The Bible and Culture 26 March 2006 Interpreting Genesis: From Augustine to Richard Dawkins Ken Smith
From Hanbury Brown, The Wisdom of Science , page 168
Consumer warning! “ Mathematics is like an addiction, or a disease: you can never truly shake it off, even if you want to.” Ian Stewart in Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos , (1997), page 120.
Two Sermons in 1953: 1 “ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1, RSV text. Sermon 1: “ God created in the beginning. So Hoyle’s idea of `continuous creation’ still going on is wrong – it contradicts Holy Scripture.”
Two Sermons in 1953: 2 “ In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1, RSV margin. Sermon 2: “ Fred Hoyle has shown that God the Creator is continually pouring vast amounts of energy into the universe – and He is still doing it!”
Science and Theology “ Science has had to hand the language of mathematics, which we have seen has proved to be perfectly fitted to the description of the fundamental structure of the physical world. Theology has no words adequate to encompass the mystery of the divine nature.” John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (1998), page 37.
Mathematics and Theology “ Mathematics plays a critically important role in both philosophy and theology, even if theologians seem slow to appreciate this. Augustine is one of a relatively small group of theologians who regarded mathematics as having theological significance. . . . Mathematics enables the order within the world to be identified and seen as an aspect of the harmony within the creation, grounded in the being of God.” Alister McGrath, A Scientific Theology: II: Reality (2002), page 170.
Religion and Science Science is the game we play with God to find out what his rules are. Internet, late 20th century
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to, as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. . . . Augustine and Science (a)
Augustine and Science (b) The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience and the light of reason? . . .
Augustine and Science (c) Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Meaning of Genesis , circa 400, Book 1, chapter 19, section 39.
“ To be sure, those five books are not enough to deal with all the extravagant folly and perversity of our opponents – nor would any number of additional books suffice. That is clear to all. Stupidity glories in never yielding to the force of truth; that is how it effects the ruin of anyone who is under the dominion of this monstrous moral fault. It is a disease proof against all efforts to treat it, not through any fault in the physician, but because the patient is himself incurable.” Augustine, City of God , c. 420, Preface to Book VI.
The Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925, is well-known. The best modern work on this is Edward G. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (1997), which won the 1998 Pulitzer prize in history.
The book is divided into three parts dealing, respectively, with events before, during, and after the trial. It is not widely known that the “guilty” verdict against Scopes was quashed: the judge imposed a fine of $100, when he was not empowered to impose a fine exceeding $50.
The 1981 trial over the Arkansas “creation-science” law was widely reported in the media at the time. Two books provide details of the case.
Marcel,C. La Follette, Creationism, Science and the Law: The Arkansas Case (1983), includes the law itself, Judge Overton’s ruling, and various articles commenting on the issues involved.
Langdon G. Gilkey, Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock (1985) is in two parts. The first part recounts Gilkey’s experiences as a witness in the trial (on the evolution side); the second part contains some reflections on the issues involved.
The case in Dover, Pennsylvania, before Judge Jones at the end of 2005, has not yet received full-length treatment in a book. There is a vast amount of stuff about it on various Web sites, including complete transcripts of all the evidence and the verdict.
Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by George Bush, was scathing in his comments about the ID proponents, including “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy.”
“ Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiff's scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny existence of a divine creator.”
“ In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty- eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough”.”
“ One of the most surprising phenomena of the second half of the twentieth century has been the resurgence of creationism – not a compromising amalgamation of evolutionary thought with theistic overtones, but a clear-cut, Bible-centered, literalistic, young-earth special creationism. Accompanying this has been the concurrent development of a clear-cut, nonreligious, nonevolutionary scientific creationism.” (emphasis in the original)
Henry M. Morris, A History of Modern Creationism, 1974, page 13.
In 1961 John C. Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry M. Morris published The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications . This is still being reprinted in unaltered form, something which would be unheard of in science.
The subtitle gives the game away at the start: the authors start with an interpretation of the Bible , assumed to be correct, and then see what corrections need to be made to science to bring it into line with their ideas. This is spelled out in detail in the Preface to the sixth printing.
“ We believe that the Bible, as the verbally inspired and completely inerrant Word of God, gives us the true framework of historical and scientific interpretation, as well as of so-called religious truth. This one is of special creation of all things, complete and perfect in the beginning, followed by the introduction of a universal principle of decay and death into the world after man’s sin, culminating in a worldwide cataclysmic destruction of `the world that then was’ by the Genesis Flood. We take this revealed framework of history as our basic datum, . . .”
Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood , page xxvi.
“ It is at this point that the authors feel that these critical reviewers have been most unfair. As we have stressed repeatedly in our book, the real issue is not the correctness of the interpretation of various details of the geological data, but simply what God has revealed in His Word concerning these matters. That is why the first four chapters and the two appendices are devoted to a detailed exposition and analysis of the Biblical teachings on creation, the Flood, and related topics.”
Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood , p. xxvii.
Creation or Creationism? In many conservative Christian circles the question “Do you believe in creation?” is understood to mean “Do you believe in creationism?”, where “creationism” is as defined by Morris. This can lead to much mutual confusion and misunderstanding. It leads to further confusion: “Do you believe in creation or evolution?”
“ All that creation-science requires is that the entity which caused creation have power, intelligence, and a sense of design. There are no attributes of the personality generally associated with a deity, nor is there necessarily present in the creator any love, compassion, sense of justice, or concern for any individuals. Indeed, under creation-science as defined in Act 590, there is no requirement that the entity which caused creation still be in existence.”
Trial Brief for creationist case: quoted from Marcel C. La Follette, Creationism, Science and the Law: The Arkansas Case , 1983, page 41.
“ We can understand much about creationists from this point of view. In particular, we can understand their obsession with creation over almost all other religious themes, their insistence on the scientific truth of the biblical story, and their refusal to participate in, or even take seriously, either modern biblical scholarship or modern study of religion.”
Paul Hollenbach, Creation Belief in the Bible and Religions, chapter 10 in David B. Wilson (ed.) Did the Devil make Darwin Do It? Modern Perspectives on the Creation-Evolution Controversy , 1983. The quotation is from page 146.
“ Although I never met George McCready Price, his tremendous breadth of knowledge in science and scripture, his careful logic, and his beautiful writing style made a profound impression on me when I first began studying these great themes,back in the early 1940s.
I first encountered his name in one of Harry Rimmer's books (see the discussion of Rimmer later in this chapter) and thereupon looked up his book The New Geology in the library . . . This was in early 1943, and it was a life-changing experience for me .” (emphasis added)
Henry M. Morris, A History of Modern Creationism , 1984. Quote is from page 80.
“ Although many evangelicals who regarded themselves as creationists, from Billy Graham to Jimmy Lee Swaggart, resisted the allure of scientific creationism, by the last decades of the twentieth century Price’s intellectual heirs had virtually co-opted the creationist label for their own interests. Even their severest critics often conceded as much.”
Ronald L. Numbers, Creating Creationism: Meanings and Uses Since the Age of Agassiz, chapter 2 in his Darwinism Comes to America , 1998. Quote is from page 56.
“ Latter-day flood geologists may not have liked being lumped together with godless evolutionists as enemies of true science (and religion), but they could only have appreciated the often grudging but increasingly widespread recognition that their once marginal views, inspired by the visions of an obscure Adventist prophetess, now defined the very essence of creationism.”
Ronald L. Numbers, Creating Creationism: Meanings and Uses Since the Age of Agassiz, chapter 2 in his Darwinism Comes to America , 1998. Quote is from page 57.
Creationism/Creationists “. . . creationists have become very adept at exploiting the technological fruits of science to proclaim their antiscientific message.” Robert Pennock, Tower of Babel , 1999, page 31.
“ It may be true that scientism and evolutionism (not science and evolution) are among the causes of atheism and materialism. It is at least equally true that biblical literalism, from its earlier flat-earth and geocentric forms to its recent young-earth and flood-geology forms, is one of the major causes of atheism and materialism. Many scientists and intellectuals have simply taken the literalists at their word and rejected biblical materials as being superseded or contradicted by modern science. . . . they have concluded that it is nobler to be damned by the literalists than to dismiss the best testimony of research and reason. Intellectual honesty and integrity demand it.”
Conrad Hyers, The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science , 1984 Quotation is from page 26.
“ It has been only too easy to dismiss the biblical teaching of Creator and creation by dismissing scientific creationism. It has been equally easy to conclude that scientific evidence leads to naturalistic conclusions and a nonreligious world view, since scientific and religious statements have already been placed on the same level. If the resulting evolutionism offers a kind of dinosaur religion, by the same logic biblical literalism turns religion into a dinosaur.”
Conrad Hyers, The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science , 1984. Quotation is from page 26.
Creationism and Islam “ I hope that by means of this book Muslims will remind themselves of their contributions to the theory of evolution predating Charles Darwin and stop propagating the Christian fundamentalist doctrine of creationism in the community. I hope also that Muslims will join hands with mainstream scientists to prevent the corruption of public-school science curricula with pseudoscience.” T. O. Shanavas, Creation and/or Evolution: An Islamic Perspective , 2005, page 13.
“ I fully support the decision of the Board of Secondary School Studies and its Science Advisory Comittee to include the teaching of evolution as a component of the core syllabus for Senior Biology, and the decision not to include `Creation Science’ as a compulsory component of Senior Biology. Indeed `Creation Science’ as it is espoused by its supporters has no place in the syllabus of any science subject.”
Professor Cliff Hawkins, Dean of Science, University of Queensland, in a letter to the Minister for Education.
At its meeting on May 6, 1984, the Board of the Faculty of Science endorsed the letter sent by the Dean, by a vote of 80 to 1, with 9 members requesting that they be recorded as abstaining, since the issue did not involve science.
“ The world was in fact made with time, if at the time of its creation change and motion came into existence. This is clearly the situation in the order of the first six or seven days, in which morning and evening are named, until God's creation was finished on the sixth day, and on the seventh day God's rest is emphasized as something conveying a mystic meaning. What kind of days these are is difficult or even impossible for us to imagine , to say nothing of describing them.” (emphasis added)
Augustine of Hippo, City of God , completed 426, book XI, chapter 6.
“ Now for the number and length of the six days: by what is said above you may make the first day as long as you please, and the second day too if there was no diurnal motion till there was a terraqueous globe, that is till towards the end of that days work.”
Isaac Newton, letter to Rev. Thomas Burnet, January 1681.
“ It is of course admitted that, taking this account by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts, and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other. Now it is urged that if the word `day’ be taken in the sense of `an indefinite period of time,’ a sense which it undoubtedly has in other parts of Scripture, there is not only no discrepancy between the Mosaic account of the creation and the assumed facts of geology, . . .”
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology , vol. I, pp. 570-571.
“ If the intention of the first chapter of Genesis was really to give us the `date’ of the creation of the earth and heavens, the objection would be unanswerable. But things, as in the case of astronomy, are now better understood, and few are disquieted in reading their Bibles because it is made certain that the world is immensely older than the 6,000 years which the older chronology gave it. Geology is felt only to have expanded our ideas of the vastness and marvel of the Creator’s operations through the aeons of time . . .
James Orr, Science and Christian Faith, chapter XVIII in The Fundamentals , vol. 1, 1917. Quote from pages 343-4.
“ . . . what may we say about the `how’ of God's creative activity? Not many Christians today find it necessary to defend the concept of a literal six-day creation , for the text does not demand it, and scientific discovery appears to contradict it. The biblical text presents itself not as a scientific treatise but as a highly stylised literary statement (deliberately framed in three pairs, the fourth `day’ corresponding to the first, the fifth to the second, and the sixth to the third). Moreover the geological evidence for a gradual development over thousands of millions of years seems conclusive.”
John Stott, Understanding the Bible , 1984 (2 nd edition). Quote is from page 47.
“ One way of jolting discussion about science and theology out of the fervent, but also intellectually barren, standoffs recent decades is to note one of the best-kept secrets in American intellectual history. B. B. Warfield, the ablest modern defender of the theologically conservative doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible, was also an evolutionist.”
Mark Noll and David Livingstone (eds.), B. B. Warfield: Evolution, Science, and Scripture: Selected Writings , 2000, page 14.
“ Warfield's formulation of biblical inerrancy, in fact, has been a theological mainstay for recent “creationist” convictions about the origin of the earth and its species. Yet Warfield was also a cautious, discriminating, but entirely candid proponent of the possibility that evolution might offer the best way to understand the natural history of the earth and of humankind.”
Mark Noll and David Livingstone (eds.), B. B. Warfield: Evolution, Science, and Scripture: Selected Writings , 2000, page 15.
“ In research for this book I discovered that there are two traditions in Bible and Science both stemming from the developments of the nineteenth century. There is the ignoble tradition which has taken a most unwholesome attitude tpward science, and has used arguments not in the better traditions of established scholarship. There has been and is a noble tradition in Bible and science, and this is the tradition of the great and learned evangelical Christians who have been patient, genuine, and kind and who have taken great care to learn the facts of science and Scripture. . . .”
Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture , 1955, page 8.
“ Unfortunately the noble tradition which was in ascendancy during the closing years of the nineteenth century has not been the major tradition in evangelicalism in the twentieth century. A narrow bibliolatry, the product not of faith but of fear, buried the noble tradition. The sad result has been that . . . science has repudiated the ignoble tradition. . . . It is our wish to call evangelicalism back to the noble tradition . . .”
Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture , 1955, page 9.
“ Indeed, speaking for myself, I cannot see that at least some forms of the theory of evolution contradict or are contradicted by the Genesis account of creation. It is most unfortunate that some who debate this issue begin by assuming that the words “creation” and “evolution” are mutually exclusive. If everything has come into existence through evolution, they say, then biblical creation has been disproved, whereas if God created all things, then evolution must be false. It is, rather, this naive alternative which is false.”
John Stott, Understanding the Bible , 1984, page 48.
From Hanbury Brown, The Wisdom of Science , page 159.
The phrase “after his/their kind” occurs 10 times in Genesis 1. This phrase translates a single Hebrew word, which occurs in the same grammatical form throughout the Hebrew scriptures: an attached (“inseparable” is the technical term) preposition, the word “min” (pronounced “mean”), and a suffix indicating gender. It occurs elsewhere 21 times, in Genesis 6 and 7 (animals taken onto the ark), Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 (dietary rules), and Ezekiel 47 (once here: fish in a river).
Contrary to the text of Genesis 1, creationists claim that this means animals reproduce after their kind.
Most modern translations render the word by a phrase like “different kinds of . . .” Even the conservative Living Bible follows this, as does the New International Version in Genesis 6, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. However the NIV retains “according to their kinds” in Genesis 1, doubtless for theological reasons. Why the NIV uses this phrase in Genesis 7 but not in Genesis 6 must remain a mystery.
Since reproduction is far from the context, except (possibly) for plants in Genesis 1, there is no reason, other than theological bias, for the claim.
“ In the above discussion we have defined a basic kind as including all those variants which have been derived from a single stock. . . . Among the vertebrates, the fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are obviously different basic kinds. . . .”
“ In the above discussion we have defined a basic kind as including all those variants which have been derived from a single stock. . . . Among the vertebrates, the fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are obviously different basic kinds. . . . Within the mammalian class, duckbilled platypuses, opposums, bats, hedgehogs, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, lemurs, monkeys, apes, and men are easily assignable to different basic kinds. . . .”
“ In the above discussion we have defined a basic kind as including all those variants which have been derived from a single stock. . . . Among the vertebrates, the fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are obviously different basic kinds. . . . Within the mammalian class, duckbilled platypuses, opposums, bats, hedgehogs, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, lemurs, monkeys, apes, and men are easily assignable to different basic kinds. Among the apes, the gibbons, orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas would each be included in a different basic kind.”
Duane Gish, Evolution: The Fossils Say No! , 1973 (2 nd edition), page 20.
What Is Darwinism? AD 1874 “ We have thus arrived at the answer to our question, What is Darwinism? It is Atheism. This does not mean, as before said, that Mr. Darwin himself and all who adopt his views are atheists; but it means that his theory is atheistic, that the exclusion of design from nature is, as Dr. Gray says, tantamount to atheism.” Charles Hodge (1797-1878), What Is Darwinism? , 1874. (cited from 1994 reprint.)
What Is Darwinism? AD 1998 “ Another way to state the proposition is to say that Darwinism is the answer to a specific question that grows out of philosophical naturalism. To return to the game of Jeopardy with which we started, let us say that Darwinism is the answer. What, then, is the question? The question is: How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?” Phillip Johnson, What Is Darwinism?, chapter 2 in Objections Sustained: Subversive Essays on Evolution, Law & Culture , 1998, page 33.
“ Although Darwin answered this argument directly in The Origin , it persists so often in modern forms that in 1986 Richard Dawkins, a prominent evolutionary biologist from Oxford University, devoted a whole book to answering it yet again. . . he called his book The Blind Watchmaker . . . As Dawkins explained, following Darwin's lead, the different parts of any complex system, including an echolocation apparatus, evolve together in a series of working stages.”
Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin's God , 1999, page 137. (Emphasis as in the original).
When it comes to supporting science against any of the varieties of creationism, atheists and religious people find themselves on common ground.
“ The point is well put by Kenneth Miller of Brown University, for my money the most persuasive nemesis of `intelligent design', not least because he is a devout Christian. I frequently recommend Miller's book, Finding Darwin's God , to religious people who write to me having been bamboozled by Behe.”
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion , 2006, p. 131.
God “ But, as far as I can tell from my own observations, most physicists today are not sufficiently interested in religion even to qualify as practising atheists.” Steven Weinberg, page 205 in chapter 11, “What About God?”, in Dreams of a Final Theory, 1993.
“ The distinctive characteristic of contemporary creationists is that they interpret the religious literature of the Bible as though it were modern scientific literature in order to reinforce their religious beliefs. By insisting on the scientific accuracy of Genesis, even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, they hope to call upon the prestige of science to support their beliefs. Thus, ironically, it seems that these religious people try to build a foundation for their lives on scientific proof rather than on religious faith .” (emphasis added)
Paul Hollenbach, Creation Belief in the Bible and Religions, chapter 10 in David B. Wilson (ed.) Did the Devil make Darwin Do It? Modern Perspectives on the Creation-Evolution Controversy , 1983. Page 146.
And so we say farewell . . . From Bob Thaves: Are We There Yet? A Frank and Ernest History of the World , 1988.