Mark Swint

Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Prophecy and Science Fiction

In Albert Einstein, Bible, current events, Genesis, prophecy, Relativity, science, Science and Religion, science fiction on August 12, 2014 at 9:01 pm

By

Mark Swint

Author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

Oculus book cover

 

I have always enjoyed ferreting out and discovering the connections between seemingly unconnected subjects – Science and Religion being two of those – hence the existence of this blog. In this I am not alone. The scientific community has spent years and untold millions of research dollars trying to find a solution to the conundrum that is the apparent incompatibility between General Relativity and Quantum Physics. Both are experimentally provable yet according to the best minds in the fields they are apparently mutually exclusive of each other. The attempt to reconcile the two is what gave rise to String theory which has given rise to M theory which still has bugs to be worked out. It is the immutable faith of theoretical physicists that there must be a common theory to satisfy and unify the two disciplines that moves this research forward.

I have found it challenging but ultimately rewarding to see if there were any common ground to be found between contemporary scientific thought and the body of scripture contained in the Bible, the Koran and other scriptural writings as they are brought forth. On a much less clear but perhaps more interesting subject I would invite you to consider – on this occasion  – any possible connection between Prophecy and Science fiction. I know this sounds like a stretch but upon further examination I think you will find that the two are much more closely aligned than is first apparent.

It is a fact that through the more recent centuries up through the 19th century the Bible was often the first and primary source of written word available to most common folks. The Koran and the Torah could also be included in this generalization for people of those faiths. The simple fact is that most people of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries had few, if any, books. However, almost everybody had a family bible and it was to these pages that mothers and fathers turned to teach their children to read – or to practice the reading they were learning in schools. Between the Bible and Shakespeare (for the more erudite) our lexicon grew with rich abundance in sayings, expressions and colloquialisms (Jumping Jehoshaphat, Heaven help us, holy Moses, Saints be praised, to name a few of the Biblically inspired ones). Similarly, Tales of the Apocalypse and the four horsemen, the seven seals of heaven and the specter of Armageddon etched indelible images in our brains such that early Sci/Fi writers drew upon these common threats for inspiration. Of course the scriptures weren’t the only source of inspiration. The rapid advancement of scientific understanding after the renaissance also contributed. Mary Shelly, a young poet, was enraptured by the speculation and after dinner conversations of her husband and others about the most recent discoveries of Luigi Galvani and his experiments with electricity on frog legs and the potential this held for re-vivification of dead bodies. She went straight away to work and gave us the enduring classic tales of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.

Armageddon and the apocalypse have inspired countless tales of life in the future. Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” tells the tale of a headless horseman who terrorized poor hapless Ichabod Craine. In the current TV hit “Sleepy Hollow” the direct connection is made of this horseman and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. So, it is with this in mind that I would like to take a few minutes of your time and discuss this subject in more detail.

Prophecy and science fiction are not that far apart from the get go. Both are forward looking – that is, both have a way of turning from future to current conditions. Science fiction becomes rather quickly science fact and prophecy is fulfilled to become part of the historical record. Just for clarification, we are not talking about the monsters and space aliens here (although they could certainly be out there). I wish to look more to the likes of Jules Verne, H.G. Welles, George Orwell and others who most often were simply trying to look forward and predict (sometimes with remarkable accuracy) the future. In more recent times it was a science fiction writer – Arthur C. Clarke who first postulated and wrote about the concept of geo-synchronous orbit, an idea which has most successfully jumped from science fiction to science fact. He also was the author of the wonderful movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Even more recently we all have enjoyed our favorite episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” in all its various iterations both on television and in movies (with more yet to come). It is remarkable how many of the futuristic ideas expressed on those early episodes have already come to pass, one example being CDs, DVDs, and flash drives – all presented years before the internet existed and before personal computers became ubiquitous.

Many years ago I wrote a screen play for MGM which sadly never made it to the screen but which is now a much better novel called “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative” (available on Kindle and Nook). In it I had to tell the tale of a civilization that was separated from our own more than 2300 years ago. Because of their separation they avoided the disaster that we call the ‘Dark Ages” a period of a thousand years in which NO meaningful progress of any sort was made. The people of Zebulon, however, continued to progress at a normal rate thus arriving at the state we are at now many centuries before us. For the screenplay, then called “My Brother’s Keeper” (not very original I know but it was a working title) I had to think up and present a number of futuristic things. Eventually the story was shelved for a number of years and only in the last four or five years revived once again. This time, however, when I revisited the story I found that most of the ‘futuristic’ things I had presented were no longer fiction but rather reality. It was satisfying and gratifying on one level but frustrating on another because I had to now come up with a whole new set of forward looking predictions and technologies.

Interestingly, “OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative” is a science fiction story inspired by biblical prophecy and history. It is predicated on a supposed account of a people presented to us in the Bible as the ‘Lost Ten Tribes” (The old Lorne Greene TV series “Battlestar Galactica” was similarly so inspired). As a kid I was intrigued by the subject of the lost ten tribes and I spent many hours in speculation as to what their current condition might be. As I read other associated prophecies about them and the prophesied destiny of them and their brethren who remained behind I began to develop the story that is contained in the novel today. This was for me a fascinating union of science fiction (which I love) and prophecy which has always captivated me.

I began to think of other prophetic utterances and it soon dawned on me that since prophecy was usually an observation of future events, it might be reasonable to expect that the prophets who uttered them might not have the lexicon to adequately describe them. Hence Ezekiel’s “Wheel within a wheel” (Ezekiel chapter 1  and chapter 10:10) might have been the only way he had to describe whatever it was that he saw (I leave that to your imagination). In much the same way that the Native Americans described the first railroad trains as ‘Iron Horses’ so too many of the things we read in prophecy might not be nearly so “out there” as they first seem.

When thinking about the book of the Revelations of John (known in most other languages as the ‘Apocalypse’ of John) we should grant him significant leeway in his narrative. How else would someone in John’s position describe the sound of a jet engine or the rumble of a locomotive but as the ‘roaring of a lion’? When scriptures say something to the effect that “he shall utter his voice and the whole world shall hear it” we are at first skeptical, knowing that no one can speak so loudly as to be heard all around the world. On the other hand, if the events in the Middle East begin to unfold in any way like the biblical accounts suggest, who would deny that the events will not be covered 24/7 by CNN, BBC, Reuters, Fox, Al Jazeerah and RT to name just a few. Today the technology is all around us to not only stay informed to events around the world but to watch them live as they unfold. Indeed, it is not only possible for someone to speak and have the whole world hear it but it happens day after day, every day.

Consider this prophecy of John as found in the 9th chapter of Revelations, verse 9-10: “…And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle… and they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men…”  Now the imagery might seem fantastical and I can’t say with certainty just exactly what John saw but the first thing I thought of was an Apache or a Cobra helicopter. If you were John and you saw one of these machines in the sky and saw what it could do how would you describe it without using any of the words created today to describe it? Regardless, the imagery he provided certainly conveys the terror and mayhem one of these machines can impose. Verse 14 of the same chapter even mentions the great river Euphrates and then in verse 16 says that the number of soldiers was “…two hundred thousand thousand…”. Now, for the record, the Euphrates is the main river of Iraq and two hundred thousand thousand is two hundred million. That’s much larger than any army so far assembled but the Iraqi Army was touted to be three million strong. We might allow for a little literary license or even some translational errors before we dismiss the account out of hand.

I could go on but I think the point is made that just as science fiction has a way of becoming science fact, so too prophecy has a way of being fulfilled, the difference being only that prophecy, at least the prophecies we are most familiar with, were uttered many more centuries ago than the much more recent prophetic suppositions of H.G.Wells and Jules Verne. Consider that the next time you are tempted to scoff at either. Oh, and check out “OCULUS: the Zebulon Initiative”. You can read an excerpt at mswint.wordpress.com and you can buy your very own copy on Kindle or Nook.

Is Science the Enemy of Religion?

In Bible, creation, current events, Genesis, Geology, God, Moses, news media, Plate Techtonics, science, Science and Religion, technology, Uncategorized on February 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm

By: Mark Swint

author of

Oculus book cover

 

I know I have declared this blog to be dedicated to exploring biblical claims with a scientific eye but I think a brief diversion from that goal is warranted this week.
I was watching a discussion on climate change and global warming issues on FOX News (which I actually DO think is fairly fair and balanced). To my great surprise however, the issue somehow got turned around to a discussion of how religion and climate skeptics went hand in hand and scientists (read, anti religionists) and AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) were similarly connected.
I did not know that the increasingly controversial AGW claims were merely another face of the Science/Religion disconnect. In fact, I do not think they are and I have still to find out how the participants in the aforementioned discussion got to that point.
What really got me though was a statement, issued matter-of-factly, by the moderator who said, without the slightest degree of hesitation, “Of course, science is the enemy of religion”. Those of you who have read my posts can well imagine how I feel about this proposition. To say that I categorically disagree with this position goes without saying but I feel that I must respond a few thoughts and I beg your indulgence and patience. I promise to be short and will try to be interesting.
A calm and dispassionate look at scriptural claims, edicts and prophecies, free from individual dogmas and biases – or from impassioned preachings of sincere and fervent ministers and priests, can be quite revealing.
Specifically, let’s look at Moses, since he alone is responsible for the first five books (or Pentateuch) of the Bible including Genesis, which gives us the most complete biblical account of the creation and early days of the Earth and it’s early inhabitants. Moses, while certainly well educated in Egypt, was nevertheless basically a desert dwelling Bedouin! Oh don’t be confused by the term; Bedouin is a perfectly good description of the desert roaming lifestyle of those who chose to remove themselves from the cities and wander throughout the land herding sheep and goats, living in tents and using camels – regardless of their ethnic or genetic heritage.
Anyway, back to the point. Moses, while certainly well educated, was not well educated in things about which there was no knowledge in those days. No one,(at least from the records we have, had any full accounting of the creation, or at least how or why it was created (We do now have various versions of the ‘book of Enoch’ and a few other ancient manuscripts that have come to light in the last century that do wander into similar territory previously occupied only by Moses). But, we must be careful not to place too much burden of proof on Moses for the things he wrote. You see, Moses NEVER claimed to know or say HOW or WHY the elements of the creation he wrote about came to pass nor did he ever say that the seven creative periods he called days were the only periods of the creation, (in fact in the Haggadah we find that early Jews used over twenty creative periods to recount the creation story). You see, Moses was only an observer; He was a reporter, simply stating facts that were revealed to him or shown to him. The method or means is really immaterial. According to his writings he was shown the creation in a vision and the record he left in Genesis is an account of what he saw. Nowhere in that record does he say how or why the events he recorded came to pass – only that they did occur. He gave us the WHAT (the exoteric) of the creation without giving us the WHY (the esoteric – see my previous post “Exoteric and Esoteric knowledge).
When Moses said that the waters were gathered together and the dry land appeared he apparently had no idea HOW that happened, only that it did. He did not know that 4,000 years later scientists would figure out the theory of Plate Tectonics which would, in fact, tell us how the event that Moses observed came to pass.
This is how science has worked for as long as there have been scientists, and before them, natural philosophers. The world was full of people who made observations of things that incontrovertibly were, but about which nobody could explain. This is how it always has been. The very first inhabitants on this planet saw and realized that birds could fly. This was a truth and nobody denied it. Neither could anybody explain how birds flew, they only knew that they did. It was millennia before people figured out the science of aerodynamics and at last could explain how birds flew. Their discoveries did not change anything about the truth that birds fly but did at last provide the explanation about how they fly so that we could no more wonder about something we knew to be true.
This is and always has been the purpose and place of science in our life. Everything about this earth was, at first, a mystery. Early people watched in awe and horror as normally solid and still mountains suddenly erupted and spewed fire and death with the lava that flowed out of their great gaping maws. Lightning flashed from the sky and started fires and killed people and animals – nobody knew how or why but it surely did! The sun came up each day and set each night. So too the moon, except that it changed through the month being sometimes full, crescent, waxing and waning. It even disappeared for a day or two each month. The stars also traveled across the sky each night and then there were a few that wandered against the otherwise fixed and steady star field. All these things and more caused wonder and fell to the scientists to explain. The function of science is to give us the esoteric knowledge and understanding of the things that we can observe on our own.
Why was I so incensed over the statement that science is the enemy of religion? Because in my world the scriptures exists to tell me, and all of us, what is what. The bible is a collection of statements of things as they are and as they were. It tells me who I am and who created me (or my spirit if you like). But, nowhere in the Bible can I find the declaration that it’s purpose or intent is to tell me how and why these things are. It, in essence, says to me, “look I will tell you what happened and what is what and leave it to you to decide, first, do you need to know how it is so and, second, if you do then leave you free to explore, experiment, seek and search unto you find out how it is so.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that among us believers there are those who adopt a very strict and very narrow interpretation of the things that Moses and others said. This is certainly the privilege of any and all who choose to exercise a degree of faith. But, any reasonable person must admit that two or more very sincere and equally studious scriptorians can disagree and argue interpretations on the same scriptural passages – so why can’t we acknowledge that there can be incorrect theology, just as in disciplined science there are equally rancorous disagreements and debates and scientists can be wrong? Indeed, the very foundation of the scientific method is that one researcher or theoretician issues an hypothesis and then stands back while every other scientist tries to disprove it. Only when the best minds in the scientific discipline have exhausted their best efforts to disprove a theory without success is a theory then deemed valid and true.
Certainly there exists bad theology just as there has always existed incorrect science. I submit that science is only an enemy to bad religion just as correctly interpreted revealed truth is an enemy to bad science. I believe absolutely that good science is the partner of good theology and will, in time, prove to be a good and close friend of the believer.
Of course faith, in both science and religion is the first and most important element in our continuing journey on our quest for understanding and truth but let us not make science or theology mutually exclusive of each other, for if we do we stand to miss out
on the richest parts of both.

A Few Points of Light

In Albert Einstein, astronomy, Bible, constantine, Genesis, Nicean Council, Philosophy, Relativity, Renaissance, science, Science and Religion on August 28, 2009 at 9:29 pm

By

Mark Swint

author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

Oculus book cover

Isn’t it funny how the smallest things can sometimes lead to the biggest  discoveries?

Take, for example, stars, or more specifically, starlight. For the common human experience stars are little more than twinkling points of light in an otherwise black sky. They are separated from us not only by unimaginably vast distances – distances so great that even the explanation of how far away they are fails to properly acquaint us with the true scale – but also by time. It’s true! Oddly, all of the points of light we see in the night sky represent completely different times of earthly existence. For example, when we look upon stars like Belletrix, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Vega, Antares or the Andromeda Galaxy, we actually see them as they were, not as they are. For example, we see Sirius as it was 8.6 years ago, Belletrix as it was 243 years ago, and Betelgeuse as it was 427 years ago. Antares shines light upon us that started its journey in 1402! Remarkably, if you can find the Andromeda Galaxy south of Cassiopeia you can look at light that left that galaxy 2 million years ago. More remarkable still, the Hubble telescope has taken photographs of galaxies whose light began its journey 13.5 BILLION years ago! Looking at a night sky that isn’t even representative of “real time” makes it even more amazing that these tiny points of light could have ever had any real, tangible effect on us and on our lives. Yet they say that truth is stranger than fiction and in the case of starlight they are right.

Early humans first perceived the regular east to west motion of the Sun and established the day as the first real measure of time. Each sunrise (or sunset depending on tribal preference) marked the beginning of a new day. The Moon crossed the night sky as a counterpoint to the Sun but it also did something very different as well. It not only moved east to west like the Sun but on each succeeding night it moved a little bit more to the east through the background of the star field. It also had phases , changing from full to waning gibbous and waning crescent to no moon at all, and then to waxing crescent and waxing gibbous until once again shining in the night sky as a full moon. This complete cycle took about 28 days and that repetitive cycle became the next demarcation of time, a lunar month. Closer examination of the Sun’s motion revealed that it too moved against the backdrop of the star field although at a much slower rate. It turned out that as the Sun moved against the background stars it also rose at a slightly different point on the horizon each day. In the summer the Sun rose well north of east ( for those in the Equatorial Band) and it slowly moved southward until the dead of winter when it rose well south of east. This north/south cycling repeated over and over and people noticed that the seasons followed suit. This period became a year and it lasted about 365 days. Early observers marked the northernmost and southernmost points of sunrise and these became the solstices. They also noticed that midway through the Sun’s trek from north to south and back again the daytime and the night time were of equal length so these points came to be known as the equinoxes. The four seasons were tied to these four points so we now have Spring commence on the Vernal equinox, Summer begins with the summer solstice, Fall starts at the autumnal equinox and Winter starts when the Sun hits the lowest point on the horizon, the winter solstice. In the early days of the Roman Empire (and in many other cultures as well) the New Year was celebrated at the beginning of spring. Have you ever wondered why September, October, November and December have names that begin with the prefixes for 7, 8, 9 and 10 even though the months are the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th months? The vernal equinox came on the 15th of March on the Julian calendar so our 3rd month was the early Roman 1st month (although when Julius Caesar established his calendar he made January the first month, breaking with old tradition).

Once it was observed that the Sun moved against the star field it was decided to divide the star field along the ecliptic (the path followed by the Sun and Moon) into twelve portions. The constellations in those sections made up the Zodiac. When a person was said to be born under Pisces it meant that he or she was born during the time that the Sun was in the Star field in front of Pisces. Each of the signs of the Zodiac represented the time when the Sun was in that particular portion of the ecliptic. The men who studied this stuff were called astrologers and they held a very important place in society. As most all societies were agrarian it was crucially important to know when to plant and when to harvest. Tomato and melon growers, for example, dared not plant until the last frost of the year had fallen or else they would lose their whole crop. Likewise, harvesting had to be done before it got too cold. Astrologers were the people assigned to read the stars and make those determinations. The very survival of whole societies depended upon their accuracy.

Reading the stars took on a mystical aura and soon people began to ascribe all sorts of things to them. It was believed by many that the stars a person was born under were determinative of the course for that person’s life. So strongly held was this belief that the saying “you can’t change a person’s stars” was born along with the rather fatalistic determinism that followed. Many of us might remember a grandparent who would say “my stars’ as an exclamatory statement. It was also believed that stars controlled health and sickness and as pandemics swept Europe during the Middle Ages it was believed that sick people were under the ‘influence’ of the stars. The Italian word for influence is ‘influenza’ and we still use that word today, or its foreshortened term ‘Flu’.

What does this have to do with science and religion you may ask? Well, everything, as a matter of fact. You see, the early astrologers were often the theologians as well, or at least in the employ of the head cleric. This was appropriate as who better than men of God to study the heavens? However, things began to happen in the third and fourth centuries that would change the course of humankind forever, just not right away.

The emperor Constantine, the last Caesar of the Roman Empire fought tirelessly to quell the rising interest in Christianity until he finally concluded that it would be easier to adopt it as the official religion and transform the ‘Roman Empire’ into the ‘Holy Roman Empire’. In 325 A.D. he called all the clerics from around the Mediterranean to a conclave in Nicaea, a city in Turkey. There they were instructed to hash out their doctrinal differences and come out of the council with one unified, universal (or ‘Catholic’) doctrine. They were to make determinations and set doctrine on almost everything they could think of, including the heavens and the Sun, Moon and stars. They made decisions on whether there was empty space and just exactly what the Sun was. They decided that the stars were fixed in a shell that rotated around the earth. The Sun had its own shell as did the moon. They decided that the earth was the center of a geocentric universe and all things in the heavens revolved around our little planet. Now, this would have been OK if the council had issued a proclamation saying something to the effect that these new doctrines represented the best of their understanding to that point and that as further light and knowledge appeared doctrines would be reviewed and amended as appropriate. Instead, they declared the doctrines of the Nicaean Council to be ‘infallible’. Furthermore, they declared that anyone who disagreed with the doctrines would be guilty of ‘Heresy’, a sin punishable by death! Well, this worked OK for a little while but even from the beginning there were problems that unsettled the hearts of people of learning. Among the biggest of those problems were the stars the Greeks called the wandering stars or “Planetas”.

No one was really quite sure what the planets were. What was sure however was that the planets didn’t seem to follow any of the rules that all the other heavenly bodies followed. For example, the rest of the stars all moved in unison across the sky. Likewise the Sun and the Moon had their own predictable patterns. But the planets were a different story altogether. An individual planet like Mars, for instance, would move west to east for a while against the backdrop of the stars. It might then suddenly stop. Once it started moving again it might resume its eastward trek or it might just as easily begin moving east to west! It would follow this path for a time and then suddenly resume eastward movement. It might then disappear completely only to reappear some months later on the other side of the night sky! Jupiter and Saturn would likewise ‘wander’ around the sky although much more slowly while Venus verily zipped back and forth across the face of the Sun. All this was most confusing and no acceptable model could be made to explain it according to Catholic doctrine. It remained for many centuries a mystery.

Now let’s jump ahead 1100 years to Firenze, Toscana, or as we know it, Florence, in the Provence of Tuscany in Italy. It is the 1400s and a very powerful Florentine family known as the Medicis rule Tuscany. The Medicis were a banking family who, through intrigue and hard work, had become the bankers to the Vatican. This yielded them wealth and power beyond imagination. But the Medicis were an amazing family as well for they determined to spend some of their wealth serving as patrons for many of the brightest minds they could find. They patronized artists and architects, philosophers and poets. Among their more famous and productive patronages were people like Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Another of their men was a brilliant mathematician whom they hired to tutor (ultimately) multiple generations of Medici children. His name was Galileo Galilei.

Galileo was a man of wide a varied interest with an intellect sufficient to accommodate them all. His discoveries and inventions were numerous and his work lives on today. On the British two pound coin is inscribed around the edge “standing upon the shoulders of giants”. It is Sir Isaac Newton’s homage to Galileo and refers to his answer to the question “How have you managed to see so much farther than other men?” to which Newton replied “If I have seen farther than others it is only because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants!” referring particularly to Galileo.

Galileo is perhaps best known for two things, dropping two rocks of dissimilar size from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (his birthplace) and the invention of the telescope. It is this last item which brings us back to our tiny points of light that changed the world.

The telescope was a remarkable invention. It had the previously undreamt of ability to bring distant objects into full view. It could even reveal things unable to be made out with the naked eye. Galileo probably first used the new device to check out the sights of the surrounding Florentine environs. After scoping out the hot Italian ladies in the neighboring buildings (come on, you know he did!) he then turned his sights on even more heavenly bodies – the moon and the stars. The brightest star in the night sky was Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. (Though Jupiter is today referred to as a planet, in Galileo’s day planets were considered mysterious ‘oddly acting stars’). As he trained his telescope on Jupiter Galileo made a surprising discovery that forever changed the relationship between scientists and theologians and, more generally, between science and religion. He saw four tiny specks of light next to the giant planet. That’s all, just four tiny points of light. After a few weeks of observation and careful note taking it became obvious that the four little lights were in fact moons of Jupiter! And that, my friends, was earth shaking! That four previously unviewed sparkling points of light could change the world seems oddly disproportionate to their apparent significance but, like it or not, the world would never again be the same.

The Galilean moons, as the newly discovered objects came to be known, weren’t supposed to be there. They weren’t supposed to exist at all. The doctrine established by the Nicaean council had declared that all objects in the sky revolved around the earth and nothing else, yet here were four objects clearly and indisputably revolving – orbiting – another object in the sky! The implications were enormous and the entire geocentric (earth centered) theory of stellar mechanics – already hanging by a thread – was brought to the brink. Copernicus had already advocated an Heliocentric ‘Solar system’ in which the planets, including Earth, orbited the Sun. Galileo subscribed to this thinking and the discovery of the Galilean moons only reinforced that belief. In 1615 he was denounced for his beliefs before the Roman Inquisition. Though he was cleared of offenses at this time his ideas, published in 1632 in a supposedly fictional conversation called “Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” brought him back before the inquisition where he was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”. He could have been sentenced to death but by recanting his support for the heliocentric theory and through the intercession of the Medicis he was merely sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

The damage to the already uneasy relationship between the thinkers and the Church had been done and the rift was only to grow wider from this point on. Galileo’s moons were obviously real and easily seen by anyone who cared to gaze through the telescope. That the church would doggedly maintain a doctrinal disagreement with readily observable fact only heightened the suspicion held by some that the church was not, in fact, the sole and absolute repository for truth. This, coupled with the persecution of the Inquisition against any who dared think along lines other than those expressed by the church, created a cabal of intellectuals who began to rely on their own cleverness and discovery rather than the proclamations of the church. More damaging still to the church was the growing willingness of others to question other aspects of theological edict and doctrine. The coming forth of Guttenberg’s printing press and the accompanying availability of the written word to the huddled masses empowered people to begin their own self directed searches for truths and answers. Ultimately, growing discontent with the official church doctrines led to the Protestant Reformation.

The die had been cast and the grip of the Holy Roman Empire was quickly losing purchase. There was change in the air and a sense of empowerment that the people had never before known. People began to explore and question all aspects of their lives and the western world began to emerge from the long intellectual sleep we call the ‘Dark Ages’. The Renaissance had begun and the rate of discovery and progress it spawned are unrivaled in the annals of history.

To say that Galileo single handedly started the Renaissance would be incorrect. There had been a restless undercurrent of discontent which inspired men like Galileo to challenge the conventions common to the time. However, Galileo’s invention of the telescope and the ensuing discoveries of moons around another planet were the first tangible, ‘hard’ evidence that, as Shakespeare wrote, ‘There are more things under heaven, Horatio, than are dreamt of in man’s imagination.”

It’s hard to imagine that a few points of light could change the world – but it’s true.

Exoteric and Esoteric Knowledge

In Bible, constantine, creation, Genesis, Geology, God, Library at Alexandria, Moses, Nicean Council, Philosophy, Plate Techtonics, Renaissance, science, Science and Religion on January 31, 2009 at 4:01 pm

By

Mark Swint

author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

Oculus book cover

Knowledge comes in several flavors. The most basic and common knowledge is ‘exoteric’ knowledge; that is, the basic facts of the matter. Exoteric knowledge was made famous with Jack Webb’s famous tag line “Just the facts Ma’am” from the 60s TV show “Dragnet”.

We often operate with ‘just the facts’. We know the ‘what’ of the matter without necessarily knowing the ‘how’ or the ‘why’. This is the basis of how the military works, where people receive orders and execute them without knowing the bigger picture or the reason for the execution of the orders. But the same thing happens in business as well. In fact, in much of our daily lives we receive and react to information without ever knowing why or how it was generated or to what purpose it aspires. We simply follow orders. Societies and civilizations enjoy stability and longevity, without progress or growth, just fine when the populace is happy to follow orders without questioning or challenging the purpose or motivation behind them.

Esoteric knowledge, on the other hand, leads to revolution, growth, progress and expansion. Esoteric knowledge is the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. It was and is this quest for understanding why something is so or how something works that has driven curious people and forward thinkers to seek answers beyond the simple facts of any matter. Esoteric thinkers are not happy to just acknowledge that birds can fly; they want to know HOW birds fly. They want to understand the forces that allow wings to develop lift and permit heavier that air objects to soar aloft as lightly as a feather.

For millennia people observed and acknowledged that lightening was a frightening and lethal force to be respected and feared. It took someone like Benjamin Franklin to ask what lightening was and how it did its horrible magic. “Why does lightening kill?” he wondered. “How does it form and how does it make such awful noise?” Because of his curiosity, and with the help of others like JJ Thompson and Michael Rutherford, the world slowly gained an understanding of electricity, what it is, how it works, and why it kills. Because of the work of men and women like these, the world became electrified; it came out of the darkness – literally – and was changed forever.

It is the quest for understanding the esoteric nature of things that moves the world forward. It is the gaining of knowledge that provides us with an ever growing array of devices and machines and services that have enabled us to do incredible and marvelous things – to be sure, we have gained some terrible powers as well – and which has allowed the world to grow and provide sustenance and support for an ever increasing population that would be unsustainable without such technology.

In ancient days the world was awash in exoteric knowledge. People saw the changing phases of the moon. They watched the sun go daily around the earth. They observed the changing seasons, all without understanding the forces at work to bring about such phenomena. People watched with awe as birds soared, seemingly effortlessly, on wind currents. They puzzled as to how fishes could breath underwater. Weather phenomena such as tornadoes, hurricanes, hail and thunderstorms brought fear and amazement and generated countless myths and legends.

Without an esoteric understanding of the things they observed and knew to be fact, people turned to superstition in a futile attempt to give reason for things they could not understand. This led to the establishment of traditions and behaviors that were not always in the best interest of the portion of the population that fell victim to the execution of those superstitions. People were sacrificed to any number of false gods. Others were burned or otherwise killed for being witches or demonically possessed. Wars were waged and battles fought over the preservation of ideas supported by superstition and tradition and much progress was lost that otherwise would have brought the light of understanding to people.

Science, which was originally labeled ‘natural philosophy’ or ‘the love of nature,’ arose when curious men and women were able to set aside some of their superstitions and traditions and listen to the earth and to nature around them. They started with the simplest of matters and studied them, seeking a deeper understanding, seeking the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the object being studied. Slowly people began to see the truth of the things around them. Superstition was replaced with understanding and understanding led to harnessing the truths learned for the eventual benefit of all. As the knowledge of electrons came to light researchers were able to induce current and electric motors were invented. These motors were employed to do the work otherwise done by hand or by horse and harness. This same electric current was captured in a filament and coaxed to produce incandescent light which illuminated the world and opened up the nighttime hours to more productive uses and enjoyment.

The laws of physics were expanded and the study of aerodynamics finally unlocked the secret that the birds had known for so many thousands of years. At last man was able to soar on the winds and travel across vast distances just as the birds had done for so long.

It is important to understand the relationship between exoteric and esoteric knowledge to understand the relationship between good science and good religion. I say ‘good’ because there is an abundance of both good and bad religion and good and bad science.

In generations past, when people believed what the scriptures said, they took the ‘truths found therein and viewed them as exoteric knowledge. The Bible simply said ‘what’ was true and ‘what’ was real. A careful reading of the Bible, however, will show us that the scriptures seldom, if ever, explain how or why something was so. It seems the purpose of scripture was and is merely to tell us what is what and leave it to our faith to accept or reject it. In earlier days this was acceptable because, having been told what was real, we then let our scholars and scientists explain for us how those things could be. In other words, the Bible was a legitimate source of exoteric knowledge.

For example, Moses said that in the beginning the earth was featureless and covered with water. He did not offer any explanation for how this was so or why this was so, he merely said that is was thus. He also said that after a time, the waters were gathered together and the dry land appeared. Again, he did not explain the mechanism that made this true. He simply stated it as fact – observed fact that he had seen in a vision. Moses’ history would indicate little to suggest that he had the technical or scientific training to understand the processes at work. But, as a simple and humble man, he claimed that he was given a vision of the creation of the world and this is what he saw. Imagine for a moment that you sit down in a movie theater and watch a short film by Steven Spielberg on the creation of the world. With his extraordinary vision and special effects teams he makes a movie of wonderful detail showing us exactly how it looked as it was happening. When the movie is over you leave the theater, filled with wonder and amazement at the things you have just seen. You know the creation of the world. The things you have seen are fantastic and astounding. However, you do not know how those things came about or what mechanism drove them to be. You simply know what happened. You are now tasked to relate what you have seen to your grandmother who could not go with you to the theater. You tell her all the wonderful things you have just seen and she stops you with questions like ‘how did that happen?’ You say, Mom, I don’t know but it did! Congratulations, you have just experienced what Moses experienced when he had his vision. He was a goat herder not a scientist. He did not know about Plate Tectonics. No one knew about Plate Tectonics and no one would know until 1965. However, Plate Tectonics is the scientific explanation for the formation of the Earth’s surface features. It in no way contradicts the scriptures and it provides the ‘how and why’ to Moses’ ‘what’ as he related it in Genesis.

 In many other examples science and religion worked hand in hand to decipher the world and our surroundings. This partnership propelled the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Persians and the Babylonians to seek answers to their greatest mysteries, almost all of which were related to their relationship to their Gods and to their world around them. The advances they gave to the world form the foundation of much of the knowledge we enjoy to this day.

The great rift between science and religion began during the dark ages, that period of time in the Western world that started in the fourth century A.D. and ended with the renaissance, beginning in the late fourteenth century. For the Middle East it began around the seventh century A.D. and continued well past the Western renaissance. In each case it was powerful and almost totalitarian religious dominance that brought a screeching halt to progress and understanding.

In the West it began innocently enough and with good intentions. Constantine, last Emperor of the Roman Empire, decided that this emerging Christian movement, which he was unable to stop, would be a good unifying force to hold his increasingly restless empire together. Wisely, he decided that he should convene a council of all the Christian bishops and leader from throughout the empire so that they could come up with a single, unified – Catholic – doctrine under which all would live and be judged. A council was convened in 325 A.D. in Nicaea, now Turkey. At this council doctrines were hammered out for just about everything the leaders could think of. Items included the nature of God and the Trinity, the proper date and observance of Easter, as well as more worldly things such as whether or the not Sun or the Earth was the center of the universe, and just what, exactly, was the sun? What were the planets and the stars and how did the planets move in the night sly against the curtain of immovable stars? Much great work was done and in the process a few errors were made. This would have been OK had there been a provision for revisions to be made as knowledge was gained, however, the council made one fatal error. They included a point of order that stated that the doctrine of the Nicene council was infallible. In other words, it was perfect and could not be wrong in any point. That meant that anyone disagreeing with any point of doctrine in the Nicene doctrine was a heretic, a sin punishable by death.

Well, this worked for a few years though it had a chilling effect on inquiry and research. After all, with the answers so clearly and unbendingly stated in the Nicene doctrines, there was no need to look for any other or contrary answer. Thus, progress was stopped.

In the Middle East it was the establishment of Islam that cooled the scientific enthusiasm of their greatest thinkers, thinkers who had given us astronomy, mathematics (Al Gebra for example) and medicine. Indeed, Islam declared that all of the progress and all of the knowledge brought forth by their forefathers was contained in a period for ever after known as the ‘time before enlightenment’. This is not to say that Islam repudiated the acquired knowledge of their progenitors but rather that the emphasis was taken from academic pursuits and turned towards Allah. By implying that the early thinkers were unenlightened the new law stifled further thought and progress.

The Library of Alexandria was one of the original Wonders of the World. It was the repository of all of the world’s accumulated knowledge and we can only imagine the truths and histories that were contained therein. Its destruction was one of the greatest tragedies of all time. It is a matter of much controversy, with many scholars claiming several different destructive events, including an accidental fire by Caesar’s men in 48B.C. However, one account attributes some of its destruction to the Arab army led by Amr Ibn al’Aus in 642 A.D. Though this is a matter of much dispute, one of the statements attributing the event to him is revealing of the attitude of the times. It is claimed that he said, speaking of the scrolls in the library, “They will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous.” Here we see the same attitude as that held by the Roman church with regard to contradictions with the Nicene Creed. It is claimed that they (al Aus’ army) used the scrolls to fuel the fires that heated their bath water and that there were enough scrolls to fuel the fires for six months.

Whatever the truth, the fact is that serious scientific inquiry was dramatically curtailed during the first millennium after the meridian of time. Suddenly, scientists and the scientific method were viewed warily and esteemed as ungodly. The prevailing attitude was that there was no need for science, and only the worship of God, as ordained by the state, was a worthy venture.

Then, along came Galileo Galilee, son of a musician, and an accomplished lute player in his own right. He lived and worked in Firenze, Tuscany, (You know it as Florence Italy). He was a brilliant and insightful thinker and just the kind of person that the Medici’s, rulers of Tuscany, were looking to patronize. With their support, Galileo was able to pursue his quest for understanding and knowledge.

It was the invention of the telescope that really got things riled up in Galileo’s world. His first endeavor was to turn his new invention to the heavens. He set his sights on the brightest star in the night sky, Jupiter. What he saw changed the world. Besides the spectacle of a clearer view of our largest neighbor in the solar system, Galileo saw four small distinct points of light. He observed them nightly for a month, carefully noting their position in a note book. After a month it became clear that the objects were orbiting the great giant planet. They were moons. To this day Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are still referred to as the Galilean Moons. The problem was that the Nicene doctrine did not allow for anything to orbit any other thing except the Earth. The doctrine had clearly defined the nature of the cosmos, and moons orbiting other planets were not part of the equation. Galileo was a heretic. Nevertheless, he had seen what he had seen and no written doctrine could change that. Through his telescope Galileo saw other wonders equally contradictory and equally damning. The age of conflict between science and religion had finally been fully established and the rift would only grow over the years.

The assumption that the Nicene doctrines accurately reflected the writings of the Bible and the thoughts and intent of God meant that one must either choose to follow religious leaders (And by extension, God) or scientific reason and evidence, but not both. For the first time the scriptures were not viewed as a source of exoteric knowledge. In fact, everything said and claimed in the scriptures was suspect and began to be viewed as fantasy and superstition. People of reason and understanding were suddenly forced to choose between their faith and their understanding. It was an awful choice and many great scientists struggled mightily with the issue.

The sad truth is that one simple change to the great work done by the participants of the Nicene council would have changed the world. Had they simply allowed for a provision to modify and adjust the doctrine as knowledge was gained, they would have formed a partnership with the scientific community that would have allowed for an ever more refined and accurate world view. Obviously, there are many matters that rely on faith alone, but a greater understanding of the true nature of measurable things would have led to the elimination of false and silly superstitions and notions that kept many good people of faith from seeing as far as they might otherwise have.

If God is real – if God is true – then truth in all things will only lead closer to Him and to the truths of the universe that He, through means not fully understood just yet, created. To understand how someone does something does not diminish the accomplishment. So too, to understand just a little bit more of God does not diminish His Godliness. To know that Plate Tectonics may be the method that God used to form the landmasses of the earth does not diminish the accomplishment of that fact. After all, don’t the scriptures tell us that “ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” and, “this is life eternal, to know thee the one true God…”?

To know what God does gives us faith. To know how God does it should only build on that faith. If we could get science and Religion back together again just think of the possibilities. Of course it would take great humility and cooperation on both sides. If we could accept the general nature of things said on the scriptures, with faith, and then turn our own considerable powers of investigation and inquiry to those subjects for understanding, just think what we might learn.

If you think this would destroy faith then I remind you of the promise contained in the scriptures which says, “Ask and ye shall receive, Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you”.

As Agent Mulder says, “The truth is out there.”

Foolish Traditions

In Abraham, Adam and Eve, Albert Einstein, Bible, Genesis, Geology, God, miracles, Moses, Philosophy, Plate Techtonics, Relativity, science, Science and Religion, technology on December 23, 2008 at 10:37 am

By

Mark Swint

author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

I find it interesting that the conflict between scientists and theologians often tends to focus on just the mechanics of the various claims of the Bible and not the greater context of the account. The main emphasis is on the specific claim that ‘God’ made it happen, the implication being that the mere belief in a higher entity is silly and foolish. While the various arguments may rage on about whether the specifics of the claims have merit, a bigger issue goes unexamined. Why do these stories exist in the Bible at all?

Seriously, have you ever stopped to consider how odd, for example, the creation story in the first few chapters of Genesis is? Take for example the story of the actual physical creation of the planet. Remember as you read that Moses, while undoubtedly getting some formal training in Egypt, was basically just a goat herder. His life was consumed with the desert; with sand and scorpions and goats and thistle bushes and rocks. Isn’t it interesting then that he starts his description of the creation of the earth by saying that “in the beginning…the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Now, you can argue all day long about the merits of saying that God created the heavens and the earth but step back for a moment and ask yourself why, if Moses were making this up, or if he were just a deluded old Bedouin, would he start by saying the earth began by being covered with water completely? The old adage, ‘write what you know’ comes to mind. Moses’ life was inextricable tied to sand and desert. The lifeblood of Egypt was the Nile River. Sand, rocks and a river were the sum of his experience, so why not tell a tale about a vast expanse of desert, lifeless and barren, empty and motionless. You could then bring in a great river that sprang forth out of the ground to water and give life to everything. A creation story that began like that would have found much more traction among the people who would hear this story than a story about a featureless ocean with no land whatsoever. It is doubtful that most of the people he led out of Egypt had ever seen an ocean, and the account in Exodus is clear in stating that the children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years. I suspect that had Moses led them to some nice seaside paradise they would have stayed right there – thank you very much – and not ventured one more step onto the burning sands that had been their home for so long. There is no plausible reason for Moses to begin a fable (as many would call it) with an initiatory experience so far out of the common experience of his listeners.

Many Norwegian legends begin and end with the sea because Norwegians lived and died by the sea. A land so inhospitable to vast agriculture relied heavily upon the bounties drawn from the ocean. Fish and fishing were common to all the experiences of those hearty people. So legends of sea monsters, or invaders who came by boat from across the sea were perfectly reasonable myths to propagate.

Similarly, tribal customs from people that lived and died at the foot of volcanoes all incorporated those volcanoes in their lore. To this day it is taboo to take from Hawaii a piece of lava off the island, as the goddess Pelè will put a curse upon the unfortunate thief.

So we get back to Moses. Why did he start his ‘myth’ with an experience completely foreign to the common experience of his people? His story goes on; the land didn’t just appear. Rather, Moses puts in the curious detail that “the waters under heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” How would Moses know, how would he deduce, that in order for land to appear the water would need to recede? I would be willing to bet that if you asked a thousand people to create a creation story of their own, every one of them, if given a water covered world to start with, would have the land spring up out of the water. Not one, in my opinion, would ever think to have the water recede. That is counter-intuitive and foreign to the common experience of most people.

That idea was so counter-intuitive, in fact, that geologists didn’t come up with it for the next 4,000 years! And these were people dedicated to studying the subject! Theories of the creation of the earth abounded for thousands of years but not until 1965 did the theory of Plate Tectonics come forth; a theory, by the way, which completely supports Moses’ brief observation in Genesis 1.

Other elements of the creation story begin to come forth as we look from this different vantage point. Why, for instance, did Moses make the effort to peg the creation of the Earth to six different creative periods? Why not just say something like “God brought forth the river unto the barren land and life sprang forth in all its myriad and abundant glory. Wouldn’t it be logical for everything to spring forth at once? Let’s see; Barren, lifeless desert – water – life filled desert! Water would give life to all and suddenly we would have plants and trees and birds of every kind and animals. This newly formed garden would be the perfect birthplace for mankind to appear.

Speaking of mankind, Adam and Eve didn’t begin in the Garden of Eden! Did you know that? It’s a good bar bet if you’re into that stuff. No, read what it says! “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Then in the next chapter, 12 verses later, we read, “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden: and there he put the man whom he had formed.” What an odd story! Again, it makes no logical sense to go through this elaborate creation myth and then create man in some nondescript place and then put him in the garden. Wouldn’t it have made much more sense to create a beautiful setting for the coming forth of mankind? Isn’t that the stuff myths are made of? The Greek myths all have their gods springing forth from their respective birthplaces in accordance with their natures, i.e. in the kingdoms of the clouds, or the sun, or the sea, or the underworld. How odd then that Moses would decide, if he were the fabricator of the creation myth, that man’s coming forth should be so bland and non-magnificent and only later put him in a garden. Why not create him in the garden? That would have made for a much better story. After all, the very essence of a garden is that it is more abundant of life and more beautiful than the surrounding terrain. Remember, the Bedouin and all desert dwellers lived and died by the Oasis. The Oasis was their only source of water – or life – in an otherwise inhospitable desert.  

In Genesis, the Garden of Eden is representative of the oasis in the desert. The story of Adam and Eve tells of the beauty and the abundance of food in the garden. As Adam and Eve were innocent from the beginning, it is unreasonable to surmise that their occupancy in the garden was a reward for some accomplishment. On the contrary, all indications were that the garden would be their home forever as they tended the animals and got about the task of multiplying and replenishing the earth. It was only after they had transgressed the laws that they were punished and thrust out of the garden and into the ‘dark and dreary world’. They were, in essence, forced to leave the oasis and wander into the desert, not unlike Moses’ own people who left the relative security and abundance of Egypt to wander in the desert for forty years.

Another point or two about biblical stories supports my thesis. In the account of the parting of the Red/Reed Sea, why, if you were chronicling the story of God saving a people, would you not just say “God parted the waters”? Why would you feel compelled to include the detail that the wind blew and imply that that was what parted the waters?

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah can be explained easily enough by supposing that a meteor of some sort might have entered the atmosphere and broken up, raining down fiery pieces that set the whole place ablaze. Isn’t it interesting that that story, which we attach to just the two towns, actually recounts the destruction of four cities, all proximate to one another, and tells us that one city escaped the fire. Zoar was within the area of destruction of the other four cities but somehow escaped destruction. Isn’t it interesting that all four cities destroyed were right next to each other? Aren’t we to suppose that these were the only cities in northern Africa that were wicked? How convenient that they were all next to each other! And why not Zoar? Wouldn’t it have been tainted by the same local traditions and customs. Wouldn’t debauchery and sin have invaded its doors as well? Probably. But just as we see a tornado demolish one house and leave the next one unscathed, so too, a meteor or other object falling from the sky can be just as random. But why did Moses say that Sodom and Gomorrah would have fire rained down upon them? Why not just afflict them with a plague or some other commonly recognized peril of the time? Even for Sodom and Gomorrah fire raining down from heaven was a pretty unique experience.

My point in all this is simply this. We argue about the merits of a tale, whether it is true or fantasy. In so doing we argue about the details without standing back and asking the bigger question – Where did this tale come from? Atheists and intellectuals can bloviate all daylong about how silly the Bible stories are and how foolish people of faith are but they risk ultimately looking foolish themselves one day. Moses and the other Biblical chroniclers were only reporters relating what they had seen in visions and dreams and prophecies. As we argue about the details of what they saw we miss the fact that these tales came about in the first place. We miss the fact that many of these tales have details that were not available to the common experience of man in that era. We should not overlook the fact that these men provided us stories with facts and ascertains that were un-provable or unsupportable for the next three or four thousand years. We fail to ask ourselves “Why would Moses say something like this?” What in his experience would possibly lead to a detail as explicit as some we read when nothing in his life experience would have even given him the notions that would later form some of the accounts we have from his records?

When an ancient Mayan record tells us that time is a variable quantity that marches differently on different spheres we should ask ourselves “how did they know about special relativity – a theory not put forth in our time until 1905? How would they know that the marking of time would vary according to the size and speed of rotation of that planet or celestial body?

Rather than dismiss all of these ancient tales as folly and foolish traditions we should ask ourselves how these details and these stories even came to be. Without some divine input, some infusion of knowledge from a higher source, we are left only to marvel at the creative wisdom of the people we deride.

I, for one, tip my hat to Moses and the other prophets of the Bible. They were either men of God or at very least, men much smarter than I. In either event I would be wise to follow their council.

 

 

Intelligent Evolution

In Bible, Genesis, God, Moses, Philosophy, science, Science and Religion, technology on November 16, 2008 at 9:33 am

By

Mark Swint

author of

Oculus book cover

                 The conflict between science and religion reached its apex during the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. That trial pitted the State of Tennessee against a high school teacher named John Scopes. It accused him of violating the Butler Act, which made it illegal “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.

The case was a sensation and made a household word of the name John Scopes. It pitted two of the greatest legal minds of the time, Williams Jennings Bryan, Congressman and former Secretary of State, for the prosecution, against Clarence Darrow the most prominent defense attorney of the time. The trial inspired a 1955 stage play, “Inherit the Wind” that was quickly followed in 1960 by a movie of the same name starring Spencer Tracy and Fredrick March. Three television movies followed.

The Scopes Monkey Trial put a spark to the conflict that had long been simmering between scientists and theologians. Instantly, evolution erupted into the mainstream dialogue and people everywhere began to openly discuss things which had heretofore been mostly taboo or spoken only in whispers. “Did God make the world or did we come from pond slim?” This became the issue of the day. The Scopes trial broke down the last remaining barrier to the free and open discussion of any scientific evidence which might seem to contradict Biblical teachings. In many ways it was the catalyst that once and for all defined the practical separation of Church and State. Good or bad, things changed after the Scope Monkey Trial.

This issue though, ‘did we come from God or did we come from Monkeys?’ started off on the wrong foot from the beginning. It arose as much from well intentioned but perhaps overzealous theological idealists as it did from a scientific community a bit too anxious to shed the shackles of dogmatic tradition and religious constraint. Scientists had always felt crowded by the oversight exerted by priests and ministers. In many countries still today, one religion is the official religion of the country and as such exercises tremendous control over the curricula taught in the schools. Scientists thought it would be better to explore and investigate in an environment free from external persuasion and influence. “Just let pure science find its way, free from bias and preconception,” was their cry. At least that sounded noble and honest.

In truth science (or religion for that matter) has never operated in a vacuum, free from outside influence or bias. As example, I only have to point right now to the absolute hysteria generated by the pseudo-religious movement of the Global Warming community. It seems that Global Warming is such a cash cow for a community that lives by the credo “Publish or Perish” that ANY voice expressing a cautionary warning to go slow before sticking one’s foot in ones mouth is quickly quashed and banished from the hallowed halls of scientific temples. Many great researchers have lost their positions almost instantly for questioning globaal warming or raising the wrong issues and asking the wrong questions (The list is too long to post here but if you really must challenge this blog I will be happy to provide the research for you). We all know that Al Gore is making a boatload of money from his crusade against Global Warming, not to mention an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize. But how many of us know that 10 of his 11 experts cited in “An inconvenient Truth” have since recanted their opinions? That just doesn’t seem to make the news. By the way, if we called it Global Warming Business then we could say that Al Gore has been fighting G.W.B. Hum? Maybe that’s the real incentive, (Let it go man, you lost).

Anyway, I digress.

Creation! We all know it happened somehow. I mean, the Earth is here and people and other living things are on it. We had to come from somewhere so it is a worthy question –Where did we come from?

The real issue is, does God, if He exists, operate outside of the established rules that govern the Universe, and if so, doesn’t that make him an Anarchist? For some reason (yes, I know what that reason is) scientists think that to believe in God means necessarily abandoning any sense of reason and ignoring the more than obvious evidences that the world puts in front of us. Their assumption is that the very definition of religion is “the abandonment of reality for a more comfortable and accommodating fantasy” (this is nuts on sooo many levels). Many religious people, on the other hand, think that scientists are all Godless infidels who will burn eternally in hell for their blasphemies (again, WRONG).  There are many scientists who have managed to put a personal belief system in place in their lives while still pursuing truth through research and inquiry.

So, what is the problem? Well, it’s this; Zealots say God went ‘Poof” and there they were, Adam and Eve, (or, if you prefer, Adam and Lilith first). Science says, “That just doesn’t make sense nor does it fit the pattern we think we see in everything else!” fair enough.

Let’s take the “God is an anarchist” argument first. In what Bible, or any other book of Scripture, does it say that God ignores rules and laws? Huh?  Anyone?  Anyone? This whole idea sprang from the silly notion that being God means not being bound by anything. The idea that God is all powerful somehow came to be interpreted as meaning that nothing could limit God, ergo; God was not bound by any convention or universal law. The simple fact is that the Bible does not say that anywhere. Oh, it may say that God’s dominion is boundless or His knowledge is boundless or his power is infinite but that is not the same as saying that God does not operate within a system. In fact, just the opposite is true. The scriptures are full of pacts and covenants made between God and Man. The use of pacts and covenants is very telling. You see, a dictator or a King doesn’t need to make a covenant with his people. He simply declares something to be so and it is so. A covenant, on the other hand, is a contract, a two way agreement, legally binding, that obligates both parties concerned. It says that the party of the first part agrees to do something desired by the party of the second part in exchange for a service or action of value provided by the party of the second part on behalf of the party of the first part. It BINDS both parties to an agreed upon goal. If God enters into covenants with people that sure sounds to me like a restriction on Him! Additionally, the scriptures say that God’s house is a house of order. Order and chaos are not mutually compatible. Order denotes structure. Structure denotes bounds and limits. But then, who says structure or limits are ungodly?

 If you are tasked with wiring a house for electricity can you simply go in and staple a bunch of cable to the walls and put in switches? Well, yes you can but we all know that’s not going to work. Why, because the laws of electromagnetism are very precise and very unforgiving. Such simple concepts as the fact that all circuits must have a positive lead and a ground (Negative) are basic but when followed, lead to incredible things like lighting cities or watching cartoon characters on a box that glows and talks in your living room. It is expressly the understanding of, and following of, natural laws that empower us to enjoy the life we enjoy. We travel across oceans in airplanes that fly high over weather, not because they are not bound to the laws of Gravity but because they use the laws of Gravity to create lift and fly (yes, that’s right! Flight requires gravity. A weird concept I know, but it’s true nonetheless).

I posit that it is the existence of, and the knowledge of, laws that give us, and by extension, God, power.  As scientists peel away the obscuring layers of ignorance and uncover the truths of the universe they are constantly moving more and more towards Godlike power. You think I blaspheme? Au contrere! A thousand years ago the only creatures who could fly through the air were birds and Angels (see Revelations). Now we do it for sport and for business. Why? Because we learned the secret of aerodynamics; a set of laws that had always existed but that had always elluded our grasp. A thousand years ago only God could speak and the whole world would hear it  at one time. Recently, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden debated and 70 million people both saw and heard it on little glowing boxes that talk and show pictures right in our homes. I could go on but you get the picture (is that digital or film?).

So, what if theologians accepted the fact that God is God precisely because he works within a structure of natural laws the give him tremendous powers, rather than believing and teaching that he is God because he is not bound (and by implication, doesn’t know any natural laws?).  I know this hurts for the ultra traditionalist but just what is so threatening about it? Really? Isn’t the Bible all about laws and edicts?  Proscriptions against such and such behavior, and the implicit or explicit rewards doled out thereof is the staple of many of the prophetic warnings and urgings recorded therein.        

And you, the scientific community, what is it about order and structure that you don’t like?  If we could get theologians to universally embrace and teach that God is a god of order rather than a god of chaos, and the universe exists within some coherent structure, could we not also get scientists to then go looking for that structure and order?

Interestingly, the issue of intelligent design is at the forefront now. It looks like a clever attempt by religions to do an end run around the anti-creationist sentiment by renaming the cause, but actually, (and here I must admit, in the name of full disclosure, that I received a very well thought out and presented comment to an earlier post disputing me on this) it was a term embraced by astrophysicists (whether they created the term or not is immaterial) looking into the very first instant of the Big Bang. It is a term they were comfortable using because it acknowledged the inescapable conclusions their work was drawing them to, i.e. that there was some initiatory action to the Big Bang, without having to actually say the word ‘God’. That fundamentalists co-opted the word and took up the crusade anew was tragic because the narrow pathway that had opened up between science and religion on this subject was very quickly barricaded once more.

And don’t think for a minute that the scientists don’t have their hands full with problems concerning evolution! Far from being a clean and indisputable fact, there are still many hurdles to cleaning up the theory of evolution. No sane person will dispute what Charles Darwin really found on the Galapagos Islands; that species adapt to their environment. We see that all around us. We see it in skin color, and height, and longevity and visual acuity and so on and so on. Our bodies try to put on layers of insulating fat in cold climates and shed that same protection in warm climates. Adaptation is an amazing and wonderful ability of living creatures. However, there is a huge problem when we make the jump from adaptation to actually crossing Chromosomal boundaries. There is no good evidence – I repeat, there is no good evidence, or explanation for how it could happen – for the ability of an organism to add or subtract Chromosomes in the quest to become another type of creature. The best we can do is say, “it must be so, therefore we shall assume it is so!”  This is O.K. as far as the scientific method goes – it is requisite that we make an assumption and try our best to prove it (actually, the correct method is to try to disprove it) and in fairness I grant to the scientific the time and effort to pursue these efforts. However, I believe there is now a growing sentiment to stick dogmatically to Chromosomal modification come hell or high water. “It must be so” cry the pragmatists, and I don’t totally disagree. After all we do seem to have an awful lot of critters roaming the earth! (Gosh, I hope no one knows about the Cambrian Explosion).

Perhaps there is another theory that would work, if only we weren’t beating the drum so loudly against the Bible, so that we could, instead, seek to find some common ground.  And for those of us who accept that the Bible is authentic, just because we believe that God created the world and the things in it; just what does that mean? HOW did he create it? How did he form the world? When Donald Trump builds a tower does that mean that the man Donald Trump put in every nail and screw? Of course not! Hundreds of people work together to physically erect a concept envisioned and designed by one entity yet that entity gets the credit for ‘building’ the structure.

To say that God created the world does not necessarily mean that he came down with shovel and cement mixer to do it one load at a time. How absurd.

If we could accept a statement such as, “There is a God” or God created the world” and then step back and not jump to the most literal and most restrictive interpretation of that statement, we might find that there is much to be learned, about God, and about us, in the process. If scientists could stop their fight against individual religions who hold, perhaps, simplistic views and accept the premises more generally implied in the scriptures, perhaps they could show us how these things came about. Am I putting reason above faith? Maybe, maybe not.The scriptures exhort us to “seek and ye shall find” “ask and it shall be given.” Are these not invitations to investigate? Moses sought the Lord and asked how the earth came to be. His vision, recorded in Genesis, is merely his simple attempt to express what he saw in words that he understood. Forgive him for not being a Phd. or for not caring HOW it was done. His primary desire was to tell us WHAT was done. It did not matter to him how. Let’s cut him some slack, not parse his words so literally and avoid putting him in the position of someday saying to us, wait a minute, I never said that! You got it all wrong!

Moses, I am anxious to talk to you someday. Until then I think I’ll sit and ponder and trust what you said, and keep an open mind as to how the things you saw and reported actually happened.

Adam, Eve, and Cavemen

In Adam and Eve, Bible, creation, Genesis, Geology, God, Moses, Philosophy, science, Science and Religion on October 11, 2008 at 1:29 pm

By:Mark Swint

author of

Oculus book cover

             

Nothing brings out the howls of derision among scientists like the subject of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the related subject of the age of mankind. This derision is not without foundation as the evidence that some form of human habitation has walked this earth for far more than the traditional 6,000 years or so that theologians claim is pretty strong. This is one area that seems pretty strongly in the scientists corner. Is the Bible wrong? Is the creation story and the account of Adam and Eve pure fantasy? Must people of faith take a bloody nose on this one? Maybe, maybe not. Even here I’ll bet we can find a plausible compromise that, at least, might be true. It could be true. If in fact we believe that there is a common source for all Homo- sapiens, which, by the way, anthropologists are constantly looking for and many believe they have found, then there Must be a story that satisfies both the evidence and the revealed truth.

Several obstacles stand in our way as we explore this story. Chief among them are the arguments that;

1.  Adam and Eve were the first people on the earth.

2. Adam and Eve were immortal before the fall.

3. The Earth is only about 6,000 years ago.

These seem to be daunting obstacles that cannot find common ground with well established scientific theory. Fair enough, I love a good challenge. Let’s start by discussing the firstness of Adam and Eve.

Scientists love to classify things. They classify anything and everything from rocks to butterflies to bacteria to hominids – the general class of primates that includes Monkeys, Apes and Humans. Humans fall into a sub-classification of Homo which includes several extinct species including Kenyanthropus, Paranthropus and Australopithecus.  Homo Neanderthalensis, (or Neanderthals) is considered to be the last ancestor of modern man. Homo-Sapiens (Us) are different from these ancestors; not in the way Africans are different from Asians who are different from Caucasians, but different as in the way Chimpanzees are different from Baboons who are different from Gorillas. To say that Australopithecus is human is incorrect on several levels. To say that Australopithecus is similar to human is correct. But similar is not the same as SAME. To disregard the claim that Adam and Eve (Admittedly just Anglicized names for whatever their real common names were) were the first humans because we have found bones from the Olduvai Gorge in Kenya, Africa that are dated at over a million years old is just not right. You see, none of those bones were from Homosapiens. In fact, anthropologists argued over what class they were from. The Leakeys, discoverers of those great finds, classified them one way and other researchers saw them differently. In no case, however, were they classified as Homosapiens. By the way, Dr. Louis Leakey was also a Christian missionary who believed in the theories of Darwin. He said “Nothing I’ve ever found has contradicted the Bible. It’s people with their finite minds who misread the Bible.”

So what is it that makes a human a human? I’m sure philosophers could debate this issue forever. We’ll forgo that and offer our own hypothesis. I believe that the single most defining trait of humans is that they have an innate sense of right and wrong. They have a conscience. While it is true that some people have pretty effectively erased those traits from their own lives, isn’t it also true that we accuse those same people of being ‘inhuman’? It is this innate sense of right and wrong that is variously called “the Light of Christ” or “the Divine Spark” that also makes us accountable for our ‘sins’ or misdeeds. When animals do something bad we say they are just following their instincts but when people do those same things we accuse them of wrong doing and say “you know better than that!” This accountability allows us to work righteousness and commit sin. This accountability is the only thing that allows us to be Judged of God (or however you view it) and allows us to be classified (I guess we all do it) as good or evil.

Could it be that when the Bible says that Adam and Eve were the first people on Earth what it was really saying is that Adam and Eve were the first Hominids to have a conscience and to be accountable for their actions? In this way, the disobedience that Adam and Eve displayed in the Garden of Eden would truly have been the “original sin”. Interestingly, the Bible says that God directed the creation and organization of all life on earth yet it is only mankind that is referred to as “the children of God” and it is only to humans that God calls himself our “Heavenly Father”. In this broader view could we not say that Adam and Eve are appropriate tags for the first of the species that we belong to, even though precursor species might have paved the way for our development?

The scriptures say that there was no death before the fall of Adam and Eve; that in fact death was introduced by the commission of the original disobedience in the garden. Hum? On the face of it, this just doesn’t make sense. After all, what about the food they, and all the animals, ate? Let’s say they ate fruit, a plum or a peach. Didn’t that fruit have to develop from the blossom of the tree from which it came? Didn’t that blossom have to flower to attract the bees that pollinated it? Isn’t it true that once a flower is pollinated the job of the flower is done and the petals wilt and die and fall away, leaving an ever swelling bud that turns into the fruit. Isn’t the death of a flower a death just the same? What about the fruit itself? If Adam and Eve ate anything didn’t that mean that whatever they ate died when it was plucked or at very least when it was eaten? Well, you get the point. This immortality claim is one that seems hard to accept. However, as we have discussed before (See previous blog “The 900 year old man”) age and aging is a very relative thing and it certainly is possible for a living being to have a much longer lifespan than is commonly thought.

But what is Death? The word is used in many different ways.  When a living organism ceases to live we say it is dead. But we also use that word to signify the end of lots of other things. We all, for instance just witnessed the ‘death of Lehman Brothers’ a Wall St. firm that had lived for 150 years. When two lovers break up we say it was the death of a Romance. A fundamental societal shift can mark the death of an age as in “the death of innocence”. Indeed, the word death can denote many things, most of them bad.

There is one other form of death which all spiritual people fear; that is “Spiritual death”. Let’s say that spiritual death means the separation – or permanent separation if you like – of man from the presence of God. If the scriptures say that eternal life is being with God then eternal death would be the eternal separation from God. It must be something like this because the scriptures say that we can overcome spiritual death and that we can be born again; all words that indicate not an actual physical death or birth but a symbolic or spiritual death or birth. The bible states that the wages of sin is death so it is reasonable to say that we separate ourselves from God and Godliness when we sin – that is, when we disobey a principle that we know is true, something that animals don’t and can’t so.

It is plausible that the biblical account of the creation and of our first parents was referring to this death when it said that prior to the establishment of a life form that resembled and had the spark of God within; there was no death on the earth. The account in Genesis says that Adam and Eve’s death would come about if they disobeyed one of the Father’s edicts; that is, if they broke a rule, which was a sin. Sin separates us from righteousness and the spirit of God so it would have been true for Adam and Eve that in the day they ‘broke the rules’ they would surely die (spiritually die that is). We know that they did not die the very day they sinned (there’s that word die again) because as a punishment they were cast out of the garden into the ‘dark and dreary world’ where they had to toil for their food and shelter. In fact, Adam lived for over 900 years after he left the garden and we have no idea how long he and Eve were in the garden before the fall. Obviously God did not lie so obviously he meant something more esoteric when he said that “in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die!” If God can speak in metaphoric or symbolic terms then why can’t we take a more metaphoric or symbolic interpretation of his words? It is not a far stretch to say that Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of God while they were in the garden. This was tantamount to eternal life. By sinning and being thrust out of the garden, and more importantly, being thrust out of the presence of God they were separated from Him and thus suffered a spiritual death. Again, I am not trying to preach any type of theology here; rather I am trying to see if it is possible to satisfy both Scientists and theologians; or, if there is any common ground from which to start the process of reconciliation.

The third claim (Well, actually it is an inference) of Genesis is best displayed by Matt Damon’s recent ‘call out’ of Sarah Palin over whether she actually believed that the earth was only 6,000 years old. It is true that the genealogies of the Bible indicate that about 6,000 years have elapsed from the days of Adam to the present. This is actually pretty well documented as the Biblical writers all seemed obsessed with genealogies. The truth is that all cultures up until the last hundred years or so have been obsessed with genealogies. Much of the social order was maintained by rights of survivorship and the traditions of the firstborn and so on. In modern times we don’t seem to care much about this anymore but it was an issue of vital importance throughout human history.

If we accept the ideas presented in the discussion of death just a few paragraphs ago we can cover this argument quickly. The Biblical account of the 6 creative periods indicates that the creation of the earth was a process of steps. The Haggadah says that the creation was actually many more steps but I guess it all boils down to how narrowly you define one individual step. The point is, the creation, even by biblical accounts didn’t occur in one giant ‘poof’ moment. It was an orderly process where one event followed another. Whenever anything follows a process I believe science can explain it. I personally believe God believes in order and all things were and are done in an orderly process. The scriptures imply that God is a god of order so it would follow that He used processes to organize and prepare the world for the eventual human habitation that it is today. The fact that Moses recounts this process in only 3 pages does not in any way imply that it occurred overnight. I have blogged before that the word day has many meanings and could easily, and surly, referred to a creative period much longer than a 24 hour period. How long each creative period was we can only speculate but the tectonic processes that could have caused the ‘Waters be gathered together and let the dry land to appear” could easily have taken many thousands or millions of years. The introduction of plants should have taken many eons as ecosystems were developed and stabilized. Likewise the animal kingdom must have gone through many iterations (as it continues to do even to this day) before becoming what we know today. Researchers say that twice in pre-Cambrian times more than 95% of the animal kingdom went extinct only to be followed by what they call the pre-Cambrian explosion when the majority of animal life appeared all at once (relatively speaking). The point is, the Earth could have been many millions, or thousands of millions of earth years old before we see the introduction of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The Bible, concerning itself with man and his relationship to God, would concern itself, except for a 3 page recap of the creation, only with the dealings between God and Man and that could well have been for only about the last 6,000 years.

I don’t know, I could be wrong.

Miracles and Such

In Bible, Genesis, Geology, God, miracles, Moses, Nationjal Geographic, Philosophy, science, Science and Religion, technology, weather on September 24, 2008 at 8:07 am

 

By: Mark Swint

author of

Oculus book cover

             Time was, once, that miracles were commonly accepted and believed in as an integral component of life and living. The rough definition of a miracle was anything that was inexplicable by the existing body of knowledge of the day. In the 80’s the movie “The Gods must be Crazy” capitalized on this idea with a charming story of an African tribesman who finds a glass bottle ejected from a small airplane flying overhead. Having never seen a glass bottle before, the man and his fellow tribesmen quickly determined that the bottle was a sacred icon dropped from heaven by God. A whole story revolves around this event and the movie was very successful.

If any of us were to go back in time just 200 years and take with us the things we commonly use, almost everything we have and do would appear miraculous to the people of the day. For example, an Ipod would be a truly astounding device. Everything about it would cause awe and wonder. The display screen of a video Ipod would seem miraculous just by the glow and the menu. Imagine the awe as a picture from your photo collection appeared. Think of the surprise as that photo peeled away to reveal another photo, and another and another! Then imagine the shock as you played a video selection of “The Office” that you had downloaded from Itunes. We haven’t even plugged in the ear phones yet but everything about that would be even more miraculous. The earphones themselves would seem foreign on so many levels. The plastic from which they are made would cause wonder; the sound emanating from within these tiny devices would be remarkable. If we were to then play a music selection from Metallica or ACDC the listener would hear sounds from instruments they had never heard before. The whole technology of electronic and amplified music and the sounds from the electric guitars would seem otherworldly.

Well, you get the point; almost everything about our modern life would seem miraculous to someone removed from us by only a few generations. Sadly, this means that as we grow smarter miracles become less and less frequent. Today miracles seem so rare that we dispute the very existence of them, or alternatively, we have shifted the meaning of the word to imply something really really great as in “the miraculous power of a home PC” computer. Of course the PC is fully explainable, just not by most of us, but we know that there are smart people that can explain a computer and do know how to make one.

We don’t really believe in miracles anymore. We have replaced that awe with the belief that, with enough money and time, anything can be developed and made. We have somehow decided that real miracles are only those things that can’t be explained by reason, logic or science and, if anything can be explained, it is certainly not miraculous.

The implications of this way of thinking imply that if there were a God, and if he did interact with us, He would certainly not do so in any way that employed or used any natural process or science. Someone has told us, and we have believed, that God is God specifically because He is not bound by the laws of the universe i.e. physics, chemistry, astrophysics etc. and that He can do anything He wants without regard to any physical reality. Where does it say this? Who defined God this way? Is God an anarchist? Does He operate without any regard for order or structure or form? This is not only foolishness; it is contradicted by scripture and by the proclamations of prophets.

I submit that a true miracle is not a miracle because it unravels or ignores the universal laws that govern our existence. Often it is the timing of an event rather than the action that defines the miracle. Let me give an example; Moses’ parting the Red Sea is a miracle emblazoned in all of our memories because of Cecil B. Demille’s great movie “The Ten Commandments.” We all remember how he stood before the waters and, lifting his arms high in the air, commanded the waters to part. Immediately, in some type of Bellagio water show way, the sea parted and the waters mysteriously began shooting upward and outward, leaving a nice water lined passageway for the Israelites. This recounting of the story was certainly dramatic and it adequately conveyed the miraculous nature of the event. Just one problem, that’s not how it happened and the bible does not even claim that is how it happened. The account in Exodus 14 and 15 says essentially that the wind blew and it was this that both drove the water away and allowed it to return when the Egyptian armies were in pursuit.

Exodus 15:8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

Exodus 15:10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

Other ancient writings state that the Lord caused the winds to blow for three days before the waters parted.

Some years ago the National Geographic did a feature on the Red Sea. The story recounted the account in Exodus and explained that this strong wind pattern was a rather common weather phenomenon that frequently occurs in the area. The article stated that the winds had on occasion been so strong as to actually drive the water back so that the Red Sea had literally parted at least 7 times in recorded history. The implication was that the Biblical account wasn’t really a miracle after all – just a fortuitous weather event. This attitude presupposes, once again, that God can’t use natural things to bring about his purposes. I posit that the miracle of the Red Sea wasn’t the parting of the waters but rather the TIMING of the parting.

If we look to the serendipitous timing of many events and acknowledge that perhaps that is the miracle then we can once again say that there are miracles all the time in all the world. After all, aren’t we all comfortable with, and often use, the common phrase “By the grace of God”?

 

Is There Any Common Ground?

In Bible, Genesis, Geology, Isaac Newton, Moses, Plate Techtonics, science, Science and Religion, technology on September 23, 2008 at 2:38 pm

By: Mark Swint

author of

Oculus book cover

Welcome to this, the first post of my new Blog “Science and Religion.” I have imported a previous post from my other blog that dealt with this subject and as I pondered the matter I began to believe that there were and are some very important and legitimate issues to be explored with a dedicated blog to this subject.

I guess you deserve to know the general thrust of my feelings and motivations for writing this so let me share. I am highly trained in technical and scientific disciplines and, though it may seem a bit geeky, I am absolutely passionate about physics. I work in a technical field where my life literally hangs on the infallibility of the laws of physics and I trust them completely.

Having said all that let me also state for the record that I believe in God. I understand and respect those of you who do not and I will try to be fair and open to your replies. My intent is not to preach religion or to berate, criticize or otherwise mock any of you with opposing views who are kind enough to read and hopefully comment on the thoughts expressed here. I truly hope we can enter into a stimulating and refreshing dialogue.

I believe that there is a middle ground that allows for the belief in a Deity as well as a recognition that the efforts of people throughout the centuries to understand this world and the manner of its creation are valid. I think the present day conflict is the result of some pretty egregious errors on the part of theologians and the arrogance and hubris of some academicians.

My reasoning goes something like this; There is an erroneous assumption that the edicts and declarations of one particular religious leader or church, if that church is large enough, are the declarations of religion in general. This is not true. In fact there are many differing thoughts among many different religious people and no one doctrine or dogma speaks for them all. More importantly, truth is truth and it exists independently of the declarations of well meaning but perhaps mis-informed theologians. Similarly, the laws of the universe, i.e. the sciences, are also inviolate though scientists may not understand them completely and may act on partial understandings or upon completely erroneous assumptions. History is rife with examples and perhaps they are best left for discussions which will hopefully follow.

I do not maintain the arrogance to suppose that I have all the answers but as one who loves and respects the sciences but who also devotes as much time to pondering things of a spiritual nature, I believe I am in a unique position to comment. Over the coming weeks and months I will endeavor to address areas of apparent conflict between science and religion and see if there is any common ground. I think you will be entertained. I hope you will be entertained. My promise to you is that I will not preach nor attempt to convert. I will strive to demonstrate the idea that these two great and important fields are not mutually exclusive and have and can peacefully co-exist and actually enhance one another. After all, truth is the ultimate holy grail. However, unlike the golden challis of the Monty Python quest, this holy grail – Truth – is out there.

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.