Fairy tales for adults

Jeremy Larner jeremy.larner at dunelm.org.uk
Thu Feb 13 05:23:07 PST 2003

Jochen Schroeder wrote:
> Am Don, 2003-02-13 um 04.16 schrieb Steve Bougerolle:
>>On Thu, 2003-02-13 at 05:33, Rob Park wrote:
>>>I think you misundertand; Genesis says the earth is 6000 years old
>>No, Rob.  Cite for me a verse in Genesis which says the age of the
>>Earth.  You can't, because there isn't one.
>>The 6000 year business comes from Bishop Ussher's chronology (and a few
>>others), which date from about 350 years ago.  These guys added dates
>>given at different points in Genesis and used those to get an estimate
>>of the age of the world.
>>So, Genesis does NOT contain any statement of the Earth's age.  You have
>>to get that with a scientific analysis of what it says.  As such, this
>>is a nice example of the point I have been making.  Genesis was not
>>written to be a scientific explanation of the origins of the world, so
>>the results you get by analyzing it scientifically are silly and people
>>who believe them are even sillier.
>>On the other hand, Genesis is a written myth encapsulating beliefs about
>>the origins of the Jews (and the people around them).  A 6000 year
>>figure for the origins of their historical traditions is a much more
>>reasonable and believable conclusion from this analysis.  I'm not sure
>>what Ussher's motives were in producing his date estimate, whether he
>>was just interested in relative dates in the Bible or whether he really
>>wanted to date creation.  Either way, we are not obliged to accept his
>>estimates as speaking for Genesis itself.
>>>Richard's question was, why would God make the universe look so old,
>>>while at the same time try to convince everybody that it's relatively
>>Another loaded question.  Richard is assuming that Genesis was intended
>>to present a picture of the age of the universe.  I believe that is not
>>the case, so arguing about any age derived from it is just a waste of
>>time and energy.
>>The point on which the argument turns is this; can an educated, intelligent
>>person in this day and age believe Genesis is literally true?  I say yes,
>>because intelligent and well-educated people are still not obligated to
>>follow scientific standards of analysis when they read it.  They are only
>>obliged to judge it by literary standards.  In fact, they are not even 
>>obligated to understand science (although that does tend to conflict with 
>>"well-educated", I grant you).
>>At least a couple people on this list seem to like not to hear that, but
>>frankly that is their problem.  Scientific analysis is NOT the only valid way
>>of thinking, however much scientists and techies might like to believe it is 
>>so.  Their reactions to these topics are giving piles of ammunition to the many
>>people (like myself) who say that scientists are taking over the role priests
>>used to have as dictators of truth, and that they are showing all the same
>>obnoxious tendencies that medieval clergy used to show.
> I really disagree, the scientific way is the _ONLY_ way of thinking.
> Everybody who tells me, that he doesn't should jumb of a cliff and show
> me that he doesn't. That is the point, in everyday life everybody
> behaves scientifically, nobody would touch a hot oven (let's leave SM
> out of this), because they have strong evidence that they will get
> burned. Nobody puts water on the stove and not into the fridge to boil
> it, because they have conducted numerous experiments, showing that water
> boils when heated and not when frozen. Just when it comes to general
> discussions, they suddenly say the scientific way isn't the only way of
> thinking. On the same line, I don't believe anybody who says he is a
> full sceptic either unless he puts a gun to is head and pulls the
> trigger, if the gun is just an illusion it won't harm him(mind you there
> was supposingly an antic sceptic who was let around by his scholars
> because they were afraid he would walk into a river or of a cliff
> because he didn't believe in an outer reality)
> Cheers
> Jochen

Really, the scientific way isn't the only way to think about things. 
And actually very few (if anybody) only uses scientific methods to make 
decisions.  This chiefly comes out when we interact with other people. 
I don't use scientific methods when I interact with my friends (at least 
not usually).  I learnt in high school science class that my girlfriend 
is a collection of random molecules brought together by chance and has 
no more significance or value than any other human being on the planet 
(or even from one point of view the sofa sat next to me - less in fact 
as that at least was designed by an intelligent mind...) but I don't 
believe it.  I rarely use science in my interactions with her.  A lot of 
the time I go on hunches, and have no evidence for the way that she will 
react - sometimes I do, but I ignore it, and it often (ok, ok, sometimes 
:) ) works.

A think Steve's point was that people relate to different things and 
different concepts in different ways.  Everybody uses a scientific 
method of thinking in relation to somethings, and a personal one in 
relation to others.  It's just that we use them for different things. 
Today we tend to use a scientific way of thinking in regard to weather, 
to philosophy and to religion.  A lot of people in Africa still use a 
personal way of thinking to apporach all of these.  Biblical writers 
probably saw things from a view point which had more in line with some 
of todays Africans than some of todays Americans...


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