The old science-vs-religion argument continues. If viewed rationally by both sides there should be little conflict. Most differences are largely emotion-based and neither side is really interested in what the other has to say anyway. But there is one overriding belief that explains the creationist position. These deeply-religious people fear that if any part of the Bible is called into question, the entire basis for our moral codes and laws is in danger of immediate collapse. And this fear has a history.
Up until the Scopes (Monkey) Trial in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925, there had been little political involvement in the ongoing religion-science debate. But this sensationalized event marked the climax of an anti-science campaign led by Democratic Senator William Jennings Bryan against the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Bryan argued that teaching evolution led to moral decay by undermining the authority of the Bible. Bryan lost three presidential campaigns to Republican pro-science candidates and drove many scientists, at least temporarily, into the Republican Party. The Democratic "Solid South" became the principle defender of creationism, a newly-coined term. But this political/religious alignment would not endure indefinitely.
From a rational viewpoint, if the scribes who wrote the Old Testament were God’s inerrant stenographers and recorded His words exactly as He spoke them, why didn’t He tell them that the earth was a globe, an oblate spheroid? They all seem to have written from a flat-earth perspective. This, along with the approval of slavery and the subjugation of women, was a widely-prevailing, scripturally-based concept in former days. And what about the two different Creation stories in Genesis? Fundamentalist apologists explain this away by contending one story outlines the Creation events and the other fills in the details. I invite anyone entertaining this idea this to place the two accounts side by side and compare them. But are we saying the Bible is a lie? That, in itself, would be a lie.
In the pre-scientific world in which the Biblical creation accounts were written there was little knowledge of or frame of reference for natural phenomena. A scientific explanation of the Creation would have fallen on deaf ears because even the most elementary scientific knowledge was unknown in those times. But there was suspicion even then that the earth was not flat. Later, it took the Catholic Church almost five hundred years to find a way to apologize to Galileo for persecuting him for discovering that the earth revolved around the sun without admitting the Church had been wrong.
The Bible was never intended to be a scientific or archeological document. It is God’s revelation of Himself and His Creation to humankind. And it was written in the symbolic, pre-scientific language of the day, and in parables, allegories, myths etc. that the people could understand.
To make sense out of all this we must view both scientific knowledge and religious traditions for what they are; honest but imperfect human efforts to explain things otherwise unexplainable. Scientists report not what they believe, only that for which they have sustainable, verifiable evidence. The following idea is simplistic but explanatory: science tells us what, when and how; the Bible tells us who and why. And anyway, doesn’t it take more blind faith to be an atheist than to be a believer?
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.