> -----Original Message-----
> From: george murphy [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Friday, November 03, 2000 1:06 PM
> 1) You didn't say "If everything in Genesis 1-11 was
> wrong" but "If
> everything in the OT was wrong." These discussions of origins
> get so sharply
> focussed on those chapters of Genesis that they may seem like the whole of
> Hebrew scriptures but they aren't. They are an important but
> small part of the
> OT, & arguably not the most important.
It is amazing how you want to read what I say through your personal filter.
What I was illustrating with my question was the importance of objective
verification. I asked a question which is a perfectly valid question of
obviously the extreme situation. If everything in the OT was wrong, then no
one would believe it. It would be irrational to believe such a document. I
doubt that anyone would disagree that a document that is entirely wrong must
Given that, it is then reasonable to ask, what percent of a book must be
false in order for it to merit rejection? I simply don't think this is as
bad a question as you obviously do. Maybe it threatens your position but to
me, it is entirely a rational question to ask. Does 50% error warrant
throwing the thing away? Does 10%?
Now, as to why I switched from OT to Genesis 1-11 with my question to you it
is simple. If I had asked for a list of everything verifiable in the OT, it
would be onerous for you to list it and you could reject my request on those
grounds. Thus, I chose a smaller area, which by the way was the entire
context of the discussion between Howard and I that you jumped into. Howard
was complaining about A & E not necessarily being real and A & E are most
assuredly discussed in the first 11 chapters. Thus, in the context of this
discussion you joined, that is the issue--Genesis 1-11 with Adam and Eve.
> 2) To say that a text expresses truth different from
> the kinds of
> truth conveyed by accurate historical narrative isn't to say that
> it's "wrong".
And we have had this discussion many times. By WHOSE STANDARD? By WHAT
STANDARD? If I say that a story of two salamanders mating captures the
'truth' of the creation of the earth obviously with a different kind of
truth, then who can possibly disagree with me? You have made the most
unverifiable of assertions! How could I possibly know that the mating of two
salamanders captures the essence of the creation? By what possible
experiment, or vision could I defend that view? And to say that Genesis is
not historical yet captures the truth of creation is similar in style and
content to the salamander story. I am reminded of what the Mad Hatter said
about theologians not wanting verification so that one area of knowledge can
be retained for them in which science can't encroach. Here is the quote:
"Of course, the real reason modern theologians want to keep science
divorced from religion is to retain some intellectual territory forever
protected from the advance of science. This can only be done if the
possibility of scientific investigation of the subject matter is ruled out a
priori. Theologians were badly burned in the Copernican and Darwinian
revolutions. Such a strategy seriously underestimates the power of science,
which is continually solving problems philosophers and theologians have
decreed forever beyond the ability of science to solve." ~ Frank J. Tipler,
The Physics of Immortality, (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p. 7
And Dean Wooldridge in one of the 2nd most depressing book I have read, said
"IN addition to giving up its traditional weapon for compelling
moral behavior, religion will have to make drastic modifications
in its theology. There is obviously no room for a personal God
in a world that is rigidly obedient to inexorable physical laws.
Miraculous suspension or modification of such laws in behalf of a
group or individual, perhaps as the result of a direct prayerful
appeal to some higher power, will be even less credible than it
is now. Equally unacceptable will be the prophets and other
superhuman individuals who typically strengthen the popular
appeal of religious dogma by surrounding it with an attractive
aura of unworldly materialism." Dean E. Wooldridge, Mechanical
Man, New York: McGraw?Hill Book Co., 1968. p. 190
I would submit that your fleeing from objective verification has more to do
with protecting unverifiable belief systems than with anything else.
> So I think the term "caricature" is accurate.
It might be if you had understood what I was doing with those questions.
> As to verifiable historical material in Gen.1-11, I
> think there's
> some but not a great deal. 2:10-14 is a small part of the 2d
> creation account,
> in a sense a minor detail, but it serves the important function
> of indicating
> that this theological account is about the world we live in. The
> flood story
> probably carries memories of Mesopotamian floods. (Yes, yes, I
> know the details
> don't fit.)
As Johnny Cochran said, "If the gloves don't fit, don't convict!" It is the
details that make something verifiable. Yes, there was a dead woman, yes
there were gloves, but they didn't fit the defendant! As a physicist you
once knew this truth. You could not possibly go into a peer review with a
revision to graviation that didn't match the details. You would be laughed
out of the room. And a plea that this is verifiable (Yes, yes, I know that
it is 3 orders of magnitude out) simply won't cut the mustard---except when
it comes to religion and then we say "Details don't really matter." See
above. We flee from verification.
Exactly what details convince you that this story contains evidence of
Mesopotamian floods when
1. the reputed Noah would have been carried down to the Indian Ocean rather
than up towards Turkey
2. This would have occurred in about 3 days rather than a bit over a year.
3. That, in Mesopotamia there is no geological evidence of any widespread
flood outside the range of normal flooding.
4. That archaeologically there is no break in Mesopotamian civilization.
Exactly what detail convinces you that you are correct in your assertion?
11:1-9 refers to historical Babylon. Some of the
> names in these
> chapters may refer to real historical figures - certainly Abram &
> maybe others
> near the end of Ch.11.
I will agree with you that those names refer to real people and real
Babylon. But their existence is not really verifiable at this late date.
Currently we have no physical evidence of Abram's life. All we have is
evidence that the story was written consistently with life in Babylon, and
that is different from verification. verification entails some sort of
objective physical evidence. One could possibly get verification for a
recent Adam and Eve by means of genetics--but it actually falsifies a recent
A & E. One could get verification of Genesis 1-11 if one could prove where
the geologic remains of the flood are. The candiates all have problems.
Caspian Sea area--too flat with no mountains. Black Sea--no need for an ark
since at the rate of infill one could walk away from the disaster.
Mesopotamia--no evidence and the ark lands on the sea not a mountain.
Mediterranean--too old for most people's taste. But in principle the flood
could be verifiable as it should have left evidence.
> Not a lot you say? Maybe not for your purposes. But
> some of the
> very important theological statements are, by their nature, not
> ones that you
> can verify by historical research. E.g., the repeated claim in Gen.1 that
> creation is "good" - how would you verify that by such research?
Don't conflate the desire to have the verifiable verified with the flawed
concept that everything must be verified including unverifiable statements.
Your thinking is fuzzy here. And you are not really seriously listening to
me. I have never advocated trying to verify goodness and you know it.
> & that claim
> is far from being common religious property - there are plenty of
> > > A second, & distinct, point: You seem unwilling to
> > > between morality and theology. The morality taught by many other
> > > religions does
> > > indeed have a great deal in common with that of the
> > > Judaeo-Christian tradition.
> > Now, you are reading me wrong. I most assuredly agree that the morality
> > taught by other religions is worthwhile. No doubt about it. But
> if you claim
> > that your theology is so great, upon what is that claim based?
> It seems to
> > me that it is based upon nothing more solid than personal and cultural
> > prejudice favoring the Christian religion. Why can't the
> advocates of other
> > religions make the same claim that 'christian morality is
> great, but their
> > theology stinks'. It seems to me that this results in a standoff.
> It's a standoff only to the extent that "For Christ's
> sake God forgives
> you your sins" and "You'll go to Hell if you don't earn God's
> acceptance" is a
Muslims don't think we will fair well being infidels and all. They would
absolutely reverse your sentences toward us. And Mormons would say "It is a
standoff only to the extent that don't get to be a God in the afterlife."
We can all assert our individual preferences, but the only way to
differentiate these preferences is by objective verification of physical
> I emphasized (below) that the heart of the Christian
> claim has to do
> with "the historical
> reality (N.B.) of the crucifixion of Jesus." Just this
> historical reality is
> disputed by Muslims, something that shows their unwillingness to
> pursue any
> historical investigation of religious issues.
Seems to me that with regard to anything other than the resurrection you are
unwilling to pursue any historical investigation of religious issues. Or
more correctly, when I attempt it you like to tell me how wrong it is. If
you are going to criticise the Muslims for this, then take a look at
BUT - the
> theological claim associated with the cross - that the Crucified
> is the Son of
> God whose death reconciles us to God - is, like the goodness of
> creation, not
> something one can verify by historical investigation.
Absolutely agree. And I have never said we could. But you miss the fact that
for events like the exodus, Adam and Eve, the Flood, things ARE IN PRINICPLE
verifiable. And yet you don't want them verified. Strange for a person with
a physics background.
> > > The same cannot be said for understandings of God and God's
> > > relationship with
> > > humanity and the world. The belief that God is revealed in
> the historical
> > > reality (N.B.) of the crucifixion of Jesus as the Trinity is not even
> > > approximated by other religions.
> > >
> > What you have presented above is your belief system and your
> personal and
> > cultural prejudices, but you haven't really presented evidence for those
> > beliefs. A muslim can claim that his religion's theology isn't even
> > approximated by other religions. Big deal, we have two people making
> > unsubstantiatable claims. Objective data is the only way out of this
> > dilemma.
> This is incorrect. Muslim claims that the Qur'an is
> God's ultimate
> revelation tend to obscure for outsiders (& for many insiders)
> the fact that
> Muhammed thought he was proclaiming the original religion of
> humanity & makes a
> number of appeals to God's revelation in nature &c. Adam,
> Abraham, Jesus &c
> were all supposed to be good Muslims! Jews & Christians are, of course,
> thought to "approximate" Islam, but to err by introducing various
> distortions &
> especially by not recognizing Muhammed as the seal of the prophets.
> Similar things could be said about other religions.
> Hindus & Buddhists
> can find an honored place for Jesus as an avatar, &c, only excising the
> inconvenient parts about his uniqueness & crucifixion.
> Of course the distinctive character of Christianity
> doesn't prove that
> it's true.
This last sentence is exactly my point that I have argued with you for
years. Mere belief does not make something true. And without some type of
objective verification, one is reduced to mere belief and in my opinion that
maks us no better than Buddhists, hindus, Shintos etc who also believe their
religion as hard as we believe ours.
But it is not simply a "religion" in the same
> category with Islam,
> Hinduism, &c.
And they would say the same thing, that Christianity isn't in the same
category as Islam. You have your belief and they theirs. Big deal. On this
you two would agree, yet you want to let things lay on an issue that would
verify (not prove) your religious document.
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