Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person? (ancient science)

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 - 21:05:17 EDT

I honestly don't know the answer to #1 Bernie. I would probably say with
the Greeks, I guess (the question is "science" in the ancient near east, and
in particular, whether the Mesopotamian cosmologies were a type of
"science"). As to #2, personally, I don't think it's just a matter of
semantics. IMHO, based on what study I've been able to do, the ANE people
had a completely different, non-scientific understanding of nature than we
do today. The same probably can't be said of "business," because at some
level commerce is commerce.

 My view is consistent with what Conrad Hyers said in PSCF back in 1984:

Of course, if by pre-scientific we mean only to suggest that the biblical
accounts pre-date what we call modern science, then they may be said to be
pre-scientif ic. But the tendency is to translate pre-scientif ic as
un-scientif ic, or at best as preliminary to science, and therefore as
rendered obsolete by more advanced understandings. Yet this would only be
possible if one could first assume that biblical uses of language, and
scientific uses of language, in dealing with a common theme such as origins,
functioned on the same level and in the same way. The very phrasing of the
issue in terms of "information" and "explanation" presupposes that the two
languages share the same narrative form, ask the same kinds of questions,
and deal with the same type of truth. If this is not so, then the whole line
of argument is erroneous and irrelevant. It would be like trying to argue
that a photograph is a truer and more advanced representation of a subject
than a painting, or that Sophocles' Oedipus Rex is superceded by Freud's
analysis of the Oedipus complex, or that Michaelangelo's Pieta has been
surpassed by NASA's moonlander.

 Skeptics are not the only ones confused about this. There are also those
who try to interpret the creation texts in relation to scientific
statements, not in order to dismiss them as pre-scientific, but in order to
defend them as scientifically true. Collisions between science and religion
are, in large part, the result of religious people insisting that the
biblical texts function as scientific and historical reports, and that to
interpret them otherwise would be unfaithful to them. To compound the
confusion, this supposed scientific and historical meaning is said to be the
literal meaning of the texts.

 Given these assumptions, if there appears to be a conflict between biblical
statements and scientific or historical statements, the latter must give in
as misguided or misinformed. Biblical statements, it is argued, can only be
said to be true, reliable, trustworthy and believable if they conform to
these, largely modern and essentially secular, uses of language. Thus, quite
ironically, those who would dismiss the Bible as pre-scientific, and those
who would defend it as the true science, find themselves in agreement that
these biblical texts are to be interpreted " literally --that is, as
intending to offer literal statements of scientific and historical fact.

 On Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 7:10 PM, Dehler, Bernie <>
> For those who claim there is no ancient science, I have two questions:
> When, exactly, did science begin? Please be specific and concise- 5
sentences or less.
> Is saying "there was no ancient science" like saying "there was no ancient
business?" Business today didn't exist in the ANE. Today it is thousands
(or millions) times more complicated. Today we have world markets,
derivatives, high-speed computer stock trading, board of directors, stock,
bonds, futures, commodities, mortgages, various forms of debt (home equity,
credit card, reverse mortgage, etc).
> My point, there was ancient science just like there was ancient business,
but the "memes" for each have considerably evolved.
David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sat Apr 12 21:06:25 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Apr 12 2008 - 21:06:25 EDT