point of the story changes. In the Babylonian myth the primordial chaos is the ages of creation, and there is no moral overtone, the story revolves around other things. This is a common element in mythology, a world in which the myths happen, mythological time and place. All of these elements taken together are called Myths, and every mythos has a cosmogony, an explanation of creation and being (I didn't say there were no explanations in myth.). We find these elements in the Genesis story, Cosmogony included. But, the point of the story becomes moral: it becomes a story about man rebelling against God, the entrance of sin into the world. So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth, but it stands that myth on its head. It is saying God is the true source of creation and the true point is that life is about knowing God.

The mythological elements are more common in the early books of the Bible. The material becomes more historical as we go along. How do we know? Because the mythical elements of the first account immediately drop away. Elements such as the talking serpent, the timeless time ("in the beginning"), the firmament and other aspects of the myth all drop away. The firmament was the ancient world's notion of the world itself. It was a flat earth set upon angular pillars, with a dome over it. On the inside of the dome stars were stuck on, and it contained doors in the dome through which snow and rain could be forced through by the gods (that's why Genesis says "he divided the waters above the firmament from the waters below”). We are clearly in a mythological world in Genesis. The Great flood is mythology as well, as all nations have their flood myths. But as we move through the Bible things become more historical.

The NT is not mythological at all. The Resurrection of Christ is an historical event and can be argued as such (see Resurrection page). Christ is a flesh and blood historical person who can be validated as having existed. The resurrection is set in an historical setting, names, dates, places are all historically verifiable and many have been validated. So the major point I'm making is that God uses myth to communicate to humanity. The mythical elements create the sort of psychological healing and force of literary strength and guidance that any mythos conjures up. God is novelist, he inspires myth. That is to say, the inner experience model led the redactors to remake ancient myth with a divine message. But the Bible is not all mythology; in fact most of it is an historical record and has been largely validated as such.

The upshot of all of this is that there is no need to argue evolution or the great flood. Evolution is just a scientific understanding of the development of life. It doesn't contradict the true account because we don't have a "true" scientific account. In Genesis, God was not trying to write a science text book. We are not told how life developed after creation. That is a point of concern for science not theology.

How do we know the Bible is the Word of God? Not because it contains big amazing miracle prophecy fulfillment, not because it reveals scientific information which no one could know at the time of writing, but for the simplest of reasons. Because it does what religious literature should do, it is transformative.


yonose said...

Hello there,

I've been following your blog for some time, and it's my first comment here.

As an apprentice to mystic, I have to say that, reading the article, the transformative nature of most sacred texts, is accurately describing what an spiritual experience is about (At first, as a former weak Atheist and skeptic, seemed too hard for me to understand).

I appreciate your work donde here.

Kind regards.

Morrison said...

Speaking of the atheist Watson, didn't he get in trouble a couple of years ago for coming out with some racist statements?

Metacrock said...

I don't know. that would be interesting to look up.

Metacrock said...

I've been following your blog for some time, and it's my first comment here.

As an apprentice to mystic, I have to say that, reading the article, the transformative nature of most sacred texts, is accurately describing what an spiritual experience is about (At first, as a former weak Atheist and skeptic, seemed too hard for me to understand).

hey thanks. I appreciate it a lot man.

Tor Hershman said...

As in "The Seventh Seal," Death [& God or Satan] know nothing.

Metacrock said...

but you do. another guy who knows more than his creator.