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Must Religion & Science Conflict? (Part 8 of 8)

Must science and religion conflict?  In our final conversation with Ben Spackman, he will compare two events that require a lot of faith to believe:  Noah’s Flood and the resurrection of Jesus.  What can we learn from science and religion on these two stories?

Ben:  When it comes to the flood, what kind of evidence would a global flood that covered all the mountains to, I don’t remember 30 cubits deep, so we’re talking 30 cubits over the top of the Himalayas for at least 40 days. What kind of evidence should that leave in the historical record? Absolute masses of evidence everywhere should be in the historical record across dozens of disciplines and it’s simply not there. That again, is one area where I say, well, what does contextual reading actually get us with the flood? What is the flood actually trying to teach? Is it a historical event and that’s the important thing? Or is it doing something different? And like Genesis, I think it’s doing something quite different, but that’s another book.

So what can science tell us about scripture? Some things, not everything, and it depends on the question. Generalizing is dangerous and being simplistic is dangerous because things are rarely simplistic, which is a generalization.

We also talk about some of our most favorite scientists, and their relationship to religion.

Ben:  Newton comes up with calculus and the laws of motion and all this stuff. What you’re not told is that Newton was doing this as a way to study God. What you’re not told is that Newton, who was somewhat unorthodox was still deeply religious and of the roughly 5 million words of his that we have preserved, 60-70 percent of that is interpreting the Bible, writing about the Tabernacle, trying to figure out the Old Testament timeline. These people who we think we’re doing science, not religion, they thought they were doing religion. So we have to be careful as we look back in time at these people, at religion and science in the past. [If you] think about Galileo’s story as theology crushing science, it doesn’t matter who you read, they’ll tell you it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Galileo, for example, was not a very subtle guy. He was friends with the pope and he put the pope’s argument in the mouth of one of his characters named Idiot. That’s not going to go over very well.

Check out our conversation…

Is Noah's flood about science, or faith?
Is Noah’s flood about science, or faith?

Don’t forget to check out our previous conversations with Ben!

248: Did Pres. McKay Support Evolution?

247: What is a Literal Reading of Genesis?

246: Misreading Genesis

245: Does the Bible Supports a Flat Earth?

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?

 

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Did Pres. McKay Support Evolution?

President McKay was an educator before he was called to be an apostle and future church president.  Was he more open to evolution than other LDS leaders?  Ben Spackman will answer that question.

Ben:  When people bring up Mormon Doctrine, or Man, His Origin and Destiny, I tend to point to President McKay because President McKay on several occasions was very friendly to evolution….Then in 1965, in general conference, David O. McKay quotes him on that point. Now he doesn’t read him at all, but he says, “Here’s a scientist I’ve been reading who talks about a man’s conscience.” So, if you follow that thread, if you get below the tip of that iceberg, that’s a very pro-evolution interpretation of Genesis. David O. McKay clearly doesn’t think that Genesis in any way prohibits evolution. … There was an article that was published in the official Church magazine by a BYU (I think) botany professor, someone who dealt with DNA and other things….This article as it was printed in the Church magazine, has a little black box at the front that says, “This article was read and approved by the editor of the magazine.” If you flip back to the front, the editor is President David O. McKay. Now we have data from his son who was on one of the church committees or something. This article got taken to President McKay by his son to say, “We’re going to run this. Do you want to read it first?” He read the whole thing word for word and said, “This is fantastic work. Run it. I want this box in front.” The box also said, “It is not presented as a position of church doctrine.” So, David O. McKay was very comfortable saying, “Here’s evolution. We’re going to put this in the Church magazine. We’re going to respond to these questions. We’re going to address Genesis. I don’t want to impose it on people as some kind of official doctrine, because it’s not.” But, he was certainly enthusiastic about it.

Check out our conversation….

 

Pres. McKay may have been the prophet most supportive of evolution.
Pres. McKay may have been the prophet most supportive of evolution.

Check out our previous conversations with Ben!

246: Misreading Genesis

245: Does the Bible Supports a Flat Earth?

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?

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Misreading Genesis (Part 5 of 8)

The Book of Genesis describes the creation of the earth in 7 days.  Can that be interpreted through a scientific viewpoint?  Ben Spackman will answer that question.

Ben:   So Genesis 1 is supposed to be set against this contextual background that the Israelites knew because they were living through it. Once you remove that background, fast forward 2,500 years, generate all kinds of questions about the age of the earth in Darwin and evolution and things like that–the questions we are asking Genesis 1 to answer are not within its scope whatsoever. The cosmology we find there is an ancient cosmology that God used and adapted to teach these other things that were far, far more impressive and important to them. So, in some ways we are deeply misreading Genesis when we read it through a scientific lens, whether that is saying it matches science and young-earth creationist way or it’s really talking about like solar system formation and the long period. Both of those are deep misreadings regardless of the way you try to reconcile them.

We also talk about various theories about the creation of man.

Ben: You go back to 1656 and you’ve got a guy named Isaac La Peyrère who is the one who says Genesis is about the Jewish people and non-Jewish people existed before Adam. This is 1656. He’s not talking about fossils. He’s not talking about evolution. He’s just trying to figure out how do we make sense of where all these different groups of people all over the world come from?

GT:  Where do Chinese and blacks and Native Americans come from?

Ben:  Yeah, all this stuff. That idea has been given the term polygenism that is–you’re generated from multiple places as opposed to monogenism, that is Adam and Eve, and everyone comes from this one prototypical couple. Polygenism solved certain problems, it created others.

So in the 1800’s, you start seeing science settling into distinct fields and it is professionalizing. You also start seeing what is called scientific racism. That is, you have people who are actual scientists as we would think of them, start thinking scientifically about what accounts for different races and polygenism meant that if these people were created by God, but those people evolved, well then maybe those people aren’t fully human, and we can totally justified treating them as slaves. It led to scientific racism. I don’t know how much it played into the German stuff in the 1930’s. That’s, that’s something that is often overplayed by young-earth creationists that Darwin leads directly to the Holocaust and Nazis.

He mentions another theory too.

Ben:   …at first it was called the Babylonian Genesis, the Babylonian creation account. The idea that they were really concerned about, “Where did matter come from, how did it get created?” led to transposing our view of Genesis as a creation account focused on materiality, onto the Babylonian creation account, focused on materiality. But more study of that led to understanding that it wasn’t really concerned with creation per se at all. You can see this in the titles of papers analyzing it over the last hundred years. Today, people don’t call it the Babylonian creation account or the Babylonian Genesis. Rather, it’s become known as the, oh gosh, I’m blanking.

There’s a young god in it who becomes the king of the gods name Marduk. The whole thing from beginning to end is about how Marduk becomes king. It’s the elevation of Marduk. It’s the story of Marduk’s rise to power. The creation stuff in it is a very subsequent to that. It’s part of the story. It’s not the thrust of the story, it’s not even a secondary aspect of the story. It’s just a necessary part of the story to tell, to explain and justify how Marduk came to power.

Check out our conversation…

When we try to read science into Genesis, Ben Spackman says that is misreading Genesis.
When we try to read science into Genesis, Ben Spackman says that is misreading Genesis.

Check out our previous conversations with Ben!

245: Does the Bible Supports a Flat Earth?

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?