Science v. Religion

With the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Hamm, I have been thinking about the significance I (or we, or whatever) should place on scientific reasoning and fact and how it relates to religion in my (our, whatever) life.  On one hand, we have the benefit of years of observation of the physical world and how it acts and reacts.  We have tested and retested theories and formed a relatively accurate (to our current knowledge) description of the physical world and where it came from, and what it is currently doing, and what is likely to happen to it if we don’t change how we are currently treating it.  On the other hand, we have tradition and written accounts from centuries past that many regard as “absolute truth” in opposition to what we can observe in the physical world.  These accounts have brought untold comfort to many and untold suffering to many.  Which is right?

Does one have to be right over the other?  Some people think so.  It appears that Ken Hamm thinks so.  His Creation Museum features displays of dinosaurs and people living together.  He even goes so far as to speculate on how Noah could have gotten all the dinosaurs into the ark.  Here’s my take on that: we have fossil evidence of dinosaurs living up until about 65 million years ago (or so).  After that they disappear from the fossil record.  Humans came on the scene much later.  Prior to about 2.3 million years ago, there is no fossil record of humans.  We also know a lot about the origins of the book of Genesis.  It was a compilation of the two major origin myths from the time.  The Mosaic tradition stemmed from the law, and the Abrahamic tradition stemmed from the ownership of the land.  During the time of the Persian Conquest in 538 BCE these two groups had to compromise and write a common history in order to gain more local control from the Persian ruling authority.  Thus, we have oral tradition being compromised with other oral tradition for the sake of commonality so that they could have better lives than they were having at the time.  I think this origin of the written account we now hold so dear shows accurately where we should hold the book of Genesis as far as “ultimate truth”.  Then we have the addition of other oral tradition and myth into the mix with the addition of neighboring cultures’ beliefs and stories.  I believe that the story of Noah is an prime example of this.  The Epic of Gilgamesh is older than the Genesis account, and many believe they are based on an actual occurrence that is similar in many respects to both, but entirely different at the same time.  The Black Sea Deluge hypothesis is corroborated by archaeological and historical evidence, and it adequately explains where the Noah myth came from.  So when taken from this perspective, Ken Hamm’s speculation that there were dinosaurs, long after they were extinct, being saved from a quickly flooding sea by a mythological person and his boat is utterly preposterous.

Do I believe that the Bible can be lined up to agree with scientific thinking?  In many cases, yes.  For instance, there is the Genesis 1:1/1:2 time gap theory which does an OK job of consoling the two.  The speculation goes something like this: there was a massive time gap between creation in Genesis 1:1 and the subsequent recreation starting in 1:2.  God created the physical realm, Satan fell from heaven, destroying everything (possibly the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs) which explains the “darkness upon the face of the deep” we find in Genesis 1:2.

My current understanding is the explanation that the origin stories (yes, there are two) found in Genesis are what they actually are, myths.  Why shouldn’t we take them as such?  Don’t the Jews, whose ancestors actually wrote the book we subverted for our own purposes, view the creation stories that way?

I actually think it’s much healthier to view the creation stories as they actually are.  I kind of like being able to not dismiss actual physical evidence from the scientific community.  I kind of like being able to think and be logical and not dismissive of people who share those same qualities.  Does it affect my faith to view the creation stories as they are?  Well obviously!  It changes a lot of prior “givens”.   When I was growing up, there was no questioning of the earth as being 6,500 years old (or however old it’s supposed to be).  There was no questioning the accuracy of the “history” of the earth as presented in the Bible.  But at the same time, I had to learn evolution and the actual history of our world in science class.  It made sense, but there was no consoling of the two views.  While in the UPC, my former pastor actually introduced me to the Genesis Gap theory, which I thought was quite progressive, since he actually acknowledged the accuracy of science, but held on to the accuracy of scripture at the same time.  To me, the mythology version is much more palatable, as well as believable.  As I have aged, I have read more and more of the evidence that the scientific view is correct.  I cannot possibly dismiss the evidence with the wave of my hand as so many do; “The Bible is right, so I believe God over those atheist scientists.”  I like using my brain too much to do that!

As I have mentioned in other posts, I currently consider myself an Agnostic Christian, with the christian part waning, so the myth theory actually helps my faith in some way.  It acknowledges the true origins of the written record of the people of who wrote it, which I think is much more fair to them.  It also shows just how human they really were.  It lets me know that they were caught up in political and societal turmoil, but were able to accomplish something that vastly outlasted themselves for their common good.  If there is a God (and I believe there is) wouldn’t he want us to take that same attitude: accomplishment in light of adversity, even if we have to compromise with each other in order to make good things happen? I think “yes”.

Deep Roots

I was born in northeastern Arkansas but raised in California.  That’s generally my response to “Where are you from?”  I like to think it grounds me- the Arkansas part connects me to the rural, agrarian types in the world, and it also puts me “in the know”, so to speak- the California part connects me to the urban, hip crowd.  Or at least that’s how I like to frame it.

Anyway, here’s what I know about it:

My dad was born in Detroit to an auto working family whose roots were in Northeastern Arkansas.  My grandfather moved to California to take a job at a steel mill sometime in the sixties.  My dad was just probably in fourth or fifth grade at the time; I’m not quite sure.  I’ve seen a couple of their home movies from the era and that’s about how old he looks.  When my dad was in his late teens/early twenties he made a trip to Arkansas to visit his grandparents.  That’s where he met my mom.

She was raised in the middle of nowhere northeast Arkansas on a small farm- I’m assuming she was raised on the farm we always visited growing up.  And by farm, I mean a couple to a few acres with a large garden and a hog pen.  My mom always talked about not liking to eat the chickens they raised.  She also mentioned on several occasions that my grandmother was a keen shot with a “peepsight rifle” whenever snakes got after the chickens.  She said that when she was a little girl they would have to pick cotton.  Apparently they were tenement farmers at some point early in her life.  She explained that the more kids you had, the more help you had on the farm- there were 11 in her family.  So the older girls would take care of the younger kids, and if you were old enough to carry a gunnysack, you were old enough to pick cotton.  Right now that’s about all I can recall of my mom’s stories of growing up.

So they met at church.  Wonder of all wonders, right…  My dad’s grandfather was a oneness pentecostal preacher, as was my dad’s dad.  So when my dad took this trip to visit his grandparents, he went to a youth service on a Friday night at the church where my mom attended.  My uncle told us the story about how my mom’s family got into church a few years ago after she died.  Apparently my grandfather didn’t want much to do with church.  My grandmother took the kids to church once in a while, but not really regularly.  When my mom got into high school, she got a job and then bought a car.  Once she had the car (a “gunmetal gray” Dodge Demon), she started taking the kids who were younger than her to church regularly.  Even now, the siblings who were older than her or the same age either don’t go to church or have nothing to do with oneness.  Of the younger ones, three are pastors of small oneness pentecostal churches, and the other tried to be a traveling evangelist for a while.

So that’s my stock; that’s where I come from.  My dad eventually married my mom and moved to Arkansas.  I eventually came along, and then when I was 4, the shoe factory they both worked in shut down.  My dad moved the family to California to get a job at the steel mill where my grandfather worked.  So that’s how I ended up there; from a little town of maybe three hundred people and two paved roads to an Inland Empire town in southern California with nearly 100,000 people and an interstate less than a mile from our house.

I started kindergarten in 1980 and stayed in the same district through high school.  That’s where I got my education, and I believe the exposure to immersion into California culture deeply impacted who I am. I was thinking about it the other day and realized that I voted for California’s medical marijuana law which happened shortly after I graduated high school.  At the time, I hadn’t even been exposed to marijuana.  I didn’t know anything about it except what I had been taught in school, and what I knew from others and popular culture.  But apparently at the time, I thought it was a good idea to either let people use it for medical reasons or have more personal freedom.  That’s just a glimpse into what being raised in California did to me.  My dad’s parents lived a mile or two from where we lived, and for much of my early years we would go over to their house on Friday nights to watch TV.  We would watch The Dukes of Hazzard, then Knight Rider, and us kids would go and play as soon as the intro to Dallas was over.  We always stuck around for the intro because of the mirror buildings.  As soon as the mirror buildings were off the screen, we were gone.

We didn’t get a television at home until I was in fourth grade.  I’m not sure if it was because we couldn’t afford one, or because of religious reasons- maybe both.  There were a lot of oneness ministers that taught against television; but then my dad also worked at a steel mill after making an across the country move- he couldn’t have been making that much.  We got the TV from my best friend’s parents.  They had just bought a new TV.  I happened to be at their place one afternoon watching G.I.Joe.  When my Mom came to pick me up, they offered to give us the old black and white set that took about five minutes for the picture to come up after you turned it on.  I think my mom called my dad to make sure he was OK with us getting it before accepting it.  We kept that TV for a few years and after we moved into the new house, my dad bought a real TV that had color and everything.  He hasn’t been without one since.

Every couple of years we would take a road trip across the country to visit my Mom’s people in Arkansas, and we usually saw some of my dad’s uncles and aunts while we were there, although I never really felt connected to my dad’s people like I did to my mom’s.  Frankly, they were all a bunch of weird farmers and such- not all of them, but many.  I remember this one time we were visiting some cousin of my mom’s and this one old guy kept talking about this medical roller device that he rolled on his arms and all of his pain went away.  He referred to it in his thick Arkansas accent as “that roww-lerrrr” (that’s the best I can transliterate an Arkansas accent in print- sorry).  And then my dad’s aunt and uncle’s place, which I flashed back to the first time (and every time since then) I watch national Lampoon’s Vacation; the scene at Cousin Eddie’s place WAS my great aunt and uncle’s place.  My grandmother’s farm was surrounded on three sides by rice paddies and across the road was a soybean field.  The road was about three miles outside of town (the one with two paved roads) and apparently used to be a train track.  All that was left at that time was the road bed of pinkish tan gravel.  There was a wooden bridge a little ways before you got to the farm that was the big talk one summer.  A combine harvester tried to cross the bridge and didn’t get lined up with the treads on the bridge and fell through.  They talked about that for years.  Another time we spent the fourth of July there and my youngest uncle cut open some firecrackers and poured all of the powder into a used shotgun shell.  He thought it was going to be the best explosion ever, but he didn’t seal the end well enough for it to even produce an audible bang.  Another memorable experience from that trip was him putting a firecracker into a frog’s mouth.

So that’s somewhat of a glimpse of my roots.  You’ve seen some of my dad’s family and some of my mom’s.  You’ve been privy to some of my thoughts and perceptions.  Maybe I’ll share more in the future.  Personally, I think my roots are a little weird, but the older I get, the more I realize there is weirdness in all of our pasts.  But I think mine is a little more weird than most; rural and urban, conservative and liberal, backwoods and city- all rolled into one.

CCC

A friend of mine posted tonight on Facebook: “Education for understanding can come about only if students somehow become able to integrate the pre scholastic with the scholastic and disciplinary ways of knowing, and when such integration does not prove possible to suspend or replace the pre-scholastic ways of knowing in favor of the scholastic forms of knowing.” eh? what?”
I responded: “Translated: Neither experience or schooling is more important than the other; they work together to create true understanding.”
Some other person responded: “must be more common core garbage”
I responded something to the effect that the common core is not a bad thing.  It was created by the National Governor’s Association to respond to the legitimate need of transient students who need a continuum in their curriculum from place to place.  Some of these students happen to be dependents of our military. I also mentioned this persons’s lack of self-thinking ability in the presence of the “ultra right wing propaganda machine.”
My wife was upset that I made the comment.  It happens that the person who originally made the post was our children’s youth pastor.  My wife was upset that I was attacking a friend of our children’s youth pastor.  I think the person who made the offensive comment was another pastor’s wife.  Whatever… But it was an offensive comment!
Why am I upset about the comment?  The common core curriculum was created to make sure that our students get a standardized educational experience no matter where they live, or no matter where they move to, as typified by the dependents of our military.  Those who oppose the common core curriculum seem to not mention this in preference to their view that the common core is a bad thing.  Why?  because it it Obama’s doing!
Well. No, it’s not… exactly.
The National Governor’s Association instigated the CCC.  Why?  Because they saw a need for a standardized (by location) curriculum.  The democratically elected school boards of 46 states adopted the CCC for the students of their states.  Democracy at its best!  Unless you are the less represented Ultra Right Wing, wherein which you would publish nonsensical untruths that are slightly believable… then the people who accept what you say as a proverbial “expert” on the subject will in turn spew the same shit you peddle.
I’m sorry.  When did shit become OK?
The whole reason the common core curriculum is not acceptable to the right wing is because it was used by the Obama administration a precursor to receiving “Race to the Top” funding from the federal government, which, by the way, is much less intrusive to the local education authority than the prior mandate of No Child Left Behind: both created under George W. Bush’s Administration.  But the right wing just has to have something to get up in arms about!
So what’s my problem with this person’s problem with CCC?  The reason it upsets me is that I work with children every day that need continuity of their education.  Some of the kids I work with move into my school from another, then move back, then to another, then back to my school.  They need continuity, otherwise they either miss concepts or repeat them, and probably both.  Standardized curriculum is a good thing!  But Obama said… Fuck Obama… What about our future???  What about equality???
Those who propigandize their constituents to not like the CCC are the same people that put Governor George Wallace up to blocking the door of the University of Alabama.  They are the same ones who don’t want equality in education based on the ultra right wing’s ignorance of the origins of the CCC.  They also are the same people who want you to keep your pride in the Confederate States of America and fly the ole “Stars and Bars”.  Ugg.  Hatred makes me sick!
Why do we put up with hatred?  I told my wife to get over her friendships and those she goes to church with.  I, personally, am sick and tired of people putting other people down because of their color, race, creed, or sexual preference.  Why can’t we just love each other because we are people?  Oh… What?  That’s what Jesus said 2,000 years ago… Oh, Never mind.  Let’s make up a bunch of shit about NOT loving people because they have slightly (or disparate, even) beliefs and/ practices than we have.  YEAH!!! That’s what Jesus preached.
Really???
No!