Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Genesis And Theistic Evolution: Part 1

One of my friends mentioned a Phillip Johnson book that dissects evolution just as most Fundamentalist do---needless to say the book sounds interesting despite Dr. Johnson's crackpot theories:
Johnson has advocated strongly in the public and political spheres for the teaching of intelligent design in favor of evolution, which Johnson characterizes as "atheistic" and "falsified by all of the evidence" and whose "logic is terrible". In portraying the philosophy of science, and by extension its theories such as evolution as atheistic...
[edit] Neocreationism
See also: Neocreationism
When asked how best to raise doubts and question evolution with non-believers, Johnson responded:
What I am not doing is bringing the Bible into the university and saying, "We should believe this." Bringing the Bible into question works very well when you are talking to a Bible-believing audience. But it is a disastrous thing to do when you are talking, as I am constantly, to a world of people for whom the fact that something is in the Bible is a reason for not believing it... You see, if they thought they had good evidence for something, and then they saw it in the Bible, they would begin to doubt. That is what has to be kept out of the argument if you are going to do what I to do, which is to focus on the defects in [the evolutionists'] case—the bad logic, the bad science, the bad reasoning, and the bad evidence.[32]

Allegations of limiting academic freedom
In 2006 Nancey Murphy, a religious scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary‎, claimed she faced a campaign to get her fired after she expressed her view that intelligent design was not only poor theology, but "so stupid, I don't want to give them my time." Murphy, who accepts the validity of evolution, said that Johnson called a trustee in an attempt to get her fired. Johnson admits calling the trustee, but denies any responsibility for action taken against her.[39]
[edit] AIDS denialism
Johnson is involved in AIDS denialism, which challenges the scientific consensus that HIV is the cause of AIDS.[40][41][42] He has written five articles about the subject.[43] The scientific community consider the AIDS denialist arguments to rely on cherry-picking of scientific data[44] as denialists selectively ignore evidence of HIV's role in AIDS. Denialism is thought to endanger public health by dissuading people from utilizing proven treatments.[45][46] In the Washington University Law Quarterly, critics Matthew J. Brauer, Barbara Forrest, and Steven G. Gey criticized Johnson and DI fellow Jonathan Wells for denying the AIDS/HIV connection and promoting denialism without any scientific support.[47] Specifically, they were criticized for signing a petition, which gains publicity rather than deal with the science.[47]

Anyways here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
First, Genesis is not a textbook on history, science and biology, but a spiritual and theological text. Personally, I read Genesis as a "mythic truth"---to me, it's a spiritual narrative, which speaks of God being the beginning of all things as Genesis 1:1 in the Hebrew states: אֱלֹהִ֑ים ‏בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א (berashit bera Elohim), which literally means: "in the beginning of God's or the gods' creating." God is still creating---in other words God is still overseeing evolutionary processes. See also: The Myths of Genesis for an interesting explanation of mythic truth. Anyways to me the narrative of Adam and Eve were superimposed onto a framework of the earlier existing Near Eastern creation myths by the scribes of "the Elohist tradition who referred to God as Elohim, which was derived from the name of the Canaanite God El (generally translated as "God" in English)." One such Near Eastern creation myth was the Enuma Elish part of which the Genesis creation accounts depend on:
Relationship with the Hebrew Bible
The dependence of at least part of the creation accounts found in Genesis on a common ancient Near Eastern "creation-by-combat" myth are "not gainsayable."[2] The ancient Mesopotamians believed that the world was a flat circular disc surrounded by a saltwater sea. The habitable earth was a single giant continent inside this sea, and floated on a second sea, the freshwater apsu, which supplied the water in springs, wells and rivers and was connected with the saltwater sea. The sky was a solid disk above the earth, curved to touch the earth at its rim, with the heavens of the gods above. So far as can be deduced from clues in the bible, the ancient Hebrew geography was identical with that of the Babylonians: a flat circular earth floating above a freshwater sea, surrounded by a saltwater sea, with a solid sky-dome (raqia, the "firmament") above. It is the creation of this world which Enuma Elish and Genesis 1 describe.[3][4] Comparisons between the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts are often obscured by English translations, which impose on the Hebrew the Christian doctrines of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) and of the Trinity. Thus the opening of Genesis 1 is traditionally rendered: "In the beginning God created both Heaven and Earth...", whereas the Hebrew makes it clear that Genesis 1:1-3 is describing the state of chaos immediately prior to God's creation:[5] In the beginning of God's creating the skies and the earth, when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and God's spirit was hovering on the face of the water, God said, 'Let there be light!'[6] In both Enuma Elish and Genesis, creation is an act of divine speech—the Enuma Elish describes pre-creation as a time "when above, the heavens had not been named, and below the earth had not been called by name", while in Genesis each act of divine creation is introduced with the formula: "And God said, let there be...". The sequence of creation is identical: light, firmament, dry land, luminaries, and man. In both Enuma Elish and Genesis the primordial world is formless and empty (the tohu wa bohu of Genesis 1:2), the only existing thing the watery abyss which exists prior to creation (Tiamat in the Enuma Elish, tehom, the "deep", a linguistic cognate of tiamat, in Genesis 1:2). In both, the firmament, conceived as a solid inverted bowl, is created in the midst of the primeval waters to separate the heavens from the earth (Genesis 1:6–7, Enuma Elish 4:137–40). Day and night precede the creation of the luminous bodies (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, and 14ff.; Enuma Elish 1:38), whose function is to yield light and regulate time (Gen. 1:14; Enuma Elish 5:12–13). In Enuma Elish, the gods consult before creating man (Enuma Elish 6:4), while Genesis has: "Let us make man in our own image..." (Genesis 1:26) – and in both, the creation of man is followed by divine rest. "Thus, it appears that the so-called Priestly Source account echoes this earlier Mesopotamian story of creation."
Other similarities:
What is Enuma Elish about? It is not primarily a creation story: very little of the content is about creation. Also, much more important than the creation of humans is the creation of the gods: theogony. The vast majority of the content is praising the attributes and deeds of Marduk, and his establishment as the chief god with his temple at Babylon. It is not too difficult to discern the purpose of Enuma Elish:

(1) to establish Marduk’s supremacy as the head of the Babylonian pantheon.

(2) to establish Babylon’s preeminence over all the cities in the country.

Although we have the epic attested only in its Babylonian form, it is obvious that the myth was originally Sumerian: most of the names besides Marduk are Sumerian rather than Semitic names. The Babylonians inherited the gods of the Sumerians, with Enlil (the god of earth) generally as the chief god. In the 18th c. BCE, Hammurabi (1792-1750) not only produced a very influential code of laws, but also effected a religious reform by asserting that Marduk was the chief god. The city of Babylon also rose to prominence during this period (first Babylonian dynasty, 1894-1595).

(ANET 37-41)

The story takes place in Dilmun, a pure paradise where there is no sickness or death, “the lion kills not, the wolf snatches not the lamb,” etc. Enki (=Ea), the god of the wisdom and the sweet waters that bring life to the land, impregnates the goddess Ninhursag (=Nintu), the “mother of the earth”. She gives birth to the goddess Ninmu. Enki impregnates his daughter Ninmu, giving birth to Ninkurra. Enki impregnates his granddaughter Ninkurra, giving birth to Uttu. Before Enki can lay his hands on his great-granddaughter, Ninhursag advises her to reject Enki unless he brings a gift of fruit. Enki comes with fruit, she happily receives him, but instead of producing a child, she uses his semen to produce 8 different plants. Enki eats these, infuriating Ninhursag. She curses Enki, vowing never again to look upon him with the “eye of life.” Enki apparently begins to deteriorate and the Anunnaki, the Sumerian gods of the underworld mourn, and in the end Ninhursag is brought back to the gods.
Similarities to Genesis 1-3:

-seduction with fruit

-the eating of trees brings a curse consisting of the withholding of life

(S. N. Kramer, Gilgamesh and the Huluppu-Tree, Chicago, 1938; cf. S. N. Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 1944, 30f.). The second half of this myth is appended to the Gilgamesh epic in Tablet 12.

Heaven and earth are separated, humans are brought into being, Anu and Enlil choose heaven and earth respectively for their realms, Ereshkigal has been given the underworld, and Enki has headed for the watery abyss beneath the earth. A tree planted by the bank of the Euphrates river was blown down by the wind and floated away on the river. Inanna (=Ishtar), the queen of heaven sees the tree and takes it home to her “holy garden” where she transplants it and tends it, hoping that when it is grown she can make a bed and a chair out of it. But when it is grown, she is prevented from using it because a serpent has made its home at the root of the tree, the Zû-bird has made a nest in the top of the tree, and the demon Lilith has made her house in the middle of the tree. Gilgamesh saves the day by killing the serpent with his ax, also frightening off both Lilith and the bird family. Gilgamesh cuts down the tree and gives it to Inanna for her bed and chair. Inanna makes two objects out of the tree—pukku from the roots and mikku from the crown—and gives them to Gilgamesh. One day these gifts fall into the underworld, and Gilgamesh is distressed not to be able to recover them. His companion Enkidu goes to rescue them, but is prevented from returning to the living. His spirit gives Gilgamesh a report on what the afterlife is like.

Similarities to Genesis:

-tree with serpent (combined with demon)

See also: Creation myth for various other Creation myths. The Jews were certainly aware of the other Creation myths of surrounding cultures and they had lots to borrow from---however, there are differences between the Judeo-Christian Creation myth as well. Genesis is also a subversive myth:
Paganism and biblical ‘subversion’

So what is the purpose of this portion of Scripture - the first chapter of Genesis - according to biblical historians? In a nutshell, the opening section of the Bible appears to have been written to provide a picture of physical and social reality that debunks the views held by pagan cultures of the time. In short, Genesis 1 is a piece of subversive theology.
Genesis 1 appears to have been written to debunk the views held by pagan cultures of the time

To anyone familiar with the Old Testament this subversive, anti-pagan intent will come as no surprise. One of the golden threads of the Old Testament is its sustained critique of the pagan religions of Israel’s neighbours - the Egyptians, Canaanites and Babylonians. The first two of the Ten Commandments, for instance, are all about shunning the pagan deities of the ancient world. Moreover, the book of Psalms - the hymnbook of ancient Jews - regularly and explicitly declares that the creation owes its existence not to the pagan gods but to Yahweh, the God of Israel. In Jeremiah 50:2 the Babylonian creator god, Marduk, is explicitly named and denounced.
Given the prominence of this motif in the Old Testament it would be surprising if the Old Testament’s longest statement about creation did not take a swipe at pagan understandings of the universe. We do not have to speculate about this. Through a stroke of very good fortune, scholars are now able to see just how the writer of Genesis went about his task of debunking his ancient rivals.

See also: Genesis: The Origin of Revolution. I shall continue this discussion in a subsequent post.

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