Darwin and Genesis

Back when I was an atheist, I was had in my arsenal, well polished from use, every argument that could be mustered against theism, and particularly against Christianity.

There were two arguments I never bothered with, both because they are illogical, that is, they cannot be formed into a properly formatted syllogism.

The first is the argument that when compared with a universe designed by a benevolent and omnipotent God, our own universe is too disorderly to have been designed. This is the atheist equivalent of the theist argument from design, and suffers from the same flaw. Since we have no other universes to which to compare our own universe, the crucial evidence that ours is either more orderly or less, that is, the evidence on which the argument turns for its persuasive force, is missing. You may, if you wish, speculate that universes not created by God would be more orderly or less orderly than this one which we inhabit, but such speculation is not supported by observed evidence. So this is an argument I never brandished as an atheist.

Please note that I make no comment about related arguments, such as whether there is evil in the universe, or whether evidence of purpose or ‘teleology’ in the organs of organisms implies a designer. Those can be properly formatted, and cannot be dismissed summarily by any honest thinker.

A second argument which rusted in the arsenal was the argument that since Man evolved from the Ape who was Darwin’s grandfather, therefore God does not exist. This is an argument akin to saying that since Zeus does not exist, therefore God does not exist. It is simply a misreading of the Christian claim. The Christians claim their God is simple, omnipotent, eternal, spiritual, omnipotent, the source of all being and the end of all being. He is not merely a local or limited phenomenon, nor is he the author of only a single chapter of the book of history, but of all of it.

The atheist argument that Darwin is true therefore a boneheadedly literal reading of the first two chapters of Genesis is false does not prove Genesis is false. It proves that boneheads should be kept away from interpreting the Bible.

Since the boneheadedly literal meaning of the first chapter of Genesis contradicts the boneheadedly literal meaning of the second chapter, even when I was an atheist, I said it was a safer bet to throw out the boneheads than throw out the Bible. An atheist who only plucks the lowhanging fruit of criticizing the nonstandard, nonauthoritative, and overly literal interpretation of Genesis will not sharpen his sword nor hone his wits, nor will he do his position any honor.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Western civilization and our literature, Genesis One says trees and grass are older than the sun, and that evening and morning came and went before the sun was made, and that animals are older than man, all men being created at once directly from his word, whereas Genesis Two says man is older than animals,and all men descend from one man, only one of whom was directly created from the dirt.

Note to boneheads: this is not what the passages mean, this is only what they say when interpreted with a boneheaded overly literal interpretation.

If I say “sorrow is the sunset of my heart” it is merely boneheadedness to point out that the heart is merely an organ that pumps blood whereas sorrow is seated in the nervous system, or to say that the earth rotates but the sun is still, therefore no such thing as sunrise really exists. No one but a bonehead will go into a phrenzy trying to explain that the heart, because it is connected to the nervous system, actually is a seat of emotion, or that sunrise, when seen from Earth’s surface, according to the laws of relativity, does indeed make the sun move and rise. Normal and sane people who know how language works can tell the difference between a falsehood and a figure of speech.

Now, some wellmeaning souls mean to forestall the alleged conflict between religion and science by attempting to reconcile the Biblical account of spiritual creation with the scientific account of the physical order of the physical universe, two things that, in my mind, are unrelated. Such persons invent parallels between the Big Bang and the Fiat Lux, or talk about how the early earth was swathed in an eternal cloud barrier that made it so that the sun did not come out until the fourth day of creation, or somesuch.

All a waste of words. Myself, I do not see how it detracts one iota from the wisdom or honesty of God Almighty if Moses thought the word was flat and that the sky was like a tent with an ocean overhead.

Who says our ideas about the physical universe are any closer to the truth? We could be at the early part of the prologue of the scientific revolution, not near the last act.

The whole problem with this approach of trying to shoehorn Biblical meanings into a modern scientific worldview is that the modern scientific worldview has a shorter lifespan than the fourscore and ten a healthy human can live.

The Space Age began and ended in my lifetime; the Atomic Age in my fathers’, and my grandfather was before the 1919 solar eclipse provided the first observational proof of Einstein’s theory of relativity. My greatgrandfather is older than the publication of Darwin’s revolutionary theory.

Modern people are parochial. They tend not to realize that the latest word of modern science lasts no longer than the latest word in women’s fashion. If the Bible is chained to an interpretation saying that ‘Let There Be Light’ refers to the Big Bang, what becomes of faith when scientists in our children’s generation discover that the Steady State theory was correct after all, and there never was a Big Bang?

What do Biblical scholars who busily reconciled Genesis with Darwin do once Darwin is thrown on the same ash heap of exploded scientific models as phlogiston and geocentrism and phrenology?