Another Round on Adam and Eve

Since my little break has turned out to be longer than I anticipated, I fear that my blog muscles have atrophied a bit. So let’s start flexing them again by revisiting a familiar topic: Adam and Eve.

Over at HuffPo, Peter Enns makes another contribution to the genre that tries to explain why evangelical Christians should not be troubled by the fact that science completely refutes the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve. He gets off to a good start:

If evolution is right about how humans came to be, then the biblical story of Adam and Eve isn’t. If you believe, as evangelicals do, that God himself is responsible for what’s in the Bible, you have a problem on your hands. Once you open the door to the possibility that God’s version of human origins isn’t what actually happened — well, the dominoes start unraveling down the slippery slope. The next step is uncertainty, chaos and despair about one’s personal faith.

That, more or less, is the evangelical log flume of fear, and I have seen it played out again and again.

In recent years, the matter has gotten far worse. Popular figures like Richard Dawkins have done an in-your-face-break-the-backboard-slam-dunk over the heads of defenders of the biblical story. They’ve taken great delight in making sure Main Street knows evolution is true, and therefore the Bible is “God’s big book of bad ideas” (Bill Maher) and Christians are morons for taking it seriously. Evangelicals have been on high alert damage control mode.

Then you have the mapping of the human genome. It’s a done deal: humans and primates are 90-something percent related genetically. The best explanation for it, geneticists tell us, is that humans evolved from primates. Since my greatest scientific achievement is doing puppet shows with dissected feral cats in high school biology, I feel I have no right to contest — and I likely speak for many other evangelicals in that regard (sans puppet show). And it doesn’t help things that an evangelical, Francis Collins, was the one who pointed all this out, got the Presidential Medal of Honor for it, and talked about it (twice) on “The Colbert Report.”

If that wasn’t enough, evolution is being used nowadays to explain all sorts of things about us humans — including why we believe in God. If God is a product of evolution, like bipedalism and tool making, well, the jig’s up (and not just for evangelicals).

That’s actually pretty good. If only Enns had stopped there! His blunt statement that evolution flatly contradicts the Biblical account is impressively honest. It rules out attempts to preserve the historicity of Adam and Eve via highly strained readings of the text, such as the one that suggests that Adam and Eve were chosen from a among a large population of unensouled hominids to enter into a special relationship with God.

So what does Enns suggest that evangelicals do?

Evangelicals look to the Bible to settle important questions of faith. So, faced with a potentially faith-crushing idea like evolution, evangelicals naturally ask right off the bat, “What does the Bible say about that?” And then informed by “what the Bible says,” they are ready to make a “biblical” judgment.

This is fine in principle, but in the evolution debate this mindset is a problem: It assumes that the Adam and Eve story is about “human origins.” It isn’t. And as long as evangelicals continue to assume that it does, the conflict between the Bible and evolution is guaranteed.

It’s going to be a long night at the debate tournament for the side that has to defend that point of view. If the authors of the early chapters of Genesis were not trying to give an account of human origins, they chose a mighty strange way of expressing themselves. Let’s see what Enns has in mind:

Since the 19th century, through scads of archaeological discoveries from the ancient world of the Bible, biblical scholars have gotten a pretty good handle on what ancient creation stories were designed to do.

Ancient peoples assumed that somewhere in the distant past, near the beginning of time, the gods made the first humans from scratch — an understandable conclusion to draw. They wrote stories about “the beginning,” however, not to lecture their people on the abstract question “Where do humans come from?” They were storytellers, drawing on cultural traditions, writing about the religious — and often political — beliefs of the people of their own time.

Their creation stories were more like a warm-up to get to the main event: them. Their stories were all about who they were, where they came from, what their gods thought of them and, therefore, what made them better than other peoples.

Likewise, Israel’s story was written to say something about their place in the world and the God they worshiped. To think that the Israelites, alone among all other ancient peoples, were interested in (or capable of) giving some definitive, quasi-scientific, account of human origins is an absurd logic. And to read the story of Adam and Eve as if it were set up to so such a thing is simply wrongheaded.

But it’s not absurd at all, at least not if you take seriously the idea that the Bible is divinely inspired. The Israelites were uniquely capable of giving a definitive account of human origins because they were uniquely in communication with the one true God. An evangelical more conservative than Enns could very reasonably reply, “It’s fascinating what you say about the purposes of the purely human creation stories of other ancient peoples. But since the creation stories in Genesis were ultimately authored by God you are simply judging them by the wrong standard.”

There are other problems with Enns’s argument. It is strange to speak of the purpose for which the Genesis stories were designed, since it seems clear they were not designed at all. They began as part of an oral tradition, presumably evolved a bit through frequent retellings, and gradually assumed tremendous importance to the ancients simply by virtue of having been repeated so often.

More to the point, to judge from the stories themselves it just seems wrong to suggest that the specifics of how humans appeared were just throwaway details irrelevant to the main purposes of the story. For example, the historicity of Adam and his actions in the Garden of Eden are given explicitly as the factual basis for the need of Jesus’ sacrifice. The story of Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib is given as the explicit basis for proper gender relations in marriage. These stories are not fables, in which a fictional tale is used to clarify some moral point. This is instead an instance where discarding the factuality of the stories makes it virtually impossible to retain the broader theological truths the stories were meant to convey.

A final point is that nothing Enns says about the purposes of these stories implies that the ancients thought the stories were fictional. Enns writes, “Their creation stories were more like a warm-up to get to the main event: them. Their stories were all about who they were, where they came from, what their gods thought of them and, therefore, what made them better than other peoples.” Indeed. But that would seem to strengthen, not weaken, the claim that the ancients viewed these stories as historically accurate.

Enns now brings it home with this:

Reading the biblical story against its ancient backdrop is hardly a news flash, and most evangelical biblical scholars easily concede the point. But for some reason this piece of information has not filtered down to where it is needed most: into the mainstream evangelical consciousness. Once it does, evangelicals will see for themselves that dragging the Adam and Eve story into the evolution discussion is as misguided as using the stories of Israel’s monarchy to rank the Republican presidential nominees.

Evangelicals tend to focus on how to protect the Bible against the attacks of evolution. The real challenge before them is to reorient their expectation of what the story of Adam and Eve is actually prepared to deliver.

These kinds of conversations are already happening, though too often quietly and behind closed doors. Evangelicals owe it to their children and their children’s children to bring the discussion out into the open.

There are good reasons why mainstream evangelicals are mostly not buying what the scholars are selling. Once you accept that science flatly contradicts the foundational stories of scripture, you seem to have two options.

You could go Enns’s route, and summon forth a tortured model of Biblical inspiration in which God chose to communicate fundamental truths of the human condition in a manner so confusing that normal people cannot read them on their own. Instead they need assistance from the local departments of archaeology and ancient civilizations, and to have it explained to them that what certainly appear to be factual accounts of human origins are actually something else entirely. We are left to sympathize with all those generations of honest seekers laboring prior to the advances of modern scholarship, who simply had no hope of coming to a correct understanding of God’s word.

Against this you have the possibility that the Genesis stories are purely human constructions, and that they seem naive from a modern perspective because they were not written by people with any special insight into much of anything.

Which possibility do you really think is more plausible?

Comments

  1. #1 Wowbagger
    January 25, 2012

    Since the 19th century, through scads of archaeological discoveries from the ancient world of the Bible, biblical scholars have gotten a pretty good handle on what ancient creation stories were designed to do.

    I’d be interested to hear which ‘archaeological discoveries’ provided this ‘pretty good handle’, since it would have to be pretty specific for those involved to interpret it the way they have.

    And it would also have to be more compelling than the alternative: that, after years of expecting to find evidence for god and never managing it (despite all the other findings science had provided over the centuries, including Darwin’s), Christians came up with the idea that no-one could ever have believed god actually interacted with people the way the bible describes, and therefore they weren’t to be bothered with pesky claims for thing like, ugh, evidence; they could just say it was all metaphor.

    Well, except for the parts that weren’t, like the resurrection. Still not quite sure what method they use to determine which is meant to be metaphor and which is meant to be real, though.

  2. #2 The Peak Oil Poet
    January 25, 2012

    ish, ishah – man and woman – these are the Hebrew words used in the Bible.

    adam – it’s a different meaning – something akin to “rational man” or “righteous man” ie humans who adopt law etc.

    In a way, those who treat the Bible as it is literally depicted in English translations are missing most of what might be useful in the Bible.

    What Bible followers are actually following is not the belief system that came out of the Hebrew culture. What came out of Hebrew culture was science and rationalism. Superstition was abandoned. Likewise for much of the time of Islam.

    How we have come to where we are now, is in a word, unbelievable.

    I wonder if it’s institutionalized ignorance? We have spent the last hundred years teaching the masses to buy rubbish and watch football. The idea that people might be educated to where they might question anything is probably anathema to the ruling elites.

    Better to keep them ignorant and if the ignorant get their learning from unfathomable books 2000 years old or more? All the better to have them stay in the dark.

    pop

  3. #3 Julian
    January 25, 2012

    It seems “tortured” to try to force a simple A/B choice on the Genesis stories. i.e. Are they a simple people’s uninformed assumption about human origins or do they just appear to be factual accounts of human origins but are actually something else entirely?

    Most writings of any depth can be viewed on many levels. George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is a book about animals but is also about politics. It is not uncommon for readers of great literature to find more in it than the author intended.

    Similarly, just because the Genesis stories are a primitive (and wrong) account of the origin of the human race, why should that invalidate their deeper meanings? Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” may well have been anti-semitic when it was written, but that doesn’t stop it being performed today in ways that view it more sympathetically. We see past the original mistake to the deeper truths.

  4. #4 Wowbagger
    January 25, 2012

    julian wrote:

    Similarly, just because the Genesis stories are a primitive (and wrong) account of the origin of the human race, why should that invalidate their deeper meanings?

    If people were only viewing them as a source of deeper meaning at the same level as Orwell or Shakespeare then I doubt any of us would be having this conversation; the people described in the OP are using what’s in the bible in a completely different way.

    And they’re also crediting its authorship/inspiration to an omnipotent being who wants us to follow its rules – and who, according to many Christians, will sentence us to an eternity of suffering if we don’t. That should mean it’s subject to a higher standard of literary criticism than non-allegedly-divine texts.

  5. #5 gr8hands
    January 25, 2012

    Actually, “adam” means “from the soil” — reinforcing that the first man was created from the dust of the ground as clearly and specifically stated in scripture.

    Also, biblical scholars have gotten a pretty good handle on what ancient creation stories were designed to do. They were designed to accurately tell how their god created everything, them specifically, and how they are the chosen group.

  6. #6 Anthony McCarthy
    January 25, 2012

    Of course the creation narrative and the two accounts of the creation of human beings (there are two, for you guys who haven’t read it) aren’t literally true. They couldn’t have known that in the period when Bereshit was first written down or in the period before it was. And you can judge any fundamentalist assertion that it is a factual account as being naive and in denial.

    To use their naivety on that count against people who don’t assert that would make less sense than to ask materialists to account for the far more recent Lysenkoists and the materialists who supported the atheistic governments that not only promoted that scientific superstition but made it official and actually did what fundamentalists didn’t do within living memory, kill large numbers of scientists who refused to go along with Lysenkoism. I believe about the only countries with officially atheist governments that didn’t adopt it as official science are those that came into power after Stalin’s death. Though I’m not entirely certain about Yugoslavia or North Korea.

    Myself, I’m curious to know what the godfather of new atheism, Corliss Lamont said about Lysenkoism during the decades he was the foremost proponent of the Stalin cult in the United States, as he engineered the takeover of the Humanist Association and many other activities promoting “science” and “reason”. His connection with much of the current organized apparatus of atheism is quite well known.

    Yeah, biblical fundamentalists are wrong about Genesis, that’s established. And, no, I’m not interested in another long, dragged out fight this week.

  7. #7 Wow
    January 25, 2012

    would make less sense than to ask materialists

    Who? People who think that material things exist? That’s everyone, innit?

    to account for the far more recent Lysenkoists and the materialists who supported the atheistic governments that not only promoted that scientific superstition but made it official and actually did what fundamentalists didn’t do within living memory, kill large numbers of scientists who refused to go along with Lysenkoism

    Sorry, your sorry rant is confused and pointless.

  8. #8 Jason Rosenhouse
    January 25, 2012

    Anthony McCarthy and Wow —

    I would appreciate it if both of you would restrict your commenting to one per day. It gets annoying to see my recent comments sidebar taken over entirely by comments by you folks, especially since you mostly just seem to hurl insults at each other. Please respect my wishes on this.

  9. #9 Wow
    January 25, 2012

    Since you ask so nice :-)

    I don’t know if I can do that precisely but I can not respond to AMC’s idiocies no matter how big a bullseye he paints on his face more than once a day.

    But if I can answer someone’s questions, I don’t believe it would be right to go “but I used my one shot up today”, would it.

    Ta.

  10. #10 ildi
    January 25, 2012

    That should shorten future comment threads! Anthony’s edifying comments constituted 35 percent of the “ID’s Demise, Revisited” thread and 25 percent of “A Follow-Up Post About Scientism” thread, the last two Jason has shut down.

  11. #11 eric
    January 25, 2012

    Julian:

    Similarly, just because the Genesis stories are a primitive (and wrong) account of the origin of the human race, why should that invalidate their deeper meanings?

    Because there is really no reason other than the stories to accept these particular deeper meanings.

    I don’t have to believe George Orwell’s Animal Farm is non-fiction to understand why discrimination is wrong, why power corrupts, or how revolutions tend to eat their own.

    But the deeper meaning of Genesis is that all humans deserve damnation as collective punishment for the sins of our forefathers. That all humans require salvation via worship of God to escape this state. Unlike Orwell, I see no reason to accept those meanings as valid based on a fictional account.

  12. #12 Patrick
    January 25, 2012

    It is anachronism for Peter Enns to believe that because the story of Genesis is intended as parable about the nature of humanity, it must have not been intended to be a factual assertion about history. These are not mutually exclusive concepts in a religious world view.

  13. #13 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2012

    [take 2]

    What Bible followers are actually following is not the belief system that came out of the Hebrew culture. What came out of Hebrew culture was science and rationalism. Superstition was abandoned.

    Oh, dear.

    What about the superstition that is in the bible? Trial by ordeal; ghosts and witchcraft and magic; curses and blessings supposedly having effects for generations.

    This is science? This is rationalism?
    You know what’s missing in the Bible; in “Hebrew culture”? The admonition or principle to reject anything in the Bible, or believed by the culture, if it’s found to be false or unsupported by evidence.

    But that’s the the basic principle of science and rationalism.

  14. #14 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2012

    Lysenkoists and the materialists who supported the atheistic governments that not only promoted that scientific superstition but made it official and actually did what fundamentalists didn’t do within living memory, kill large numbers of scientists who refused to go along with Lysenkoism.

    Weren’t the scientists killed also materialists and atheists? In fact, weren’t they even more materialistic than Lysenko, since they rejected organisms changing via immaterial magic?

  15. #15 Lucy
    January 25, 2012

    I will assure you that evolution is NOT a “potentially faith-crushing idea.” At least not for true people of faith anyway. Some may waiver and fall, but most true believers will laugh and poke fun of the man to mud theory derived by satan and his minions.

    If evolution were a “potentially faith-crushing idea”, wouldn’t faith already be crushed to death by now? Nope. Yet it remains strong. Stronger than the mud to man theory I might add.

    How many people do not believe evolution in school, yet answer correctly about it on tests to obtain a good grade and not be harrased? More than you think.

    I took on my own professor in college and demanded absolute proof that God did not make the universe. That was 12 years ago. I am still waiting for Mr. Smartypants to show me the proof. I do not have proof that God created the universe other than common sense and common human intelligence that says inanimate objects and living beoings cannot pop into existance with a perfct working order all by themselves. If they can, I would love an explanantion in less than 50 words. Faith is all I need to know that God created the universe in 6 days and rested on the seventh. All other inquiries are optional and irrelevant.

  16. #16 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2012

    true believers will laugh and poke fun of the man to mud theory derived by satan and his minions.

    Huh. God is really Satan? Or perhaps it was Satan who said: till thou [Adam] return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

    If they can, I would love an explanantion in less than 50 words.

    “You have no idea what you’re talking about” is less than 50 words.

    Faith is all I need to know that God created the universe in 6 days and rested on the seventh.

    Oddly enough, Genesis 1 and 2 contain far more than 50 words.

    All other inquiries are optional and irrelevant.

    Of course they’re optional and irrelevant — to someone who is ignorant and proud of it.

  17. #17 NJ
    January 25, 2012

    Lucy@15:

    I do not have proof that God created the universe other than common sense and common human intelligence that says inanimate objects and living beoings cannot pop into existance with a perfct working order all by themselves my own heartfelt wishes.

    All other inquiries are My personal opinion is optional and irrelevant.

    Fixed those for you, kiddo. Feel free to come back if you want to try and defend your position.

  18. #18 eric
    January 25, 2012

    I took on my own professor in college and demanded absolute proof that God did not make the universe. That was 12 years ago. I am still waiting for Mr. Smartypants to show me the proof…

    Sigh…. Did someone name January ‘Science doesn’t absolutely prove X fallacy” month? There seems to be a lot of it going around.

    I suggest you and Anthony regale each other with philosophical arguments of all the various things science doesn’t prove. In 50 years perhaps such cogitation will yield…well, you tell me what it produces.

  19. #19 eric
    January 25, 2012

    I do not have proof that God created the universe other than common sense and common human intelligence that says inanimate objects and living beoings cannot pop into existance with a perfct working order all by themselves. If they can, I would love an explanantion in less than 50 words.

    The Heisenberg uncertainty principle implies there can be no finite volume with exactly 0 energy. Where there is nothing, something will always appear.

    Twenty-three words, and I wasn’t really even trying to be concise. I could probably just have used three; “Heisenberg uncertainty principle.”

    Common sense as a reasonable guide for understanding the universe died in about 1905. Quantum mechanics killed it.

  20. #20 Owlmirror
    January 25, 2012

    All other inquiries are optional and irrelevant.

    I wonder if Lucy has been reading Tertullian?

    On Pagan Learning, c. 220 CE

    What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from “the porch of Solomon,” who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.” Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our primary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides!

  21. #21 NJ
    January 25, 2012

    Owlmirror @ 20:

    I wonder if Lucy has been reading Tertullian?

    Reading him? Even money she couldn’t even spell him…

  22. #22 Lucy
    January 25, 2012

    Eric,

    God created you which allowed you to utter those 23 words.Be proud you exist. case closed.

    1905? Isn’t that right about the time that far left leaning marxists started trying to destroy the united states and replace it with their utopian view of a world of fascist socialism? Yes modern liberalism began in the mid to late 1800s and really got to peaking good in the early 1900s. Thank the maker that most people just laughed them off as an insignificant movement. no longer. Now they rule the world. Temporarily, until Christ coems back and wipes them out in the blink of an eye.

    owlmirror, paganism was supposed to be wiped out of existance by God’s people earlier in the Old Testament. They failed to do so by their own weak choices. Be glad, for you would not have a record of your paganistic ramblin author from which you quote. How many times does this case need to be closed?

  23. #23 Richard Simons
    January 25, 2012

    I took on my own professor in college and demanded absolute proof that God did not make the universe.

    Thus demonstrating that you had not learned anything about science.

    common human intelligence that says inanimate objects and living beoings cannot pop into existance with a perfct working order all by themselves.

    Who claims this of anything other than sub-atomic particles?

  24. #24 NJ
    January 25, 2012

    Lucy@22:

    God created you which allowed you to utter those 23 words.

    In. Your. Humble. Opinion.

    Want to convince people? Try evidence. Google it if you are unfamiliar with the word, sweetie.

  25. #25 Lucy
    January 25, 2012

    Under the command of the federal government and Gorge Soros, Google is now censoring things of this nature. please refer me to a more fair search engine.

    I hear Fox News and Conservapedia is unaffected by Soros mandates. Can I look there and report back? sweetie.

  26. #26 eric
    January 25, 2012

    God created you which allowed you to utter those 23 words.Be proud you exist. case closed.

    First its science can’t prove everything, now its ‘oh yeah? God made that too.’ What’s #3 in the Big Book of Fundie Gotchas? Pascal’s wager? You weren’t there?

    1905? Isn’t that right about the time that far left leaning marxists started trying to destroy the united states and replace it with their utopian view of a world of fascist socialism?

    Well, I was actually referring to Einstein’s golden year and the photoelectric effect.

  27. #27 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2012

    Under the command of the federal government and Gorge Soros, Google is now censoring things of this nature.

    I’m starting to suspect a Poe, here.

    What’s your church, Lucy? Landover Baptist?

  28. #28 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2012

    Or maybe you’re affiliated with Objective Ministries?

      “Any sufficiently wry wag is indistinguishable from a fullblown batshit nutcase.” — Steve Coltrin.

  29. #29 Wow, God
    January 26, 2012

    God created you

    Nope, my mother gave birth to me, my father fathered me, they both fed me and now I feed myself.

    God didn’t appear ONCE to do bugger all.

    Be proud you exist.

    I am. Unlike you who require something more to feel that you exist than the fact of your existence.

  30. #30 Wow, God
    January 26, 2012

    These are not mutually exclusive concepts in a religious world view.

    Posted by: Patrick | January 25, 2012 3:17 PM

    Indeed they aren’t. The religious world view is able to contain many hundreds of inconsistent and undefined concepts. That Genesis is A True Account *and also* A Figure Of Speech is absolutely no problem to such minds.

  31. #31 Anthony McCarthy
    January 26, 2012

    Please respect my wishes on this. Jason

    Sure. No problem. It’s your blog, after all.

    Lucy, you don’t believe in a God, you believe in a book. You turn Genesis into an idol. Of course, you’re free to believe whatever you want to, just as the neo-atheists are. But evolution happened, it is a fact massively established in physical evidence. That isn’t dependent on our believing it, evolution was as much there before the first human being noticed it. Many, probably most Jews, Christians, etc. accept evolution and that Genesis is not literally true in the same sense as a description of history or science or a legal deposition is true (when those are). It’s only when you get over the idea that it’s an actual description of an historical event that you can look at what it really means today. What it originally meant when it was first written down, you can’t recreate that because it was an entirely different cultural milieu than what exists today.

    You should read The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson. Especially the introduction and the first essay.

  32. #32 Raging Bee
    January 26, 2012

    To use their naivety on that count against people who don’t assert that would make less sense than to ask materialists to account for the far more recent Lysenkoists and the materialists who supported the atheistic governments that not only promoted that scientific superstition but made it official and actually did what fundamentalists didn’t do within living memory, kill large numbers of scientists who refused to go along with Lysenkoism.

    One-trick troll does his one trick.

  33. #33 Raging Bee
    January 26, 2012

    Under the command of the federal government and Gorge Soros, Google is now censoring things of this nature.

    Evidence, please?

    please refer me to a more fair search engine.

    You need us to remind you that Yahoo! still exists? YOu won’t make any effort to educate yourself unless, and until, you’re told exactly where to go?

  34. #34 Raging Bee
    January 26, 2012

    Some may waiver and fall, but most true believers will laugh and poke fun of the man to mud theory derived by satan and his minions.

    Actually, no, the TRUE believers can still understand and appreciate the wisdom their religion has to offer, without having to distort reality or falsely accuse other human beings of collaboration with Satan.

  35. #35 Raging Bee
    January 26, 2012

    …paganism was supposed to be wiped out of existance by God’s people earlier in the Old Testament. They failed to do so by their own weak choices.

    Yeah, those weak-assed Joos should’ve conquered the whole planet and erased all traces of other religions BEFORE Jesus was born. Buncha damn liberal wusses…

  36. #36 Dan L.
    January 26, 2012

    Weren’t the scientists killed also materialists and atheists? In fact, weren’t they even more materialistic than Lysenko, since they rejected organisms changing via immaterial magic?

    What always confused me about this whole affair is how quickly the former Soviet Union went from 100% atheist to like 80% Russian Orthodox. Seems like the Soviet Union fell and within a few weeks everyone was Christian again. Almost like they were never actually atheists at all.

    Or you can take the sensible view that a government that imposes “atheism” from the top down by law is VERY DIFFERENT from a secular government that does not try to impose any beliefs on its citizens and that it doesn’t make any sense to impugn atheist human beings for the actions of a corrupt and totalitarian “atheist government”. Of course that would take all the wind out of a certain commenter’s sails so I doubt we’ll see the commenter in question adopt such a view any time soon.

    Also, Lucy is pretty clearly either crackpot or troll. Nothing good will come out of trying to engage.

  37. #37 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2012

    Anyone who thinks that Tertullian was “paganistic”, given a quotation of his actual words, including the bit about “possessing Christ Jesus”, is either a blithering illiterate moron, or is playing a blithering illiterate moron to perfection.

  38. #38 Greg Fish
    January 26, 2012

    @eric, #19

    The Heisenberg uncertainty principle implies there can be no finite volume with exactly 0 energy. Where there is nothing, something will always appear.

    That has nothing at all to do with Heisenberg. The Uncertainty Principle states that since particles can travel as waves as well and you can only measure the momentum of a wave and the position of a particle, you can’t measure both at the same time when observing a quantum object.

    What you’re talking about is the Zero Point Energy hypothesis which relies on instabilities in the universe’s elementary fabric. You’re replying to a blatantly obvious troll, but that’s not excuse to abuse physics…

  39. #39 eric
    January 26, 2012

    Greg, one of the conseqences of the uncertainty principle is that a there will always be uncertainty in the energy state of any finite system over short time scales. Even ‘systems’ consisting of nothing. Uncertainty in the energy state of nothing is functionally eqivalent to saying it produces something (which will also disappear over short time scales too – constant non-zero energy would be just as certain as constant zero energy). The two concepts are intimately connected.

  40. #40 Deepak Shetty
    January 26, 2012

    o judge from the stories themselves it just seems wrong to suggest that the specifics of how humans appeared were just throwaway details irrelevant to the main purposes of the story. For example, the historicity of Adam and his actions in the Garden of Eden are given explicitly as the factual basis for the need of Jesus’ sacrifice.
    Sorry to nitpick , but the stories themselves , since they predate Jesus, couldn’t have been written or intended as the basis of the sacrifice.
    The post is great as always :).

  41. #41 Lucy
    January 26, 2012

    Genesis is the most important book in the christian church. Without it, the churhc would not exist. It is what happened in Genesis that explains why the rest of the Bible happened and why we are here havin g this discussion.

    Yes, wowgod, your mother gave birth to you. Trace it back about 6500 years your elder ancestor Eve gave birth to Cain. You are linked all the way back to Adam, the first man. No way around it, you and I are relatives. Doesn’t that make you irritated?

    God made Adam and Ece not Adam and Steve.

    How does evolution explain gayism? How is a species supposed to progress and “move forward” if part of the species is unable to reproduce and evolve? I bet darwinists have no explanation about this. If they do, I bet all George Soros’ money that they will side with gayism being a natural part of evolution. Next they’s even say piltdown man was gay.

  42. #42 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2012

    churhc [...] havin g [...] Adam and Ece [...] they’s

    Tch. Drunk already, eh?

    Doesn’t that make you irritated?

    Of course, all you care about is being irritating.

  43. #43 Lucy
    January 26, 2012

    I do not drink alcoholic beverages, but I have learned a disturbing fact this week. Turns out pepsi has a new flavor-fetus. I knew something tasted funny in it. I guess even soft drinks are bad for you even the ones that do not contain the heart attack causing aspartame. Then again, I prefer posion motor oil (aspartame) to fetus fluid soft drinks any day. I wonder if one could get drunk from fetus fluid pepsi. Now THAT is irritating. and a little disgusting. I knew mascara and other beauty products were made using aborted babies, but not food. I guess that’s why abortion is a billion dollar a year industry. The wrong kind of capitalism. Unless you are satanic or a witch. Now you can set a can of pepsi up to be sacrificed. Nice.

  44. #44 Owlmirror
    January 26, 2012

    Outed troll is outed.

    Thanks, “Lucy”. You can pat yourself on the back for a role well-played.

  45. #45 Seller if ideas
    January 26, 2012

    Ok, a pat on the back will I recive. Now if you will excuse me I have a 12 pack of fetus/Pepsi to consume before the expiration date runs out. They are too expensive and my poverty level tells me not to waste food, so I guess I’ll be drinking a little extra DNA tonight. Tell chris his new cure for adding chromosomes is to drink fetus pepsi.

  46. #46 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    “there will always be uncertainty in the energy state of any finite system over short time scales”

    And the longer the timescale, the less error in “it’s empty” you get. That’s why it’s called “nothing”. The longer you look, the more certain you are there’s nothing in there. But, like everything else, if you only take a short glance, you don’t know if it really IS empty, or you just missed it.

  47. #47 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    “What you’re talking about is the Zero Point Energy hypothesis which relies on instabilities in the universe’s elementary fabric”

    Wrong, Greg.

    momentum is mass times velocity. velocity is energy and mass is energy. Therefore Zero Point Energy is the result of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Dirac put it into hard maths.

    PLEASE read up on something before using big words on it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle#Energy.E2.80.93time_uncertainty_principle

  48. #48 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    “What always confused me about this whole affair is how quickly the former Soviet Union went from 100% atheist to like 80% Russian Orthodox.”

    USSR under Stalin was no more atheist than the Pharonic Egyptions were atheists by believing on a human divinity.

    Stalin, an ex-priest, wanted to be the God figure. And, just like the xtian god he wanted to supplant, he was a jealous God and forbade worship of false idols (orthodox xtian rituals).

    But you know what happened AFTER Stalin’s purges (which, by the way, no government other than Stalin’s itself) organised? The Christian God Lovers of the Nazi party killing 6-8 million Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and disabled.

    Because God told them it was a good idea.

  49. #49 Anthony McCarthy
    January 27, 2012

    The atheist government in the Soviet Union did kill scientists, especially geneticists, who wouldn’t go along with the official “scientific” materialist “science” of Lysenkoism. That’s a fact of history, though it’s lost in the millions of other murders that “scientific” regime committed. And it was not just in the Soviet Union but under the puppet governments it installed and in China under another “scientific” materialist government.

    As was seen here recently the back end of the neo-atheists don’t have much use for the factual knowledge of history, which they deny exists.

    OK Lucy, you’re nuts. Maybe you and Raging Bee can go rage mutually at each other.

    Gee, Wow, I happened to listen to one of the Dawkins-Lennox debates where he compared the atheism of Stalin and Hitler. And, though I’m sure you won’t care to read it, here is the report of the Office of Strategic Services report on the matter

    http://org.law.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/nurinst1.shtml

    The record shows that Hitler had plenty of nuns, priests, ministers, religious workers, members of religious minorities killed and that there were plenty of religious people who opposed him, famously, Bonhoeffer, who was executed for being involved in a plot to kill him.

    Religious institutions have to be faulted for their unwillingness to resist Naziism, but what about Stalin who made a non-aggression pact with Hitler and the communist party here that turned on a dime and went from anti-fascist to pro-doing business with Hitler during the period before that pact was broken, as anyone with a vestigial brain would have known it would be. You might look at the early publishing history of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo and how embarassed he was that as pleasing to his Stalinist friends it was, it was also very popular with Hitler’s admirers here. Trumbo, himself, admitted that and turned over some of the letters to the FBI.

  50. #50 Raging Bee
    January 27, 2012

    As was seen here recently the back end of the neo-atheists don’t have much use for the factual knowledge of history, which they deny exists.

    Name ONE “neo-atheist” who actually denies any part of that chapter of human history, and cite a denialist quote from said “neo-atheist.” Hell, I’m feeling charitable, so I’ll allow you to pick a “paleo-atheist” if you have to. You can’t, of course, because beneath all the incessant bloviating, you’re nothing but a bigot whose divorce from reality just gets nastier over time.

    One-trick troll keeps on doing his one trick, over and over…

  51. #51 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    “who wouldn’t go along with the official “scientific” materialist “science””

    But since Lysenkoism wasn’t scientific, and isn’t accepted as any form of official science by scientists (only politicians) even at the time, your confused ranting is confused and ranting.

  52. #52 AM
    January 27, 2012

    But since Lysenkoism wasn’t scientific, and isn’t accepted as any form of official science by scientists (only politicians) even at the time, your confused ranting is confused and ranting.

    Alexander Oparin, of the Oparin-Haldane Hypothesis, the father of abiogenesis, explicitly accepted Lysenkoism.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/uunrk3yw6q5xvkgl/

  53. #53 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    So there was only one scientist??? I bet he won all the science prizes at the Nobels…

  54. #54 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    From his wiki entry:

    “He was notable for his contributions to the theory of the origin of life, and for his authorship of the book The Origin of Life.[2] One of his ideas was that oxygen would tend to destroy organic molecules essential for the evolution of early life. It was later found that the earth’s atmosphere at first had almost no oxygen in it.[3][4]”

    I guess nobody else thinks he was the father of abiogenesis. Just you. I guess that must be because you think so much of him, hmmm?

    And more on his bio:

    “When Russian geneticist and agronomist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko became director of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1940, Oparin was among his ardent supporters. As the academy’s chief administrator of biology (1948–1955), Oparin collaborated in Lysenko’s rejection of accepted Mendelian theory”

    I shall repeat the important part:

    “collaborated in Lysenko’s rejection of accepted Mendelian theory”

  55. #55 Wow
    January 27, 2012

    Forgot this bit too:

    “Although many Soviet scientists continued to distrust him because of his involvement with Lysenkoism”

    I wonder if AMC’s continual harping on about “materialism” is due to him being a redneck xtian fundie idiot who LOATHS still, as in the days of McCarthy, “them evil damned reds”, since apparently:

    “Marxist theory concept of dialectic materialism”

    turned up in the wiki link to Alex here.

    Damn ruskies invading AMC’s Gods Own Country ™ and taking them away to the godless atheist dialectic materialism of Marxism!!!!!

    (insert flying spittle here)

  56. #56 Owlmirror
    January 27, 2012

    I note that the page linked @#52 says that:

    “According to Oparin, Stalin, long before Lysenko, asserted that acquired characters are inherited”

    Interesting. So Stalin, believing in kook biology, promoted a kook biologist, and removed those materialist atheist scientists who told him that the kook biology was kooky. It’s plausible that Oparin sided with the kook biology because the guy who could have him killed did so. And he may have taken his sycophantic support to the point where he was just an asshole to everyone:

      (after Stalin died) “by the end of 1953, more than three hundred scientists had signed a petition requesting . . . the dismissal of Oparin as secretary of the Biological Section of the Academy of Sciences. The request was granted.”

    Huh. Or maybe the materialist scientists also figured that Oparin wasn’t materialistic enough?

    After all, it’s materially evident science that shows that inheritance of acquired characters is false, other than the very minor case of some epigenetic traits.

  57. #57 Owlmirror
    January 27, 2012

    And I see that Oparin supported someone even kookier than Lysenko; one O. B. Lepeshinskaya who apparently “proved” that Pasteur was wrong and that cells could spontaneously generate in organic compounds.

    Yeah, wow.

    Anyway, modern abiogenesis research accepts only to the verifiable ideas of Oparin. The ones that were falsifed, or were just personal kookiness or politically-motivated support of kookiness, well, they are no more relevant to abiogenesis research than Isaac Newton’s angelology and alchemy are to modern physics.

  58. #58 Proponent Of Evolution
    January 27, 2012

    I might add to the conversation that while some on the left side of the political spectrum seem to indicate that they prefer democratic socialism or social justice, may I interject with a question?

    How are union bosses any less greedy, less rich, and less violent than non union corporate CEOs? Both do the same job. Both collect money from people with less than they have. Both Use politics and wedges to create political warfare and make themselves more money. How is either side different from the other.

    Remember the Soviet Union where everyone was “equal”? That turned out swell. Many died of hunger and cold being “equal”. Everyone had the same equal opportunity to be as miserable as the next fellow. The only people in a socialist empire who do well are the socialist elites at the top. Much like the CEOs at the top that these young corrupted minds are protesting these days. In either case, be it capitalism or socialism, one thing remains the same. In both worlds the elites at the top who control everything do much better than the slvaes down below. Not much difference in either one. Don’t believe me yet? Ask Cubans if they feel “equal” with Castro yet. Ask Chinese if they feel “equal” with the chinese socialist elites at the top yet. Both systems have elites that rule and those down below suffer. No need to protest unless you protest both sides.

  59. #59 Anthony McCarthy
    January 28, 2012

    My latest comment, stuck in moderation, can be found here:

    http://thinkingcriminalslair.blogspot.com/

  60. #60 Anthony McCarthy
    January 29, 2012

    PoE, you overlook one key difference between “union bosses” and CEO’s, the heads of unions are elected by the members of the unions, ultimately. And if they don’t serve the worker’s they can be replaced democratically. Their job is to try to get just compensation for the people who produce the wealth of the industry that wouldn’t exist without their labor and who pay for the union to do that. Considering the massive corruption that rules in corporations, government, – especially under the fiction that corporations are persons, academia, etc. it’s no great surprise that unions are at times also corrupted. Though they are far more directly answerable to the workers than CEO’s are.

    CEO’s are allegedly answerable to the share holders (who don’t do anything to produce the wealth of the corporation, the workers do that), but, in actual fact, they hardly ever are. Corporations are governed by corporate boards that are usually a pack of crooks in cahoots with the CEO’s and other top executives who mutually give permission to steal the wealth that isn’t paid out to the “owners” of the company. Their purpose is to steal as much of the value that the workers produce as is possible, for themselves, the corporate boards that put them in place and maintain the theft, and the share holders who are the legally fictitious owners of the company, even though it’s actually the workers who produce all of the wealth but, by corrupt laws, can be held in permanent indenture until they are discarded like antiquated equipment. Or they could be if it wasn’t for the laws that minimally mitigate the worst evils of capitalism, in some cases. And it’s the unions that are responsible for any of that mitigation. As Mitt Romney’s career shows, they’re doing it with entire companies these days on behalf of a class of pirates who produce nothing but unemployment and sub-sustenance jobs producing more misery.

    That’s a very short answer to your question.

  61. #61 SLC
    January 29, 2012

    Re Lucy @ #41

    How does evolution explain gayism? How is a species supposed to progress and “move forward” if part of the species is unable to reproduce and evolve?

    Gee, it is my information that former Vice-President Cheney’s daughter Mary, an admitted lesbian, has had two children. Imagine that!

  62. #62 Anthony McCarthy
    January 30, 2012

    “Gayism”? Believe me, my being gay is not an ideological position.

    Any genes I’ve got are more than represented in the human population. What’s endangering our species is overpopulation and the destruction of the environment. Being gay has a slight effect in helping with one half of that problem. It’s too bad it wasn’t more of a help.

    Genes, shmeens. Progress in human society is primarily a matter of ideas and moral positions, I figure it’s my responsibility to try to convince people of those. As you can see on the new atheist blogs, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t do much about about horses’ asses.

  63. #63 Wow
    January 30, 2012

    “How does evolution explain gayism? How is a species supposed to progress and “move forward” if part of the species is unable to reproduce and evolve?”

    So you’re for killing off women post-menopause? After all, you don’t keep the empty packet of cornflakes for sentimental reasons, do you? You go get a new packet that’s full of flakes.

  64. #64 Richard Simons
    January 30, 2012

    How does evolution explain gayism?

    There is evidence that the female relatives of gay men have more children than others, so homosexual tendencies in men may be a byproduct of selection for traits in women.

  65. #65 Anthony McCarthy
    January 30, 2012

    Richard Simons, that “study” suffers from a number of problems, one of which is the definition of “gay men”. I wrote a piece at the time it was published asking if a man who was married and had children but who also had sex with men was a “gay man”. And there were a number of other problems with it. Of course, with all social science research, the insurmountable problems of sampling (especially that all participants have to be volunteers and so the sample cannot be a random sample) and the problem of self-reporting – and of non reporting, are always there. From my experience as a gay man, I wouldn’t be all that confident that any man identifying himself as straight doesn’t either have sex with men or, at times, desires to have sex with men or that you could be entirely confident that “gay men” wouldn’t sometimes have sex with women. Gay men are gay even if they aren’t having sex, being gay is a matter of desire, not practice. Asking people to report on themselves in matters of sex are about as obviously prone to false reporting as anything. People lie to themselves, never mind researchers.

    I don’t think that study is worth anything. But that’s got nothing to do with whether or not people having gay sex is a Darwinian issue. Presumably gay folk have been having sex of many kinds from before people were defined as being “homosexual” in the late 19th century and so would already be part of the resulting situation. There is certainly documentary evidence that they were in the historical period.

  66. #66 SLC
    January 30, 2012

    I just submitted a comment that was held up for moderation. It had no links. Is Prof. Rosenhouse now moderating his comments?

  67. #67 eric
    January 30, 2012

    @66 – whatever system Jason is using, his auto-hold also appears to be triggered by including multiple links and by length of message. Its frustrating, but not personal.

  68. #68 Owlmirror
    January 30, 2012

    Is Prof. Rosenhouse now moderating his comments?

    Not all comments are held for moderation, but the algorithm being used by the moderation filter is complex, and the system is utterly opaque. Length is a factor, but not the only one. I have had very short comments go into moderation, possibly because of unintentional use of keywords used by spammers.

    Another possible factor might be that the spam filter is oversensitive during times when it is being hammered by a flood of spammers, and may trigger for a comment that would go through at other times.

    Nearly everyone has been caught by it at some point. Sometimes the comment is released from moderation, but often I suspect that it goes into the same bin as all the spam comments and is deleted when they are, because Prof. Rosenhouse doesn’t have the time to sift them out.

    I’ve had success with shortening the comment, or splitting and reposting it.

    YMMV.

  69. #69 Kevin
    February 23, 2012

    The assertion “science flatly contradicts” in this context appears to treat science and materialism as synonymous terms. In attempting to understand the thinking here, I refer to the following comment from a previous posting on this blog:

    “It is…experience, not some bogus probability calculation, that tells us Mt. Rushmore must have been designed.”
    (evolutionblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/seti-researcher-on-id.html)

    According to ID theorists, experience tells us that the cause of “complex specified information” is intelligence. To the casual reader at least, it appears that materialist science should demand the consistent exclusion of such thinking from reasoning about nature: Mount Rushmore must have been caused by an unintelligent process.

    Materialist science does appear to flatly contradict the existence of free will. For example, Dawkins’ concept of the selfish gene seems incongruous with the development and use of artificial contraception. The very existence of this blog, on the other hand, seems to presuppose the existence of free will. Otherwise, the attempt to influence readers with reasoned argument would appear to be futile.

    So, if materialist science has flatly contradicted the concept of ensoulment, is that because it has identified an alternative process of “enfreewillment”?

  70. #70 Wow
    February 23, 2012

    “appears to treat science and materialism as synonymous terms.”

    Why are you calling yourself Kevin now, Anthony?

    “According to ID theorists, experience tells us that the cause of “complex specified information” is intelligence.”

    But intelligence is by definition “complex specified information”. Which would require intelligence to come about. Which then gives us the “turtles all the way down” answer of religious domatists through the ages.

    “So, if materialist science has flatly contradicted the concept of ensoulment, is that because it has identified an alternative process of “enfreewillment”?”

    Nope.

    Please try to understand science, not the strawman you like to build in its image, AMC.

  71. #71 Owlmirror
    February 23, 2012

    According to ID theorists, experience tells us that the cause of “complex specified information” is intelligence.

    IDiots do not define “complex specified information” in a coherent way such that it only applies to things designed by intelligence, and does not apply to anything that was not designed by intelligence.

    I’ve seen clouds that looks like a penis. Were they caused by an intelligent penis-cloud-creator?

    Can IDiots explain what “complex specified information” is in a well dug in the ground, and is somehow lacking in a sinkhole or cenote? Until they can. IDiots are rightly accused of not knowing their asses from holes in the ground.

    To the casual reader at least, it appears that materialist science should demand the consistent exclusion of such thinking from reasoning about nature: Mount Rushmore must have been caused by an unintelligent process.

    Nonsense. Geologists know how weathering works, and how the results look very different from carving with tools.

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