Mark Swint

Science and Religion

In Bible, Genesis, Geology, Isaac Newton, Moses, Plate Techtonics, science, Science and Religion, technology on September 18, 2008 at 2:05 am

           

By

Mark Swint

author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

I am intrigued by the element of human nature that makes us prone to the idea that most issues are ” either – or” propositions. We seem all too willing to accept the notion that there are only two sides to everything. Often, two sides are just the extremes of any position and a third “middle ground” may exist. I guess you could say there could be three (or more) sides to everything.

I take for example the argument, nay, the battle, between Science and Religion. The basic assumption is that one either accepts science and the scientific method, OR religion, and the almost mythological accounts it posits, ut not both, for the existence and purpose of everything. In this I think we err.

First, those most arrogantly supportive of the cleverness of men over anything thing else greater than ourselves, make very erroneous assumptions about the claims of ‘religion’ on the subjects of creation and existence. I put the word religion in brackets because to categorize religion as one single entity is wrong. There are myriad viewpoints that support a religious world view, just as there are myriad viewpoints about different aspects of science.

“But wait!” you say. Science is pure, refined and perfectly unified in its theory. Not so my good friends, not so. I point you to the tale of Sir Issac Newton, arguably one of the most brilliant men in history. When he presented his ideas about motion and introduced the concepts of ‘Newtonian Physics’ to the Royal Academy he was nearly run out of England. He incurred such wrath that the august scientist Robert Hook – himself a brilliant researcher ‘ swore in his indignation that he would destroy Isaac Newton. All this because Isaac dared to contradict the 2000 year old assumptions of Aristotle. Newton was so distressed by his rebuff that he retreated to his country home and hid out for several years. Today we have researchers at great odds with one another over the truth or error of String Theory. And in case you have missed it in the mainstream media, the whole “Global warming is human caused” thing is very far from being universally accepted by scientists. If you think I am stretching the truth hear just Google “Solar Flux” and learn how Mars has been warming concurrently with Earth. (I wonder how we did that?)

The point is, “Religion” and Religious theory” cannot be categorized into one single viewpoint. The fact that certain vocal fundamentalists decide to interpret one element of creation in the most literal sense i.e. that God create the world in 6 days , does not mean that every good Christian, Muslim or Jew must believe the same thing or lose the faith.

I point to the creation story as found in Genesis as an example. Scientists (rightly, I think) laugh at the notion that the Earth was created in just 6 Solar periods or just 144 hours. But I ask, is this really what the Bible says? Oh yes, the word ‘day’ is used but does that mean 24 hours. The term ‘day’ is used throughout the Bible in various ways. In fact, in the story of Adam and Eve the Lord says ‘In the day that ye eat thereof you shall surely die!” Yet we read that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and, rather than die that very day, as the literalist would insist, they were expelled from the garden and thrust into the dark and dreary world. In this case the word day was used to mean ‘event that’ or ‘once this is done’. Actually, it is consistent that once they ate of the forbidden fruit, their lives changed and they were expelled from the Garden. According to the account, they changed from immortal to mortal and they did eventually die. So it could correctly be said that on the day they ate of the fruit circumstances were changed and it became sure that they would eventually die.

When we say that the earth was made in 6 days we can all think back to the countless times when our parents and grandparents  related to us accounts of their youth and said “in my day” or as Archie and Edith Bunker said in the opening song of the T.V. series ‘All in the Family’ “Those were the days.” Using the word Day to refer to a creative period in the Bible is the same as the use of the term Age to refer to an anthropological period such as the Bronze Age, the Stone Age, the Neolithic Age. We must remember that Moses, the writer of Genesis was not a scientist, He was a goat herder. He claims to have seem a vision of the creation of the world and he was then left with the task of describing what he saw in words he had at his command.

I believe Science and Religion can peacefully co-exist. They may disagree on the fine points but the idea that you must choose between science or religion to live your life is just silly. Let me show you how easy this can really be. PLATE TECTONICS is the accepted theory of land mass formation and the creation of Seas and Continents. It states (simply) that chunks of the Earth’s Crust float on the mantle and move about. As one chunk crashes into another one is driven downward and the other is lifted up and over, this creates high places and low places. Any GEOLOGY 101 class will teach you that at the beginning the surface of the Earth was smooth and featureless. They go on by saying that as the plates began to move, the water, which covered the Earth completely and evenly, began to gather to the deep spots leaving dry earth to appear, slowly at first, and then as islands and continents.

Now let’s look at Genesis and the words of a simple goat herder trying to describe what he saw in a vision.

Genesis 1:2 And the Earth was  without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Water?) And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

So far there is no disagreement with Tectonic theory.

Genesis 1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

Again, no disagreement! If we allow that Moses did not know the term Plate Tectonics (A Greek term) and simply used words at his disposal to describe a process that he did not understand we can then say that the Bible and Geological Science have common ground. It should be pointed out here that Tectonic theory did not come about until 1965, thus it can be rightly argued that the Bible had it right well before Science figured it out. What the scientists did was give process and explanation to an account that was just a simple observation.

My point is, where there are two diametrically opposed positions at work there can be, and usually is, a third position that might include both.

It is my firm belief that I and many other scientifically minded people can  hold to a religious belief while using science to explain the things  that are observed and recorded in books of scripture.

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  1. Many of the Religion v. Science debates in which visionaries who had to challenge the mainstream ideas of a scientific establishment miss the fact that truly objective science rooted in rigorous experiments and peer reviews was born very recently, in the 1940s and 1950s. In times of Bruno, Newton and Galileo, many of the so-called Men of Science where anything but. They were monks and religious scholars who’s interests expanded to naturalism and experiments. Until the last century, science was very much enmeshed with religion.

    Though, technically, if God itself could be observed, it would become a natural phenomena. Anything that exists anywhere and has a manifestation of some form is a natural phenomenon.

  2. I agree with your observtion that science and religion were indeed enmeshed throughout the middle ages. That, in fact, was the root of the conflict that exists today. During the middle ages scientists and natural philosophers (the term for what we now call scientists before the word scientist was originated) were bound by the dogma of the prevailing religion. However, well before that, in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Phonecia, great scientific truths were being uncovered. Understanding of the universe, or at least of our Solar System and the planets was quite well developed. So too mathematics and medicine.

    The conflict came about quite innocently when Emperor Constantine convened the Council at Nicea to establish the Catholic Doctrine. I am not bashing the Catholic Church, you understand, I just mean to estanblish that one of the requirements for the asembled bishops and church leaders at Nicea was to get together and firmly establish one unified doctrine about everything. The trouble began when, after making some sincere but very wrong assumptions about almost everything ‘scientific’ those formers of the doctrine decided to add two very unfortunate codiciles. First they declared that the doctrine was INFALLIBLE meaning it couldn’t be wrong. Then they declared that ANYONE who disagreed with the established doctrine would be considered a HERETIC and an enemy of the church. These two declarations stopped all legitimate scientific observation for almost a thousand years.

    Unfortunately, this sad fact created the natural animosity between the church and the scientific community that continues to this day – although – today there is no need for it because we are free to think, explore, investigate and postulate, free from ecclesiastical oversight.

    However, the point should be made, and this was the point of my first post, that just because some well meaning but uneducated men made some wrong assumptions about the natural world does not mean that ALL religious thought must automatically contridict ALL scientific investigation.

    If some higher power, some Intelligent designer, had a pro-active hand in the formation of this or any other world, it stands that some process would have been involved and that process must have necessarily left some clues to its nature. I believe Sceince i.e. Geology, Chemistry, Astronomy and Physics are the studies dedicated to uncovering those clues.

  3. No, certainly an assumption that just because it’s a religious thought, it’s wrong is foolish and far from scientific in the first place. Scientists investigate everything first to make sure what’s really out there before saying what’s right and what’s wrong.

  4. I appreciate your thoughts. Truth is truth where ever it is found. It can be explained eloquently or very simply but it remains true just the same. If a prophet, mystic, shamen or anyone else karmically, cosmically or in any other way connected with the Cosmos makes a discovery about the world or the way it works, that should count as good, if for no other reason than to be a good jumping off point for the serious researchers to explore and give us the details thereof. But, whether we just know the what (the Exoteric) or also know the how and why behind the what (The esoteric) truth remains truth and reality remains reality.

    People knew that flight was possible long before scientists explained aerodynamics. We knew that electricity could kill long before Franklin and Feraday told us why. We should not reject valid thoughts out of hand just because they emanate from non-scientific sources. Let the truth sit out there and then let the scientist have at it and explain to us why it is so.

    I think it can work very well for a prophet or visionary to tell us what exists and then let the scientists tell us why the what works. Seems like the perfect symbiosis to me.

  5. Mark, I love your blog and appreciate your depth of thought. I find it so interesting that people don’t stop to think about HOW God created the world…did He not use science? Did He not create the science that we know and use? Anyway, I look forward to reading your posts and will keep an eye on things. I checked out http://www.silentscribes.com and hope to one day be listed on it. I don’t seem to have the gift of writing that you have, but will fumble my way through. Mom gave me a copy of your script and I am planning to start reading it tonight. I will give you my feedback and appreciate you sharing it with me. I never realized that it was possible to have a time zone that doesn’t parallel traditional time zones. Now I know! I hope you and your family are well. Thanks for keeping in touch and know that I love you and all of your posterity…

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