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Reconciling Genesis with Science : The Sticking Plaster Argument


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Hello.  :) 

 

I’m writing this because of an incident that occurred last week at my local astronomy club.  It was time for me to pay my annual subscription and so at the end of the meeting in the village hall I buttonholed John, the club president.  He was enthusiastically describing activities at his church (not a local one) to another member of the club, so I waited patiently until they were finished.  ‘I saw you listening in there Walter, would you like to come along to our Alpha Course meetings?’ he asked me.

 

I declined, saying that I couldn’t reconcile a six-day creation with a universe that science tells us is 13.72 billion years old.  He gracefully accepted that and no more was said on that subject.  I paid my dues and then left the hall.  Outside, in the car park, I was tackled by that other club member, whom John had been speaking to earlier.  Apparently, he heard my comment and he ventured to tell me that some parts of the bible should be understood poetically and shouldn’t be taken literally. 

 

I readily agreed that some parts of the bible were indeed intended to be understood poetically, but I qualified that by saying that the act of doing this opened up a minefield of interpretation.  How can one know which parts are meant to be read literally and which parts aren’t?  Rather than have things escalate into a full-blown theological disagreement in a cold, dark and windy car park we just politely agreed to disagree and then we went our separate ways.

 

But these two encounters set me thinking.

 

All of the club members are fully aware of the latest cosmological science and are also fully up to speed about many aspects of the latest research and findings. Yet, I now know that least two of them feel some kind of personal need to reconcile bronze age writings with modern science.  Ok, that’s fine by me.  Each to their own.  Everyone is free to believe whatever they want.

 

But what about this act of ancient and modern reconciliation?  Does it work?  Is it valid? Is it even feasible?  Here are my thoughts on the matter.

 

It seems to me that people who want to reconcile what Genesis says with what science says usually apply a one-size-fits-all sticking plaster to glue these two irreconcilable things together. I’ll present three counterfactual scenarios to show that this sticking plaster is not a viable argument and is nothing more than a construct of personal religious agenda.

 

Hypothetical Scenario 1: Science tells us that the universe is 6 billion years old.

 

Let’s suppose that instead of discovering that the universe is 13.72 billion years old, scientists have instead found that it is half that age and is only 6 billion years old.  Here the same sticking plaster argument of reconciliation would be used in exactly the same way. Religiously-minded people would assert that some parts of the bible aren’t meant to be read literally and the six days of creation described in Genesis are meant to be read poetically or metaphorically.  The important takeaway message of Genesis being that god is the creator.

 

Hypothetical Scenario 2: Science tells us that the universe is 137 billion years old.

 

Here we suppose that scientists have discovered that the universe is a hundred times older than it actually is.  The same sticking plaster of reconciliation is used in exactly the same way.  Don’t read Genesis literally, read it poetically or metaphorically. Problem solved!

 

Hypothetical Scenario 3: Science tells us that the universe is unimaginably old, but not eternal.

 

So long as the universe has some kind of beginning, it can be reconciled with Genesis.  The true and actual age of the universe now becomes irrelevant. The astronomical facts and the data now become something to be ignored in favour of what the apologist wants to be true.  They have now taken a back seat to religious agenda.  Whatever age the universe is, if it differs in any way from scripture, just assert that Genesis isn’t to be read literally.

 

 

Clearly the way that ancient people and modern people read scripture has changed enormously.  In the ancient and not so ancient past there was no requirement to read the text of Genesis and the account of the six-day creation in  any other way than literally.  That's because nobody understood how the natural, physical world behaved and everything to do with it was attributed to the magical actions of gods and supernatural agencies.  But in the last three or four centuries our understanding of the universe has advanced tremendously and there is now no need to invoke any deities to explain all that we see.  

 

However, the human heart has not changed.  There is still a great emotional need in some people for there to be a god.  This creates a tension between what is known intellectually and what is felt with the heart.  This tension is usually eased or satisfied by the use of arguments to reconcile ancient scripture with modern science.

 

But it is my considered opinion that if these arguments play fast and loose with scientific data in this way I've described, then they are not valid, not feasible and are also highly questionable.  The fact that so many highly intelligent people, who should intellectually know better, use these arguments to keep their religious beliefs intact is a source of some sadness to me. 

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

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A polite request to Pantheory and Sexton Blake.

 

 

Yes, I know that both of you have intellectual. scientific disagreements with the currently accepted model of a universe that is 13.72 billion years old.   That both of you have alternative ideas about this matter.

 

But please, before you pounce on this thread, please understand that I have placed it within the Lion's Den because of the theological and apologetic issues it raises.

 

So, can we please keep any discussions or disagreements about the age or origin of the universe out of this thread?  Such discourses surely belong more properly in the Science area of this forum.

 

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

 

Walter.

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My first thought is that if the creation story is not to be taken literally, what are we to do with the garden, the serpent, the fruit, and the entire idea of Original Sin?  Is it also a metaphor?  And, if so, why the cross?  Where does substitutionary sacrifice, propitiation, and eternal hellfire stand in relation to a metaphorical Genesis?

 

I know you'd rather discuss stars and planets; but I'm not much use in those areas.

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52 minutes ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

My first thought is that if the creation story is not to be taken literally, what are we to do with the garden, the serpent, the fruit, and the entire idea of Original Sin?  Is it also a metaphor?  And, if so, why the cross?  Where does substitutionary sacrifice, propitiation, and eternal hellfire stand in relation to a metaphorical Genesis?

 

I know you'd rather discuss stars and planets; but I'm not much use in those areas.

 

No, no.  You have it exactly right, Prof.

 

Unless there was a literal garden, serpent and fruit...  then the cross, the substitutionary sacrifice and propitiation and hell have no meaning at all.

 

Genesis demands the Gospels.   The fruit demands the cross.   Anything less is meaningless.

 

I used those 3 hypothetical scenarios to show that arguments to reconcile scripture with science by turning Genesis into poetry, symbolism or metaphor do not work.

 

Such arguments are examples of emotional need overcoming intellectual honesty.

 

 

Walter.

 

 

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I was a TA for a geology lab and it came up that I believed in young earth creationism.  Even the professor (aka my boss) joined the conversation.  I couldn't reconcile it and didn't even try, the methods and evidence used in class pretty clearly established the earth was far older than 6000 years; yet my church taught the earth was 6000 years old.  

 

My response at the time was this is not a matter of salvation and clearly we're misunderstanding something.  Ergo, I held two conflicting positions in my head.  When at church the earth was young, and when helping with the lab, the earth was old.

 

Being in the Southern US, we would have students who vocally commented there is no way the earth is as old as geology indicated.  While I was very sympathetic to their belief (somehow holding it myself) the math simply doesn't shake out.

 

I held that cognitive dissonance for a number of years, but when not confronted with it regularly, it's really not a bother.

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Thank you, Krowb.

 

That's interesting. 

 

It seems like you never needed a sticking plaster to reconcile scripture with science.  

 

You could do what my fellow astronomy club members seemingly cannot.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter.

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I never really thought much about it.  As a kid, I just believed it when they told me that carbon dating was a hoax and that fossils weren't real.  Later on, in my mid-late-twenties, I bought into Kent Hovind's apologetics and explanations.  Once I deconverted and gave science an honest and thorough look-over, it all fell apart and I saw the lies for what they were.  You can politely describe them as emotional needs overcoming objective reality; but, for me, that's just a fancy way of saying "lies" which, motives aside, is what they all boil down to.

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35 minutes ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

I never really thought much about it.  As a kid, I just believed it when they told me that carbon dating was a hoax and that fossils weren't real.  Later on, in my mid-late-twenties, I bought into Kent Hovind's apologetics and explanations.  Once I deconverted and gave science an honest and thorough look-over, it all fell apart and I saw the lies for what they were.  You can politely describe them as emotional needs overcoming objective reality; but, for me, that's just a fancy way of saying "lies" which, motives aside, is what they all boil down to.

 

I describe these things as emotional needs overcoming intellectual honesty - but you must be right, Professor.

 

There must come a time when certain believers make the conscious and deliberate decision to accept a desirable falsehood over an undesirable truth.  Other believers who may not have the wherewithal to see the lie for what it is often just accept what they are told because it comes from a respected authority figure.  And so the lie is perpetrated, either consciously or unconsciously. 

 

I can only assume that the believer's emotional need for something to be true is greater than any emotional discomfort they suffer from knowingly lying about it.  Later on, when the telling and retelling of the lie becomes practiced, whatever emotional discomfort they suffered at the outset withers and dies.  They now believe the lie so completely and they have become so emotionally invested in it that there is no going back.  

 

Giving most believers the benefit of the doubt, I don't see this process being motivated by a wicked intent to spread lies.  However, there are exceptions.  For me, the very worst offender is William Lane Craig.  He hangs his entire ministry and apologetic arguments on two papers of theoretical science, neither of which does what he claims.  He's smart enough and well advised enough to know they don't do what he claims, yet he persists in lying about them.

 

I will NOT give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

Thank you.

 

Walter. 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 4/25/2022 at 7:01 PM, walterpthefirst said:

 

...There must come a time when certain believers make the conscious and deliberate decision to accept a desirable falsehood over an undesirable truth.  Other believers who may not have the wherewithal to see the lie for what it is often just accept what they are told because it comes from a respected authority figure.  And so the lie is perpetrated, either consciously or unconsciously. ...

 

 

 

When I fell from belief in Christian teaching, it was necessary to spend some time in agonizing re-appraisal of my inner self... just to retain a semblance of sanity.

Why did I accept the "fuzzy logic" I did in order to reconcile my Christian belief with what I otherwise knew to be true?

 

Walter, I suspect you give human beings too much credit.

Not all have the mental strength you seem to possess.

 

The levels, gradations, and modalities of human self-deception seem almost infinite.

For the majority (I suspect so anyway), emotional need far overshadows the mental cognition required to examine evident reality bravely and honestly. 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, alreadyGone said:

 

When I fell from belief in Christian teaching, it was necessary to spend some time in agonizing re-appraisal of my inner self... just to retain a semblance of sanity.

Why did I accept the "fuzzy logic" I did in order to reconcile my Christian belief with what I otherwise knew to be true?

 

Walter, I suspect you give human beings too much credit.

Not all have the mental strength you seem to possess.

 

The levels, gradations, and modalities of human self-deception seem almost infinite.

For the majority (I suspect so anyway), emotional need far overshadows the mental cognition required to examine evident reality bravely and honestly. 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, thank you for the vote of confidence, aG.

 

But I'm just as human (fallible, emotional, able to be hoodwinked, etc.) as anyone else.  What seems to be mental strength on my part is just a case of my knowing enough about cosmology and astronomy to see the Christian apologetic bs for what it is.  Nothing more than that.  

 

On most other issues and most other topics I'm just as likely to be fooled as anyone else and just as likely to deceive myself as the next person.

 

Which is why I look for help here, just as many others do.

 

Thank you,

 

Walter.

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@Edgarcito, I am unfamiliar with osmosis in the Bible and my google-fu also failed me.  Can you elaborate and provide reference to the verse(s)?

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58 minutes ago, Krowb said:

@Edgarcito, I am unfamiliar with osmosis in the Bible and my google-fu also failed me.  Can you elaborate and provide reference to the verse(s)?

Remembering that the Bible makes the comparison of the Spirit to water.  Very quickly, the Cross would be the semipermeable membrane in this scenario, and whether it be Spirit moving through osmosis or driving a person back to the Cross through pressure (reverse osmosis), the result is more Spirit, a closer connection, higher concentration of Spirit.  And then you have Moses purifying the water with his staff.  Seems to fit with wood/water scenarios....i.e. arks, trees, etc.  Just an observation....

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Wow, my mind never even went in that abstruse a direction.  I think you may be the only person to read osmosis into such disparate events.

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That was an inadequate explanation, but basically the movement of the Spirit whether it be Jesus taking on sin and providing Spirit, or natural innate Spirit, or purification of Spirit from a concentrated standpoint, it seemingly provides a rather close analogy to the science of the matter.  Pretty straightforward.

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Just now, Krowb said:

Wow, my mind never even went in that abstruse a direction.  I think you may be the only person to read osmosis into such disparate events.

"Special Ed"....

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4 hours ago, Edgarcito said:

So, what about osmosis Walter.  The Bible has a really good example of osmosis that matches science pretty well to my understanding.  Do we think it's a coincidence?

 

No.

 

I think this is another example of you trying and failing to make a link between scripture and science.  The two are mutually exclusive and there is no overlap.  Having said that, people of faith erroneously think that there is an overlap between the two.  But they are wrong and the Bible itself confirms this.

 

Hebrews 11 : 1  

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

 

Faith has to do with what is unseen, not WHAT IS SEEN.

 

John 20 : 29 - 31

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 

31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

So people are asked to believe on the basis of what is written, not what they have ACTUALLY SEEN.

 

Acts 17 34

 

Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

 

Neither Dionysius, Damaris nor any of the others who believed Paul saw the risen Jesus.  Nor did any members of the churches of Corinth, Berea, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Galatia, Rome or Philippi.  Nor did any Christian in the two thousand years since then.  The only people the risen Jesus showed himself to were a select few.  These few saw the evidence of his resurrection with their own eyes.  Everyone else has believed by faith WITHOUT SEEING.

 

And that is the fundamental difference between religion and science, Ed.  Science only deals with evidence that can be seen and then what can be inferred or deduced from that evidence.  But religion requires belief by faith of what has never been seen but by a select few, long ago.

 

Do you see the difference?

 

Walter.

 

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2 hours ago, Edgarcito said:

Remembering that the Bible makes the comparison of the Spirit to water.  Very quickly, the Cross would be the semipermeable membrane in this scenario, and whether it be Spirit moving through osmosis or driving a person back to the Cross through pressure (reverse osmosis), the result is more Spirit, a closer connection, higher concentration of Spirit.  And then you have Moses purifying the water with his staff.  Seems to fit with wood/water scenarios....i.e. arks, trees, etc.  Just an observation....

 

Word salad.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, walterpthefirst said:

 

No.

 

I think this is another example of you trying and failing to make a link between scripture and science.  The two are mutually exclusive and there is no overlap.  Having said that, people of faith erroneously think that there is an overlap between the two.  But they are wrong and the Bible itself confirms this.

 

Hebrews 11 : 1  

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

 

Faith has to do with what is unseen, not WHAT IS SEEN.

 

John 20 : 29 - 31

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 

31  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

So people are asked to believe on the basis of what is written, not what they have ACTUALLY SEEN.

 

Acts 17 34

 

Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

 

Neither Dionysius, Damaris nor any of the others who believed Paul saw the risen Jesus.  Nor did any members of the churches of Corinth, Berea, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Galatia, Rome or Philippi.  Nor did any Christian in the two thousand years since then.  The only people the risen Jesus showed himself to were a select few.  These few saw the evidence of his resurrection with their own eyes.  Everyone else has believed by faith WITHOUT SEEING.

 

And that is the fundamental difference between religion and science, Ed.  Science only deals with evidence that can be seen and then what can be inferred or deduced from that evidence.  But religion requires belief by faith of what has never been seen but by a select few, long ago.

 

Do you see the difference?

 

Walter.

 

Maybe there’s evidence you can’t define.  Futile visiting w you.

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1 hour ago, Edgarcito said:

That was an inadequate explanation, but basically the movement of the Spirit whether it be Jesus taking on sin and providing Spirit, or natural innate Spirit, or purification of Spirit from a concentrated standpoint, it seemingly provides a rather close analogy to the science of the matter.  Pretty straightforward.

 

No.  Wrong.

 

You are taking the existence of the Spirit, which you have not seen and only believe in by faith, as a given.

 

That is not how science works.  Science builds upon evidence that has been seen.  It takes NOTHING as a given and rejects EVERYTHING that is not supported by evidence.  Even theoretical science about places and events that nobody has seen do so on the basis of logical inference and extrapolation from observed evidence.  Doing this is not an act of faith because faith only deals with what is unseen.  But science begins with evidence and evidence must be seen.

 

If there is no evidence base for something, then science can do no more than infer and deduce anything about it.

 

But religion begins with zero evidence and asks the believer to accept the reality of things on the basis of no observations and no evidence.

 

Totally different.

 

Walter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Edgarcito said:

Maybe there’s evidence you can’t define.  Futile visiting w you.

 

If there's evidence that science can't define, then, by definition, it doesn't come under the remit of science.  So, once again, there's no overlap between science and religion.

 

What's futile about this is your wish to redefine science to mean what you want.  That's never going to happen.

 

Accept the status quo or just keeping banging your head against an unbreakable wall, Ed.

 

It's up to you.

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I don’t have a problem with the process.  My issue lies in the arrogance when you dismiss anecdotal evidence and say it has no place in the process.  We are dismissing observation??

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1 hour ago, Krowb said:

Wow, my mind never even went in that abstruse a direction.  I think you may be the only person to read osmosis into such disparate events.

 

https://carm.org/dictionary/eisegesis/

 

Eisegesis is when a person interprets and reads information into the text that is not there.

 

The osmosis that Ed wants to believe is  in scripture, isn't.

 

He is reading what he wants into the text, not what is actually there.

 

There is no science in religion and vice versa.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, walterpthefirst said:

 

https://carm.org/dictionary/eisegesis/

 

Eisegesis is when a person interprets and reads information into the text that is not there.

 

The osmosis that Ed wants to believe is  in scripture, isn't.

 

He is reading what he wants into the text, not what is actually there.

 

There is no science in religion and vice versa.

 

 

Sure there is, you ultimately only have faith in your certainty….

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