Thoughts on Genesis, Science, and Faith

Thoughts on Genesis, Science, and Faith March 17, 2022

 

Giverny, with colors!
A view of Monet’s garden at Giverny, by Art Anderson (Wikimedia Commons public domain image) Since I have no photographs of Eden or Paradise, this will have to do for now.

 

***

 

Some time ago, I read an interesting book entitled The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).

 

In it, the author, John H. Walton, an Evangelical professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, just outside of Chicago, argues that Genesis 1 isn’t talking about the material origins of life and the cosmos but about their “functional” origin as the celestial temple.

 

I don’t even pretend to do justice to his position here, but it’s of considerable interest from a Latter-day Saint point of view.  And, although he claims (and I think his claim is believable) that his principal goal has simply been to properly interpret the Hebrew text of Genesis 1, he also points out that his position, if accepted, would essentially eliminate the perception of a conflict between Genesis and contemporary science.  From his vantage point, Genesis and science don’t clash over the age of the earth because Genesis has nothing to say about the age of the earth.

 

It’s an accessible book — there is a more academic volume by Professor Walton on the same topic, which remains on my list of books that I should read soon — that will resonate with interested Latter-day Saint readers.  His references to the association of gardens with temples, to the account in Genesis 1 as a temple text meant for regular ritual repetition, and etc., will be new to many, but should, in a way, not be at all surprising to many of us.

 

***

 

“I am a creationist and an evolutionist.  Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s, method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.”  (Theodosius Dobzhansky [Феодо́сий Григо́рьевич Добржа́нский] [d. 1975], famous Ukrainian-American geneticist and evolutionary biologist, principally at the California Institute of Technology and Columbia University)

 

***

 

Allan Sandage (1926-2010) was one of the most influential astronomers of the twentieth century.  A graduate of the California Institute of Technology and the leading protégé of Edwin Hubble, he discovered the first quasar and was the first to determine reasonably accurate values for the “Hubble constant” and for the age of the Universe.

 

Later in his life, he became a fairly outspoken Christian.

 

This is what Sandage said.  This is what Allan Sandage said:

 

It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.

 

***

 

“But science has given us new eyes that allow us to see down to the deeper roots of the world’s structure, and there all we see is order and symmetry of pristine mathematical purity. . . .  The universe looks far more orderly to us now than it did to the ancients who appealed to that order as proof of God’s existence.” 

Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith 

 

***

 

“Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect.”  Freeman Dyson (b. 1923), English-born theoretical physicist and mathematician, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

 

***

 

“Humans think they are free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals. At the same time they never cease trying to escape from what they imagine themselves to be. Their religions are attempts to be rid of a freedom they have never possessed. In the twentieth century, the utopias of Right and Left served the same function. Today, when politics is unconvincing even as entertainment, science has taken on the role of mankind’s deliverer.”   (John Nicholas Gray, British political philosopher)

 

Gray believes human volition and morality to be illusions.

 

However, in that light, one wonders why — beyond the fact, of course, that he had no choice not to do so — Dr. Gray bothered to write a book seeking to convince us that we have no free will and that moral values are illusory.

 

What would it mean, if we’re in the iron grip of necessity, for him to “persuade” us?  Does he think it would be “good” if we were persuaded? Why?  How?

 

And from what would science “deliver” us?  Is he serious?  How can science, a human creation, “deliver” us from an amoral world?  And in what would that “deliverance” consist?  Can science make us free?  Can it create good and evil?  I doubt that Gray intends this, but I suppose that science can deliver us from nihilism, amorality, and determinism by vaporizing us.

 

When Gray writes of humans as “they,” is he unconsciously seeking to exempt himself?  Does he believe that his own consciousness is an illusion?  Does it make any sense to believe that one’s own consciousness is illusory?  How would one entertain such a delusion without being conscious?

 

So many questions!

 

***

 

I’m not frightened by the approaching heat-death of the universe.

 

I’m going to leave that to my students.  Let them worry about it:

 

https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/learning-to-chill-cd8f4fe607d4

 

Serves ’em right.

 

But it will be too bad, if we assume (for purposes of argument) that the material universe is really all that there is and that it’s purely naturalistic, that Shakespeare, Little League coaching, Beethoven, service as Cub Scout den mothers, the Taj Mahal, Confucius, studying organic chemistry, Michelangelo, the Beatles, tending aged parents, Dante, learning to cook gourmet meals, Einstein, bandaging hurt knees, Newton, learning French, and all the heroic battles for freedom and justice throughout human history will ultimately have meant absolutely nothing, will in the end have made no lasting difference of even the most minimal kind, and will be completely unremembered.  (Which means, in the end, that it won’t really be “too bad,” since there will be no mind, no person, to consider it either “good” or “bad,” nor even to “consider” it at all!)

 

Posted from St. George, Utah

 

 


Browse Our Archives



Close Ad