Sunday, April 27, 2008

FALLING DOWN: The continuing collapse of Mankind's relationship with God

One of the most powerful (and hotly debated) stories in the Bible is the account of the Fall, where Adam and Eve are tempted, sample the forbidden fruit, and are banished from the Garden of Eden and their perfect relationship with the Almighty. Is this a literal story, with real characters, or simply an allegory to explain the corruptness that lurks in the heart of mankind? Personally, I believe it is both, and here's why...

Francis Schaeffer, in his book “Genesis is Space and Time,” notes that above all, many of the Bible’s truths are communicative truths; stories that may be difficult to read literally, but that are used to communicate a larger, more universal truth about God’s will. The Creation story told in Genesis might be one example. In describing the days of Creation, the emphasis isn’t on the timeline or the manner in which God created, but on the fact that God was there before the Universe began, and was responsible for it coming into being. When we fight over the literalness of the words, we lose sight of the communicative truth it delivers...that God is transcendent and above all, the Creator of all that is.

We see many of the same battles over the literalness of Genesis 2 and 3. We learn that the last of God’s creations, Man & Woman, were created in His image. Many members of the monotheistic faiths take this to mean that the first humans were created in the fairly recent past. The Bible never tells us whether or not hominids existed before Adam, but we can be fairly certain from paleontology that they did. If we read Genesis carefully, we discover that Biblical Man was created in God’s image, and God is a spiritual being. While Adam and Eve were most certainly homo sapiens, the Bible never explicitly states that they were the first homo sapiens. They were simply the first (and only) creatures in which God’s spirit was an integral element of the final product. Insisting on a more definitive interpretation requires us to twist the words of Scripture to suit our purpose. While science and Scripture can both describe the creation of a Universe, the language used to do so doesn't give us a neat apples-to-apples comparison—and because we so often insist on trying to match up the literalness of scientific discovery with very literal interpretations of Genesis, our belief in God often becomes weakened in the process, often to the point of abandoning any real faith in God.

All this brings me to a recent comment I came across while reading about the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a huge particle collider, set to start operation sometime this summer in Europe. This incredible piece of machinery is designed to answer some of Science's biggest and most important questions about our origins. Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg, of the University of Texas at Austin, says, “The goal is to find signs of an elusive particle called the Higgs boson—also known as the "God particle"—because it might ultimately lead to a grand theory of the universe.” In other words, a Universe that has no need of God as an explanatory mechanism.

What’s particularly interesting about this project is its focus on searching for the Higgs boson, and how its anticipated discovery might impact religion. Weinberg clearly feels that religious faith is simply an invented thing used to explain the unexplainable, and as science explains how things work, there’s increasingly little use for religion. Weinberg also feels, as evidenced in his answers to questions asked by a Newsweek reporter, that the discovery of the Higgs boson would finally allow a unified theory of everything, and once and for all put to rest any doubts that science is lord of all when it comes to explaining the world and why everything works the way it does.

For those who have already bought into Weinberg’s worldview, everything he says makes sense. But for those of us who happen to believe in a Creator, his comments ring with scientific hubris, and intellectually dishonesty at that. Explaining how the Universe works the way it does is what science does very well, but explaining why things are the way they are is quite possibly beyond the reach of science. Carl Sagan was famous for assuming that the limits of science are the limits of reality, but we know from studying the Big Bang that this simply isn’t true. And even if we do discover this elusive “God particle” that seems to hold the Universe together, have we really eliminated any need for God as an explanation? Or simply pushed Him out of the picture and placed ourselves on His throne?

The fact remains that the Universe is an incredible piece of work that defies logical explanations for why it's the way it is, such as why the laws of science, all seemingly balanced on a razor’s edge, provided us with such a perfectly-tuned Universe. If the Universe really came about by pure chance, why are the laws of science so deterministic, and what gave particles the ability to gather together into increasingly complex bits of matter, some of which eventually became living, breathing, thinking creatures capable of pondering the very origins from which they arose?

What I find so contradictory about the position of Science toward religion is this: Scientists claim that their scientific discoveries replace the need for God as an explanatory mechanism. But their discoveries only serve to show us how incredible the workings of this Universe truly are...the formerly mysterious, with light shed on them, become the truly fantastic. As an example, men of science once assumed the cell was simply a blob of organic goo. But then we learn that the cell contains molecular machines nearly identical to those we build ourselves, and that everything in this cell was built according to the informational blueprint found in the DNA molecule.

As an example, just compare the propulsion system of the bacterial flagellum (shown at left), a molecular "machine" found within a cell, to any rotary engine built by man. It contains a motor, a drive shaft, bearings, a universal joint and a propeller. According to scientists, it built itself through natural selection (which apparently now works on molecules, too, and not just living creatures). Yet now that we know how a cell works, even more questions are raised. An incredible amount of information is necessary for a cell to create an amazing mechanism such as this. Where did this incredible amount of information come from? Did it just emerge by sheer dumb chance, without any direction? Yes, more or less... according to the responses of scientists. To imply that there was any sort of direction or intent is to admit to design, a no-no in the biological world.

The Biblical Fall described in Genesis was an act of turning away from God, of thinking that we are equal to God, and therefore capable of discovering all the answers for ourselves. God becomes a cast-off as He's no longer needed. In this Fall, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and from that point forward Man developed a very strong inclination to set himself above everything else. Worldly knowledge replaced Godly Wisdom. Science has become the New Religion. Man is lord and ruler of the planet, and doing a terrible job of it (yet loves to blame religion as a cause of it). In the need to find an “ultimate answer” to why things are the way they are, we look for ways to explain away a God that was presumably invented by Man. This isn't a diatribe against scientific discovery, which I feel is an incredible endeavor as it provides us with glimpses into the mind of God. It's simply to point out that we increasingly use scientific discoveries as an excuse to push God from our lives, rather than welcome Him in as the originator of everything that is.

In the final analysis, we discover that the Fall is an ongoing process, that Adam and Eve are us. We are them. Mankind continues to take bigger and bigger bites of the apple daily, and turns farther from God in the process.


jayjay said...

Thank God that He has a plan - that for those of us who know Him, life is a glorious exploration of who He is, and the deepening mystery surrounding all that He is and does. We see enough of Him to be utterly entranced, and yet our faith requires us to never be satisfied with that, but to always want to seek more. It's a wonderful never-ending endeavour. I'd have it no other way, and it wasn't my idea!

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