Monday, August 18, 2008

Constraining God

I've been trying to understand why so many people of strong religious faith spurn things like evolution and other scientific concepts. For example, the young earth fundamentalists. What does it by them to believe in a 6,000 year old earth?

I mean there are a lot of consequences to believing something like that. It means, for example, a violation of a fundamental physical principle: that presumption that physical processes in the past were the same as now (and presumably in the future). Forget science; that's the same idea that lets you believe the clocks will continue to operate, the seasons will change and the sun will come up tomorrow. Science just formalizes the idea. There are also all of the other issues: fossils as relics of past life forms? Past evidence of mountains and the distance to even the nearby stars.

By believing in a young earth you get the ability to believe in Genesis-- that's about it. All of the other stuff in the bible happens much later. You can even believe in the flood if you're willing to move it around a bit. There's a lot of evidence for the Black Sea Flood about 5600 BC. Any Christian worth his faith can get Noah's flood from something like that. It's even somewhat close to the right area. But to take the biblical creation myth as objective fact just violates too much of what we know. Besides, an omnipotent, omniscient and immortal God is too largefor a tiny little world of the fundamentalists. We're talking about a Deity who created the Horsehead Nebula and the Milky Way. Why constrain him?

But it occurred to me I was asking the question backwards. Constraining the nature of God is the point of fundamentalism. By limiting God to a tiny backwater world and a universe that Ptolemy would find small, God becomes that bearded guy in the sky. He, in effect, becomes human. Such a belief gets all of the weird little absurdities in the Bible for free. The God of the bible is intensely human: love Me. Worship Me. Follow My rules. Do that and I'll reward you. Fail to do so gets you punishment.

You can't get more human than that.

The more I think about it the more brilliant it appears. Take the concept of a universal Deity-- no human can grasp that much less relate to it. Look on the depth and power of the universe, and our own insignificance, with an open mind and you're half way to humanism. But if you present that same universe as facade, as scrim work for a tiny stage, you can dance those little holy dolls any way you like.

Links of Interest
Birthplace of the Near Earth Asteroids
Why teach evolution?
New solar system object
Camera of the Mind
How long can you breath vacuum, Noah?
Greenland's Heavy Metals due to Coal
Evolution does not favor dominant males
Lectuals: Cryptozoology, 90210
The Flat Panel Fridge
Google App Engine: Go, thou, and create.
Tidal Power Generation
Ebay for Interest Rates
Built in counting

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