Sunday, 13 May 2018

"T.L.:D.R." The Genesis Question Part three

Hi, Everybody!

1 April 18

Hi Matt!

You must be running out of my Biblical commentaries along about now. So…
Courtesy of CerebusDownloads.com
16 February 14

Hi Troy & Mia:

CHAPTER TWO

These discoveries spawned a new scientific proposition: the anthropic principle, the observation that all the physical features of the universe, including the characteristics of the solar system, are "just right" to suit the needs of life, specifically human life. 

Well, as I said last week, I think it's generally true in the sense that at THIS distance from a star THIS sized (that didn't incarnate in a BINARY form), you will have the conditions to produce water and an oxygen-rich atmosphere and that makes a life form that looks like us and allows men and women to incarnate at roughly the same height some 15 billion years into the life of the planet. 

But "ALL the physical features of the universe?" being conceived for that avowed purpose?  I'm not God, but  no, I don't think so.  ALL the physical features of the universe are pretty much Void with these incarnation events at untold umpty-millions of light years of distance from each other. 

The Void -- which is what the universe seems primarily to be made up of -- doesn't support any kind of life of that sort so it's more accurate, I think, to say: "infinitesimally tiny, tiny, tiny parts of the universe, so widely scattered as to be inconceivably distant from each other, incarnate manifestations that CAN support life, but not usually as we would recognize the term. Even in the context of our own solar system the earth is a tiny, tiny exception to the Rule of the Void and the Rule of the Gas Giant nature and the fact of the little chunks of non-life-supporting chunks or rock". 

In our solar system, only this microbe-sized chunk of rock three-quarters covered with a (so far as we know) unique mixture of hydrogen and oxygen and unique ability to "house" and oxygen-rich atmosphere (heaven) has incarnated life as we would recognize the term.  So it seems to me erroneous and self-aggrandizing to say that the universe and the solar system have incarnated their specific physical features PRIMARILY for the avowed purpose of making a home for us.

That may, however, be God's Point.  You Create These Great Masses of Largely Irrelevant Broad Strokes in order to incarnate something of Genuine Value on a much, much, much smaller physical scale.    

CASE CLOSED?

Intellectual barriers  [to belief in the Bible as factual] receive the most frequent mention.  They are the most socially acceptable ones, though often they serve as a smoke screen to hide the deeper ones: pride, bitterness, lust, fear and so on. 

This is very well put, centring as it does on "innermost motivation".  WHY are you an atheist?  Most often the honest answer would be "because religious people are stupid and I don't want to look stupid"; "the nuns used to make me stand in the corner or humiliate me in class so I now hate everything they stand for";  "you can't just fornicate for the sake of entertaining yourself and be a good religious person and it's very important for me to be able to fornicate for entertainment"; "I don't want to read anything or think about anything that might persuade me that those are not good reasons for being an atheist".

On the "Isaac Asimov Theory":  In my own scientific reading of Genesis 1, the only thing that I saw as being out of place was the "lights in the heaven: the greater light for the rule of the day and the lesser light for the rule of the night" suggesting as they do that the sun and the moon were created at roughly the same time.  It isn't  completely false (in my opinion) but I think it was placed there by Adam because it was one of the things that he "got" from eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's "YHWH thinking" which is what was housed in the tree and in its fruit.  And so he put it after the plants because he got it from a plant.

If you take it out, the sequence makes a lot more sense.

It's, I believe, "Solar thinking" which I think dominated for millennia: the sun believing the sun to be God and thus our Creator.  I think our own discoveries that the sun is a single largely nondescript star way out in the boonies came as an awful shock to the sun.  It saw itself as The Greater Light rather than the greater light.  This communicated to the YHWH (our earth) who in turn communicated it to the regional YHWH of Genesis 2, who incarnated it as part of the "Knowledge of Good and Evil" fruit which Adam ate. 

On the "Steve Allen Theory":  the Flood, I'm pretty sure was regional but covered all of the land of that region and so was viewed by the YHWH, the regional YHWH of Mesopotamia -- the spiritual author of Genesis 2 (not the inner consciousness of the molten core of the entire earth), as being a Worldwide Flood. 

In both "Theories" what we see, I think, is one among many central purposes of God's creation of the universe through the Big Bang:  if you have limited information -- as the sun did and as the regional Mesopotamia YHWH did -- you're going to come to erroneous conclusions even though you are "observing" accurately.  We are prey to the same "inference through limited information" and believed -- for millennia -- that  the sun went around the earth. 

We were, I THINK, supposed to believe that, I THINK, in the hopes that we would eventually come to realize WHY we are not God: because we keep being proven wrong time after time after time so the only safe assumption is that we perceive EVERYTHING inaccurately and the only logical conclusion is to submit ourselves to God's will because God is the Only One who perceives accurately. 

We're not there yet. 

We are still in roughly the same mode as we have been for many, many, many generations since the time of Adam:  "My parents and grandparents and great grandparents were SOOOOO stupid.  But I Are Smart Now Instead!  HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH!"

The life of the earth is measured in, literally, billions of years.  This epoch which began with the creation of Adam is MAYBE seven thousand years along.  I was born in 1956 and became fully sentient around 1970.  So, I've seen about forty years of that seven billion/seven-thousand year history.  It would be ludicrous for me to think that I have a coherent understanding of even a tiny fraction of what makes up Reality on planet earth or that I ever will.  It stands to reason, I think, that I'll be dead long before we even get to the Crux of why God created all of this and what our part in it a) actually was and b) was supposed to be.  My own theory? "Be fruitful and multiply" because we need to keep populating the earth over the course of the multi-billion years yet to come. "Subdue the earth" because the YHWH is our primary local problem and, convinced that he/she/it is God, is beyond persuading.  All we can do is learn as much as we can before we die and build an irrefutable case that God is God and YHWH is YHWH to such an extent that, while the YHWH will never be convinced of that, the YHWH can at least become "subdued" which (I would guess) is the critical first step in becoming genuinely enlightened…or, at least, not being intentionally and relentlessly "in God's way" which I think has been the case here on earth from the time it was formed until today.

BIBLE ILLITERACY

This one really "banged a gong" with me because I remember vividly, as an atheist and creative type, what a big deal I saw Reading The Whole Bible to be.  In exactly the same category as reading all of WAR AND PEACE -- which I did on vacation a number of years ago.  Of course, now I read the entirety of the KJV 1611 -- The Torah in English translation -- 10 chapters a week over the course of a year-and-a couple-of-months as the Judaic part of my weekly Sabbath observance. 

There is always something new in there that I've never seen before and which adds to my perceptions (and which I hope are actual understandings) of Reality.  After eighteen years of doing that, I am at the point where there are fewer and fewer sections that I just don't remember reading which means it has taken almost two decades to get to this point of even nodding familiarity with the text and its structure.

That would certainly point in the direction of Bible Illiteracy being a general and nearly universal condition in 2014. 

There is no part of me that thinks that I should be doing the same thing with WAR AND PEACE -- rereading x number of chapters a week in order to achieve a better understanding.  It's a human work.  A brilliant human work, but still just a human work.  The Bible is the only thing -- besides the Koran -- that we have that even purports to be the Word of God.  Given the choice between what God says and what one of his creations says, to me, there's no choice. 

But, being aware that pretty much everyone thinks of The Bible as I did two decades ago:  as a Book Club challenge, to get all the way through it and then take a "selfie" at the top of Mount Everest, put it in a drawer and go on to read other things while always being able to say on social occasions, "You know, I read the Bible all the way through once a few years ago…"

PRESSURE TO MAKE "PROGRESS"

This one really didn't bang a gong with me since all of my experience with The Bible is reading The Bible.  Because of that experience there doesn't seem much point in discussing the text with what I see as hidebound ideologues who believe God and YHWH are the same being OR with atheist/agnostic types where all I would be doing is intently discussing whether Thor could beat The Hulk -- hair-splitting sophistry about quaint fiction.

TOO MUCH BIBLE SCIENCE

The Bible, unlike any other book, is intended to be read and understood by people living in eras spanning at least 3,500 years.  This places some serious constraints on the quantity and kind of science it can contain.  For the Bible to adopt the scientific paradigms or language of any age would compromise the ability of the text to speak to earlier or later generations.

To me?  Yes and no.  My own take would be that scientific paradigms, in the eyes of God, are Knowledge of Good and Evil, and, consequently, a little goes a long way and anything more than that would be Bad For Us.  Here's as much as we Need To Know about Creation.

I think Genesis contains just enough scientific paradigm to say "This is the general structure, this why I, God, did it this way" while stopping well short of a "how-to" book:  "Create Your Own Self-Sustaining Planet At Home, Kids, With These Fast And Easy Deistic Instructions!"  God has given us enough for us to understand what we're supposed to do:  be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth.  The rest of the text is cautionary notes on what happens when the earth isn't subdued and men decide that the earth, YHWH, is God.  Which they are free to choose and have chosen.  And, you know, here we are.

For example, I have received more than ten unsolicited manuscripts from individuals who are convinced that Genesis 1, properly understood, gives detailed exposition of the origin and structure of various families of fundamental particles even though no word in the text even hints of particles.

I think this just affirms what I said above:  Misapplied, How God Created The Earth leads to Knowledge of Good and Evil, pure science which can be used for good or for evil.  It's sitting right there.  Particle Theory, I assume, is the same as the human genome, is the same as the Double Helix, is the same as splitting the atom and if, as a human being, you are immersed in one area or another (Mr. Ross addresses this in the next section: THE ISOLATION OF SPECIALIZATION) and you read Genesis, you're, I would guess, nine times out of ten, going to see it in there. 

The problem, to me, is in seeing it as "properly understood", as if Genesis 1 can only be seen correctly through the lens of one's own fragmentary discipline. Which, to me, is no different from the Mesopotamia YHWH seeing the regional flood as worldwide or the sun seeing itself as God, surrounded by all of these tiny little pinpricks of light which are (obviously!) just…void decorations or something…and tiny and insignificant when compared with The Origin Of All Realities Giant And Incohate Mass of Roiling Gases In Contention With Each Other Such As Great and Mighty Me Are! 

THE ISOLATION OF SPECIALIZATION

The United States National Academy of Sciences' "Religion and science are separate and mutually exclusive realms of human thought whose presentation in the same context leads to misunderstanding of both scientific theory and religious belief", to me, is just the sun's misapprehension on a smaller scale: 

That is, the Academy of Sciences is saying OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, HAS SPOKEN! and attempting to leave it at that as if it settled anything.

NONINTELLECTUAL OBSTACLES

As I mentioned earlier, intellectual questions about Genesis are understandable, even expected.  If they are genuine, the person who raises them will show a willingness to listen and explore possible answers. However, not everyone who raises questions really wants a response.  Some seem more interested in arguing.  Some just walk away. Why?

To me?  Because what you are usually talking about is "worldview".  How someone reads Genesis is how they view the world if they take it (Genesis OR the world) seriously. 

My question for Mr. Ross would be:  did you READ the ten manuscripts insisting that Genesis was discussing particle theory or did you just (as evidently seems to be the case) say, "It doesn't say anything about particles in Genesis, ergo, this is all just a pile of hot air"?  Indirectly, that would answer the "why?" question you pose.  They argue because they think they have a good case. They walk away because you don't have "ears to hear" what they're saying. 

How difficult would it be for Mr. Ross to see particle theory as another aspect of Genesis that he can't "see" or "hear" because he's largely ignorant of particle theory -- certainly as compared to a scientist for whom particle theory is their life's work and chosen discipline?  Very difficult, clearly.  Impossible?  If it is impossible for Mr. Ross, WHY is it impossible? would seem to me a not inappropriate question.

Other fears come from misunderstanding the biblical definition of faith.  The prevailing view exalts "blind" faith and rejects the principle that facts are the crucial foundation for meaningful faith. 

The phraseology is artful, but I would suggest that "blind" faith is far more along the lines of Islam's notion of submission to the will of God through acceptance that ANY human being is blind.  ALL human beings are blind.  Unless you're God, and are, by definition omniscient, you are, by definition, blind.  And deaf and dumb and stupid.  "Was blind but now I see" in "Amazing Grace" doesn't -- I hope we could all agree -- mean that before I didn't know anything but now I'm omniscient because I  have come to believe in God.  You're still a human being.  Your brain isn't large enough to contain one millionth of a micron of God's omniscience even if you were using your brain optimally (which science has pretty much proven none of us are).

That is faith is, to me, the only genuine foundation of meaningful faith and faith comes from believing in God to an infinitely greater extent than you believe in a) your own interpretation of the Bible b) your own brain's capacity for understanding Reality c) your ability to discern a fact from a theory d) what facts are relevant to the discussion and e) which "facts" are either outright falsehoods which have yet to be disproven and which "facts" are only partly true and to what extent they are only partly true. 

Herein lies a paradox.  People who seem most concerned with defending biblical inerrancy may be the most resistant to any information, not derived from the Bible, that might help illuminate its meaning.

Like those ten papers on how Genesis actually describes the creation of specific particles?

Logically, taking Scripture seriously means being passionately concerned about interpreting it correctly and thus welcoming any evidence that exposes erroneous understandings of the biblical text.  Unfortunately, many zealous Bible students and teachers confuse their favourite interpretations of the Bible with the Bible itself.

But, isn't that what Mr. Ross is doing in rejecting that particle theory has anything to do with Genesis?

"Logically" I don't think just being "passionately concerned" with something is going to be of much help in arriving at definitive conclusions.  You can, as Mr. Ross appears to, "passionately" believe that he is concerned with interpreting the Bible correctly, "passionately" believe that particle theory has nothing to do with Genesis, and "passionately" believe that he is exposing erroneous understandings of the biblical text in dismissing particle theory as a relevant component out of hand and without doing anything beyond referring to them, but with all due respect, I think that rather suggests that Mr. Ross is allowing his passions to overrule his rational, thinking mind and (what I hope would be!) a core awareness that he is not God, therefore not omniscient and therefore not able to arrive at definitive conclusions just by declaring them to be such.

As it says in The Koran, sura 4 "Women" verse 134: "Follow not passion lest ye swerve from truth."  


Next:  CHAPTER THREE      

Next Time: Chap...Chapter Three. You DO realize I'm just repeating what Dave JUST said, right?

5 comments:

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Dave is always at his weakest when he tries to think. He just doesn't know how -- a common trait among autodidacts. Here he misunderstands cosmology, science, atheism, Biblical scholarship, history, and other people's existence. I find his mishmosh belief system pretty funny (especially his insistence that he's groping closer to Reality), but your mileage may vary.

The part that I want to zero in on is atheism. Dave misapprehends, like many god-botherers, that atheists believe, "There is a god, in whom I do not believe."

And Dave has not been an atheist since at least the time he was drawing Cerebus 24, when he maintained, "There was something out there." Atheists do not believe that there is something out there; that's what being an atheist means. Dave seems to define it as "Atheism is the rejection of belief in the Abrahamic god." An interesting use of the word.

-- Damian

Glen said...

Dave could have used the word "agnostic" instead of "atheist".

I'm not sure why he didn't.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for posting these.

A Fake Name

Jeff said...

Damian, at the risk of starting another flame war, do you think that atheism includes, in its non-belief, other, false, Gods (or, gods)? Oh, and which word? Words, and their usage, matter.

I mean, if non-Buddhists don't believe in or follow Buddhism, are they "atheists"? Hindus, with their many gods; many other religions, with their many gods? Are non-believing Hindus atheists?

Or, is atheism limited to just non-Christianity/non-Judaism/non-Islam?

The one, true, God of Abraham ignited three separate but convivial arguments around here, but, (well, it should have done; let's forget the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the Borders Without Walls, etc.) here we are.

My point is two-fold: If there is a God (and I have been so blessed by circumstances beyond my control that I cannot believe that there isn't a God--the one and only) then He or She (not YHWH), probably is the one, true, God of Abram.

Secondly, which word?

I agree, to a point; Dave was an agnostic, not an atheist, by definition.

Fourth, Dave is one of the most cogent, lucid, and clear thinkers that I have ever known. Just because he espouses views that differ with yours, Damian, does not automatically make him the "weakest" thinker in the room.

Please. Check your baggage at the door, sir.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Well, Jeff, I don't think you have to worry about a flame war. It's not possible to debate someone who cannot believe that his beliefs are not true, but thanks for the laugh. "The one, true god", eh? Your mother must be so proud.

It's not that Dave's views differ from mine that makes him a poor thinker; it's the quality of thinking as exhibited in his writing. It's his leaps of illogic, his confusing of his own feelings with objective facts, his inability to evaluate evidence, his taking his own metaphors literally, his sticking with factually false information even after it's been debunked.

What makes you a poor thinking is your cowardly and undignified renunciation of your own intellectual and moral authority to fire your heart at your beloved. You defend Dave with more enthusiasm than you defend your god.

-- Damian