“What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.”
– Mary Oliver, from the poem “I Looked Up”.
“What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.”
– Mary Oliver, from the poem “I Looked Up”.
First, the primordial cosmos: the earth was “without form and void”. This is not something other than matter. (You actually can’t imagine something other than matter. Even when you imagine energy, you create a picture drawn from visible aspects of matter.)
What God made was, rather, unorganized matter. The language suggests “random” – the only apophatic concept we own, meaning “without pattern”. Notice, this first stage of creation has no moral color. Which is surprising, since we are inclined to sense randomnity as ominous. (Our bias is born from the threat to life, limb and fortune humans feel in random events.) It is not bad, it is just not done. Later, when God says it is “good”, His first known value judgement, it is not because He fixed something bad, but because he finished His science project. So there are degrees of good before the Fall, and this spectrum of goods is far wider than a mere nuance. No, the movement from starting a work to finishing that work offers full joy; Fall and Redemption do not add any depth to God’s experience.
There is no reason to think the ensuing drama wipes out these first categories: the Beginning, the Good, and the Very Good. Humankind imposes an alien meme, the Bad, which obscures but does not obliterate the first pattern of joys.
During Creation Week God organized the stuff on a macro scale by adding light, and atmosphere, and history, trigonometry, and bugs. Light, alone, would flip a switch making the heavens and earth into a self sustaining machine and would energize the chemical substrate. Physics can fill in the rest. (I’m not interested in connecting the text with what our instruments see, but in seeing what is in the text.)
There is no reason to think this work obliterated or exhausted the primordial and formless stuff, which was not evil or needing cleansing (sorry, Manichees), but just needed organizing. I believe we still see this original stuff with eyes and augmented eyes.
When we look at the night sky we see a stamp of “design”, which the biblical writers sing of, but their vision of Yahweh’s mark on creation is not what we usually mean by “design”, which is something like “handmade pattern indicating a purpose”. Rather, they see size, scale, and pretty lights. Art for art’s sake.
The fabrication of the Garden, later, will reveal that this Creation, whatever it looked like, though it is “very good”, has no clear human purpose, except as raw material for a further ordering. So even before the Fall there were at least two strata in the created universe that were not meant to look “designed”, even to unfallen human perception. If you could transport back in time to the moment when God cried “very good!” and startled the great cranes from their brakes, you would not see anything with a purpose. You would see pretty. You would not see architectonics. Yahweh’s aesthetic is remarkably childish, or child-like.
Now we come to the Garden. Pre-fall Eden seems to mean little to Christians except that it evokes nostalgia for their tropical vacations. Meanwhile we argue with the evil evolutionists about design in the natural world. But Eden is crucial for grasping what God did and why. The distinction between the garden and the wide world is precisely the degree of apparent order. And, in this context, the word “order” means something like “pleasant to humans”. It was an island of suitableness within the infinite ocean of the Creation, which was itself on top of, or imposed on, the deep layer of formless stuff. The idea was probably that the Garden would grow and take over all the Creation, which of course never happened. So the Garden was the one place visibly designed by God for humans, and only there. We do not perceive this Divine design now. A flaming sword has been set at its door. So – the created “order” we do perceive now is a level of order that God thought was very good but not yet particularly suitable for humans.
4. The Creation, fallen. Whatever degree of design the original creation displayed — something less than what God had in mind for us — must be broken down now, to some unknown degree. And our vision is also broken. So we actually are looking through 3 or 4 dark glasses.
I realize I am speculating here. The point is not to nail all this down into creedal clarity. The point is that the concept “design” is used by biblicist culture-warriors as if it means one precise thing. It is either “evidence of design” or, I guess, “evolved by chance”. I find this dichotomy laughably simplistic — from a biblically literalist point of view. In contrast, the biblical concept of design is richly nuanced, and not nearly mined, to date. We do the biblical picture great trauma by talking about it so superficially.
Those of us who aren’t so certain to argue that we see “design” in the physical universe are often looked down on by our more dogmatic brethren. As if we don’t really believe the Word. Not so; we just see more in it than you, and see more that we don’t clearly see. It’s hard to fight over something you know you aren’t seeing clearly.
We know we evolved the ability to run because, well, we can run. We have structures which allow us to run because we run. We know we de-evolved the tree-climbing structures because, well, we don’t have them. And other creatures have them. So it must be true that we used to have them, because other creatures have them.
If you have a toe and I have a toe then we must have come from some other one thing with a toe. It is not possible that we both came from Some Other Thing With a Toe because, well, that would require Capital Letters and occam’s razor requires us to write in all small letters if we can get by with it.
There was an Aristotelian thread and a Platonist thread in Christian thought from early on.
Aristotle himself was lost to the West for a while — not because of some mythical “stranglehold” the church had on larger society, but because of the cultural disaster called the fall of Rome, which took centuries to recover from.
Greek was preserved by Christian and Moslem scholars, then Aristotle was translated into Latin. The church set about incorporating Aristotle but Islam finally rejected him.
Aristotle was propogated, debated, and refined by Christian academics. There was at least two related but distinct debates going on concurrently: Platonic metaphysics vs. Aristotelian metaphysics, and Aristotelian logic vs. Aristotle’s content. BOTH these debates occurred within Christendom.
Much of the tension over empirical methods was a debate between Aristotle and Aristotle: the implications of Aristotle’s logic versus Aristotle’s earlier “observations”.
None of this is to say there was NO resistance on the part of the church to scientific conclusions which seemed to contradict scripture — there was, but recognize that huge debates which CONTRIBUTED to the elaboration of the scientific method took place within the church, among men who were devoted sons of the church and scientists in germ.
Science is Aristotle’s method. After Aristotle’s substantive errors were cleared out, the Renaissance and Enlightenment flared up, in a SPACE created by Jesus.
In the Christian West, Jesus’ words inserted a SPACE between the state and religion. The separation of church and state is an implication of Jesus’ attitude to the state in the NT.
Islam lacks the words of Jesus. Hence, there is no space between secular power and real or imagined religious truth. In Islam, the natural tendency of religions to demand compliance with their worldview choked off Aristotle when his method began to produce conclusions at odds with Islam.
In Christendom, there was a great struggle, but the Jesus space survived and expanded to allow the Aristotelian explosion of knowledge in the Modern West.
So science comes from Aristotle’s brain, plus Jesus’ attitude toward coercion.
I wish a big dollop of such good sense could be slathered on a bunch of creationist Christians, who want to argue in fields where they are not trained. In principle there is nothing wrong with that…scientists are wrong to say you can’t criticize them unless you are a scientist. This is nothing more than the argument from authority they claim to abhor.
There is also nothing wrong with laypeople criticising the logic of evolutionists’ reasoning. Logic is logic. There is no special science logic. Scientists who sniff at lawyers for criticising their logic should, rather, defend their logic. (But the problem is that many of these creationist critics will often shift from a logical argument in paragraph one to a scientific argument in the next, and can’t apparently tell the difference.)
But scientists are of course right to insist that if you are going to enter the arena of scientific argument, you must demonstrate the level of knowledge a professional has a right to expect from a SERIOUS amateur. Most people who are trained in a subject don’t resent at all an amateur questioning them and even offering a contribution to the field, but an ignorant and arrogant amateur is just intolerable.
I am a Christian who believes the Bible is literally true, and I am not trained in the sciences. But I find the creationist side of the argument, as it is represented so often on the internet, embarassing.
I believe in miracles, but if I were a scientist I would have to assume no miracles, then proceed. It is the sensible working principle.
Of course, as a person (which is a bigger category than the category “scientist”), the assumption no miracles is a philosophical position, not just a working principle. The first is begging the question, the second is a methodology.
It just seems to me that many of our creationists want scientists to somehow include God in their studies (as if.), and many scientists talk as if their scientific work is the sum of their personal interaction with the universe.
Impoverished on both sides.
As regards global warming, my view is essentially the same as yours: Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is a scam, with no basis in science.
It is obvious that anthropogenic global warming is not science at all, because a scientific theory makes non-obvious predictions which are then compared with observations that the average person can check for himself. As we both know from our own observations, AGW theory has spectacularly failed to do this. The theory has predicted steadily increasing global temperatures, and this has been refuted by experience. NOW the global warmers claim that the Earth will enter a cooling period. In other words, whether the ice caps melt, or expand — whatever happens — the AGW theorists claim it confirms their theory. A perfect example of a pseudo-science like astrology.
In contrast, the alternative theory, that the increase and decrease of the Earth’s average temperature in the near term follows the sunspot number, agrees (roughly) with observation. And the observations were predicted before they occurred. This is good science.
I no longer trust “scientists” to report observations correctly. I think the data is adjusted to confirm, as far as possible, AGW. We’ve seen many recent cases where the data was cooked in climate studies. In one case, Hanson and company claimed that October 2008 was the warmest October on record. Watts looked at the data, and discovered that Hanson and company had used September’s temperatures for Russia rather than October’s. I’m not surprised to learn that September is hotter than October in the Northern hemisphere.
Another shocking thing about the AGW theory is that it is generating a loss of true scientific knowledge. The great astronomer William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, observed in the early 1800’s that warm weather was correlated with sunspot number. Herschel noticed that warmer weather meant better crops, and thus fewer sunspots meant higher grain prices. The AGW people are trying to do a disappearing act on these observations. Some are trying to deny the existence of the Maunder Minimum.
Also, more here:
2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a “scientific consensus” in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world’s most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that “consensus” which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.