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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Science and Religion ...

Following on from my post yesterday concerning the debate in which Dr. Dawkins annoyed some of his fellow atheists on the panel, comes this article in the Huffington Post entitled "Celebrating Darwin; Religion and science are closer than you think." It is based on a survey of believers and non-believers across the faith spectrum in the US and would, I suspect produce a valid picture of the religious standpoint on the issue of Evolutionary Theory in most of the world. According to the survey only 11% of US citizens reject Darwinism in favour of the fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis. I suspect that in the UK this figure would be much lower and in Germany/Europe the same as for the UK.

So Dawkins and his fellow travellers in the Humanist, Secularist and other anti-religion groups are labeling ALL believers as 'fundamentalists' who do not accept 'science.' What rubbish.

All major religions accept that scientific research and discovery increases our understanding of creation and though it may, at times, challenge simplistic beliefs, it doesn't undermine it. (The US Baptists are an exeption) The Book of Genesis is an amalgam of several sources, some of them 'folk lore,' some 'historical' and it was the last of the Books of Moses to be written. In fact, since all the first several 'books' of the Bible had to be pieced together after the Babylonian exile and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the sacred texts, it is probably an amalgam of several Hebrew and Babylonian/Assyrian sources.

What both the fundamentalists and the likes of Dr. Dawkins seem to miss is that the first few chapters are allegorical, not historical. None of the mainstream branches of Christianity claim them to be 'historic records' and nor do the Jews. The description of the sequence of creation, from the creation of light to the appearance of 'men and women' at the end of chpater one is actually a pretty good summary of the Big Bang, accretion of the debris to create planets, the appearance of water, oxygen, plants, animals and humans in an evolutionary sequence. Considering that it draws on sources at least 4,000 years old, that, in my view, is a pretty good effort for people still living in mud huts and tents and depending on their herds and crops for a living.

The story of Adam and Eve (The Hebrew is actually Adama (men) and Eva (women)) and the eviction from the "Garden of Eden" is again an allegorical story to explain how humankind arrived at a state where they resolve issues by conflict, are jealous, suffer from envy and eventually die. "Eden" represents a form of Utopian society, one, by our nature, we cannot remain within and can only dream of achieving again. Dr. Dawkins "Adam didn't exist; therefore everything in the Bible didn't happen" is pretty poor science from one claiming to be a scientist if you ask me.

But then, if you seek to destroy something, the first thing you have to do is destroy the credibility of the thing on which it is founded. Hence, the attacks on the Bible focus on denying that there is any 'evidence' to support its 'historic' elements. In my view then, those that choose to attack Genesis and declare "it's all a fairy story" miss the point. It is. No serious theologian would argue with that, and perhaps that is why Dr. Dawkins ended up offending some of his supposed supporters at the Cambridge Union.

Science and religion are not in conflict. Often they are saying the same thing, just in different ways and in using different paths through 'reason' to get to the same point. This week we mark the 204th birthday of the Rev. Charles Darwin. If it wasn't Ash Wednesday I'd raise a glass to him, he's certainly enlightened my faith.

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