1874, 1914, 1975, and ....um....1925, and what's this about 1994?
Enemies

Floods in Our Enlightened Age

Let's face it, Noah and the flood and the ark and the animals boarding two by two is hard for people to swallow. So, sure enough, after I posted I Don't do Floods this email landed on my desk:
 


I truly wish I understood the mind that can accept, on faith and believe them to be factual events, such tales as a World-Wide flood not more than a few thousand years ago. I read the Little Red Book, God's Word or Man's and found it amazing that in this enlightened age, it could be taken seriously. Sticking strictly to the Old Testament, I asked a Jewish friend of mine how the Jews dealt with such stories as that of the flood. She mostly, just smiled.
 
Speaking of science in connection with the Bible, I use the following quote from one of my all-time favorite writers. "Pure science is necessarily godless. It is incapable of worship. There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Reason, Observation and Experience, the Holy Trinity of Science have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others happy."
 
.............................................
 
Dear Person:
 
 
 
“I truly wish I understood the mind that can accept, on faith and believe them to be factual events, such tales as a World-Wide flood “
 
It’s because we approach the subject from two different vantage points. If I am cruising on the freeway at 60MPH, I’m not sure why I should be especially concerned about the scientist on the radio telling me my car doesn’t run. But if my car is up on blocks, I’ll pay him more attention.
 
Put another way, if my multi-piece puzzle is fully assembled and I’ve reproduced that vista on the box cover, I may not pay too much attention to news reports that the product’s been recalled, the manufacturers jailed as hucksters. But if I’ve worked for weeks and can’t get any of the pieces to fit, I will turn up the volume and say “so that‘s why the damn thing won‘t come together!”
 
And so if I am to answer your question, I must launch into another discussion of why I think Jehovah’s Witnesses have the truth and other religions don’t. And you will hate it, or at least you have hated it when I’ve ventured there in the past. But it’s the only answer to your question I can give; I’ve conceded more than once that current scientific consensus is not on my side. If I am to overlook such consensus, I have to give you a reason. You would take me to task if I did not.
 
From prior discussions, I know we agree on the hellfire doctrine being nonsense. Punishment ought to fit the crime. To wit: putting a vile person to death does no injury to our sense of justice. Most human governments have seen fit to do that. But to torture someone forever for a few decades of wrongdoing? It’s vengeful and repulsive; we all know that. Issac Asimov observed that hell was "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, he muses, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.Of course, JWs have never taught hell. Most other faiths have; many still do.
 
If there is a God who cares for us, you would hope that he would make himself knowable. The Trinity doctrine makes him absolutely incomprehensible. Father and Son being two separate beings, which we maintain, squares perfectly with our common sense. Jehovah’s Witnesses have never taught a trinity. Most churches have and do. Specifically, a trinity doctrine makes Christ’s sacrifice for humankind’s sins an unfathomable, syrupy mess. But if God caused his Son to be born a perfect man, and his life course counterbalances that of the only other perfect man, Adam, and thus he can buy back, or redeem, what Adam lost - listen, I’m not saying you have to believe it, but you must admit there is some internal logic there, and not just some gooey “God died to show how much he loves us.”
 
Moreover, if God wants us in heaven, as all religions except for Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, why didn’t he put us there in the first place, for crying out loud??! What’s with this shell game of a stepping stone earth, from which we get promoted to heaven or sink to hell? How does that make any sense? But a promise that, under the proper government of God’s Kingdom, humans may live on earth forever ….well, that sure does square with his original act to start humans on earth with instructions to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the place. If God suspends this purpose temporarily while he works out the bugs  - bugs introduced through Adam’s rebellion - well, that’s not too hard to understand. We all know about working out bugs.
 
The foregoing points have an internal logic to them…..the pieces fit together, much like a completed jigsaw puzzle. I realize that completing a puzzle does not prove the puzzle is genuine, but it sure is more impressive than not completing it. That’s what the churches are stuck with - a mess of ill-fitting pieces that you can’t do much with, so that you either sweep them into the wastebasket or say “ah, well, I’ll just believe it anyway.” Only a certain type of person can take the latter course. Jehovah's Witnesses don’t have to.
 
So that’s why I’m not as influenced by the conclusions of our current "enlightened age" (is it really that enlightened?) as you may think I ought to be. We have a strong counterweight. Religions in general have no such counterweight, so their adherents are more easily toppled. You quoted your favorite writing on science. Here’s mine, from Max Planck the physicist: 


 
 

 A new truth does not establish itself by opponents seeing the light. Rather, the opponents eventually die, and a new generation arises who is familiar with the idea [paraphrased] People run in herd mentality, be they scientists or laymen.

 

I’ll even add to that flood post a little. One commenter spoke of an ancient flood in Africa, and I responded with another example and the observation that there are probably many. In fact, as I’ve since read, there are; geologists find evidence of scores of massive ancient floods. Is it really so great a stretch to link them together? Another comment spoke of a possible fallacy in current (biological) dating methods. Now, assigning, from our time, the dates of eons-ago events is intriguing, to be sure, but I sometimes wonder if it is not like swinging a baseball bat while gripping only the sixteenth of an inch on the end. Are we really so adept at it as we think we are? Or might some new view come along someday to sweep all our current understandings away? It’s not as if such things haven’t happened before. Lastly, accounts of a worldwide flood abound in the legends of many peoples, which is not proof, I understand, but not bad corroborating evidence.

***********************************

Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

Dale

Makes absolutely the most sense I've heard! The logic is right on! I know several of Jehovah's Witnesses and if they don't have the truth no one on this earth does.

tom sheepandgoats

This comment is so agreeable one would almost think it is a plant! Nonetheless, I'm reminded of a brother who used to say 'if this is not the truth, then there is no truth.'

Of course, there's plenty of atheists who would take the latter option, but that's for another post.

Tobias Fong

I'm not so sure about that though. Truth is sometimes subjective, as opposed to fact. Of course, Jehovah's Witnesses might be on the right path, but that doesn't necessarily mean that no one else on this earth has the truth. Truth is just a fleeting metaphysical figment or subject matter an individual believes in.

For example, when we say the sun rises from the east, it's a fact, and therefore we perceive it as truth. But before Galileo or some astrologist discovered that the sun is just one of the many stars in the universe, the Church viewed it as truth that the sun revolves around the earth, there is only one sun and hundreds of stars, earth is the center of the universe, etc. That is their "truth", you see, and you cannot fault them for those beliefs, as much as they go against fact. See what I mean?

About the email you received, I think I disagree with it. I might be the commentator you mentioned, because I remember mentioning stuff about historically and geographically proven flood, where an ancient civilization (was it in Africa?) was uncovered and nthere were geological evidence of a great flood. Of course the Bible might (I say might which means it might NOT be as well) be exaggerating or it could just be metaphorically speaking about the twos, but there is proof a flood the scale of Noah's Ark in Genesis did occur.

And I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree that science and religion cannot go hand-in-hand. Like in my religious thesis in my blog, I have mentioned why Evolution and Creationalism can go hand-in-hand. Yes, teh Church had tried to destroy science before m(such as Charles Darwin and Galileo) but that is the fault of BELIEVERS, not religion. The problem is that just because some of the believers go awry, everybody else gets a bad impression of the religion.

You'll be surprised to know some scientists (such as Issac Newton) are actually Christians, and of course there are scientists who belong to other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism (as in the case of upcoming China and India), but a lot of scientists embrace scientific concepts while being religious themselves. Some even speculated the existence of an entity or universal being (which in religious terms is God).

Fact is, science is not certain. Scientific theories are getting discarded and renewed even as we speak here and religion might even be a form of science (or the other way round). There is no ceretainty that bars science from embracing religion or the other way round. Of course, if you say stuff like there are gods controlling the weather, four elephants and one giant tortoise propping up the earth, it's been scientifcally proven wrong, but so far we haven't found evidence that ghosts or the spiritual realm does not exist (it could be an alternate dimension for all we know). Of course we haven't found evidence that they exist either, but all that can change say, tomorrow, see?

Point is, I see no reason why scientists cannot emnbrace religion and vice-versa. Of course, maybe the individuals in question have their own opinions and beliefs on that matter, but that's up to them to perceive their own truth. Like I said, truth is subjective, so it's not fair to disbelieve all others just because you believe in your "truth". Likewise, don't let others talk you out of believing in your own truth. Find something you believe in and stick to it. Stand up for it, but do not step out of your bounds to dismiss others.

That's what I think, anyway. I could be wrong, but I would like to believe I'm right, which is why I'm offering my opinion in the first place.

tom sheepandgoats

"the Church viewed it as truth that the sun revolves around the earth, there is only one sun and hundreds of stars, earth is the center of the universe, etc. That is their "truth", you see, and you cannot fault them for those beliefs, as much as they go against fact. See what I mean?"

Yes and no, Tobias. The Church took their view from a literal reading of scriptures that are quite obviously figurative - scriptures referring to the four corners of the earth, pillars of the earth, and so forth.

Had they more regard for the Bible itself they would have noted:

He is stretching out the north over the empty place, hanging the earth upon nothing; Job 26:7

He has described a circle upon the face of the waters,to where light ends in darkness Job 26:10

There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers, the One who is stretching out the heavens just as a fine gauze, who spreads them out like a tent in which to dwell. Isa 40:22

Had they been faithful to the Bible, they would have been closer to the truth.

It is this same literal reading of figurative speech that is the primary support of the Trinity doctrine, in my view.

And I agree that science and God need not be in conflict. For most of history, they have not been. For example:

http://tinyurl.com/cn7op8

and

http://tinyurl.com/curggu

Tobias Fong

Yeah, I know they made that mistake and that the Bible did actually say the Earth is not the center of the universe.

What I meant to say though is that truth nis subjective and not concrete. I guess the Earth one was a bad example. How about another example? For instance, Muslims view Islam as their "truth", but that subjects them to the disbelief of other religion. It's not a fact that Islam is the one true religion (nor is Christianity for that matter) BUT to us, our religion is the truth we believe in. Just because someone else believes it otherwise doesn't make us liars nor does it make our beliefs any less true. It's just what we believe in and what we perceive in. Say, if you and I grew up in a Muslim family, our truth might no longer be the Bible but the Quran instead. Does that make our beliefs any less true?

That's what I meant, I suppose. Sorry for the error earlier.

tom sheepandgoats

Tobias:

Here's how it works with Jehovah's Witnesses.

We regard the Bible as God's means of communication to us. It's the vehicle through which he reveals his purpose, his qualities, his nature. It's the vehicle by which he answers questions such as 'why do we grow old and die?, why is there evil and suffering?, how we may best live to find fulfillment and happiness?' He addresses all these matters through a book he has inspired. He does not address them to us individually through personal revelations. We can pray to God and build a relationship with him. We can grow spiritually draw closer to him in this way. But the overall questions of his purpose he addresses through the book he has inspired.

If we accept that the Bible is what it claims to be - God's means of communication, then resolving questions about spiritual matters becomes easier. Does the Bible teach it or doesn't it? There either is a hell or there isn't. God either means to make this earth a paradise or he doesn't. Truth becomes not so subjective when you can consult the book he has written and find out answers. That's why Jehovah's Witnesses offer to study the Bible with people. It is the primary purpose of our calls.

http://tinyurl.com/86dwqj

Of course, confidence in the Bible is not high today. Most do not accept it as God's prime means of communication. Therefore, Jehovah's Witnesses endeavor to defend it and build confidence in it. If people don't care for the Bible and attempt to discredit it, that is mostly because the book tells them things they don't want to hear. However, the next generation comes along, reads the harsh criticism, is unaware of the motives, and doesn't know what to think. That is why the book was printed which was referred to in that email, The Bible, God's Word or Man's.

The Bible teaches that by aligning ourselves with God's purpose, we can look forward to living forever on a paradise earth, free of sickness, war and injustice. You must admit that sounds good. It also probably sounds far-fetched. Because it sounds good, you may think it merits an investigation. Because it sounds far-fetched, you may draw the line if that investigation should be expensive in terms of time or money. Accordingly, the study program Jehovah's Witnesses have designed, described in the link provided, is neither. It costs nothing, can be held at a time and place of your choosing, and can fit into an hour a week, not counting any time you may spend in preparing/researching.

Ragoth

Hey Tom, long time no talk,

A few minor points, not really to start up another debate/discussion, as I know we're both rather set in our respective view points, but I couldn't resist adding my two cents worth (and you might get change back).

First, I'd be careful about noting that all other religions have some concept of heaven above. Not entirely true. Some eastern traditions have no notion of a sky heaven to which humans will retire after death. The more ancient and orthodox streams of Judaism have no concept of heaven or hell - death is ultimately the end, or if they do talk about an afterlife, it's so vague as to be impossible to understand.

Secondly, on the issue of the global flood. Yes, there are plenty of traditions around the world, including those that predate any possible scribes of the Biblical tradition. The epic of Gilgamesh, which includes the story of Atrahasis, comes to mind. Some faiths had traditions of global floods much later (if you agree to their internal dating, as I assume you agree to the Bible's internal dating). The problem is two-fold, however.

To begin with, the stories of global floods in these traditions (I'm going to say all traditions, including the Judeo-Christian-Muslim one) have widely different interpretations of why the flood occurred, what purpose it served, and what we should learn from it. For example, in the Biblical tradition, the emphasis is clearly on sin - humans came to populate the earth and became increasingly wicked. God cannot stand sin, and thus decides to wipe out everyone, man, woman, child, fetus, etc., including all animals except those which breathe through their nostrils (lot of evil whales apparently could survive...but no insects, as they have no nostrils). I suppose this is in the hope that Noah would establish a more pure line? Better than it would have been otherwise?

Anyway, for example, the story of Atrahasis (predating Noah) tells originally of the genesis of the gods, up through the Igigi and Annuaki. Back story - There was a primordial chaos, out of which arose Apsu and Tiamat, the sweet waters and the salt waters (much as the original Hebrew suggests the "tohu vu bahu" waters were always in existence and God moved over them). Then several generations of gods were born (all of this is in the passive voice, the gods were brought out of the chaos, but were not actively born by Apsu and Tiamat). Finally, Anu was actually born (the first active verb in the story), and Anu bore Ea (or Enki), who surpassed Anu in strength. The gods danced in merriment over the waters and made an awful racket which kept Apsu from his sleep.

Apsu grew angry and went to Tiamat, his wife, and told her his plan to kill the gods for their disrespectful behavior. Tiamat was outraged and refused to have any part in killing her children. Mummu, the visier to Apsu, encouraged Apsu in his plan, and so he set about plotting to kill the gods and get some much needed rest. Ea, the cleverest of gods, found out about this plan, and so used his power (his domain was over white magic) to put Apsu to sleep and slay him, and established for himself a temple over Apsu's body. Ea then married a goddess and they bore a child, Marduk (at least according to the Babylonian version).

Now, there is something important to note here - there are a lot of parallels in this story to later Greek literature (later by about 100-200 years), but the problem with the Greek Theogony is always that the younger generation of gods kill, castrate, or imprison their parents, with the help of their grandparents (typically) and thus seize power from their parents directly. This sets up a lot of conflicts. The scribe of the Enuma Elish and the story of Atrahasis was very careful to distance the slaying of Apsu by Ea, setting up relationships among the gods, but not so close as to imply direct conflict or patricide.

Now, Anu gave to Marduk the four winds as a plaything, and Marduk played with them often, stirring up the primordial waters, which angered Tiamat. Meanwhile, Ea had commanded the Igigi (namely, the gods other than those in his direct lineage) to go about working, digging irrigation canals and building temples and the like. This angered them greatly, as they felt enslaved. The Igigi, led by Kingu, went to Tiamat and very slyly encouraged her to action against Marduk and the gods of his lineage, saying "You stood by while your husband was killed, and you have neglected us. What kind of mother are you?"

So, Tiamat created eleven monsters of various sorts and outfitted herself and the gods for battle, appointing Kingu as king over them and giving to him the Tablets of Destiny. Ea and Marduk learned of this, and Ea got Marduk elected as temporary king over the gods in his lineage, on the condition that Marduk, who surpassed all the gods in strength, would receive the power to control destiny if he defeated Tiamat. So, the climatic battle (of this part of the story) has Marduk and Tiamat face off one-on-one. Marduk captures Tiamat with a net (actually echoing an earlier tradition where Enlil, not Marduk, was the central figure and he battled a gigantic bird creature, Anzu), killed her, and divided her body to create the firmament of the earth and the firmament of the sky. He established his temple and capital at Babylon, and shortly thereafter slew Kingu as a rebel.

Now, the story is careful to be considerate towards Tiamat - she was not an evil figure, but someone pressed upon by all sides and forced into action. Moreover, the scribe wanted to create a story about the reconciliation of the gods, and that doesn't work well when you have the largest portion of them enslaved to Marduk. So, the blame is assigned to Kingu, the Tablets of Destiny are taken away from him, and he is killed. The other gods are made to be free and have small chapels established to them within Babylon. Kingu's flesh and blood is mixed with clay to create man (the flesh conveys a "ghost" to man, while the blood conveys a "mind," or the capability to plan and think). This is similar to the Egyptian notion of the Ba and Ka, and reflects an idea that pervaded the region (including in Israel for a very long time before monotheism emerged) that people have several different souls which pertain to different domains. And here we transition from the Enuma Elish to the story of Atrahasis.

In the story of Atrahasis, man is made to work in place of the gods, whom they serve and give offerings to. Here we have several lineages presented: so-and-so lived for so many years and bore so-and-so, and he lived so many years more and had many sons and daughters. So-and-so lived for so many years and bore so-and-so, and he lived so many years more and had many sons and daughters (Sound familiar?). Then we arrive at the problem:

Man had been created as basically immortal - they could not die by age or disease, and so very quickly the world became overpopulated and man began making too much noise. At this point, Enlil, brother to Ea, and king of the gods (note the story of Atrahasis is not from the same source as the Enuma Elish, and either predates it or is from a region that is not Babylon, where Marduk would be the king of the gods), cannot sleep and grows angry against man. He sends three plagues, but each time Ea goes to man and tells him how to avert the plagues (basically by stopping sacrifice to their personal gods and sacrificing to the gods in control of the plagues, who become embarrassed and relent). Finally, Enlil, angered beyond measure, decides to send a great flood to completely wipe out all life on earth. Ea goes down and finds Atrahasis, and tells him to listen closely. Ea had been bound to not tell man of Enlil's plan, but he speaks to a wall while Atrahasis listens in on the conversation, and thus learns of the Deluge.

Atrahasis learns from Ea how to build a boat of such-and-such dimensions and how to put on it animals and such to survive the flood, as well as his family. This Atrahasis does and closes up the boat when the flood waters break open, lasting for seven days and seven nights. Atrahasis is on the boat for some time before it runs aground on a high mountain, where he disembarks and offers a sacrifice to the gods, who promise never to destroy the world by a flood again. Instead, Enlil decides to institute birth control - by means of disease, barren women, infant mortality, and social roles like priests who will not be able to marry. Gods and men are satisfied with this covenant.

Now, the important point is that this is not a story about sin. It is a story about the relation between men and gods and possibly an explanation for certain natural phenomena. Likewise, it is a mediation of the nature of the gods, as Ea later berates Enlil for trying to wipe out mankind indiscriminately - instead, he urges Enlil to use his powers to wipe out only the wicked, as this would be just. To kill everyone, when not all could be totally depraved, would be evil itself.

Now, the current scholarly opinion, even among believers, is that the Genesis account is modeled on, if not taking directly from, these stories, with some minor variations. These stories were written before the rise of what we know as the "Israelites" in the region, and there are clear literary motives that are taken from the older Sumerian.

Many other stories throughout history have used the narrative of a flood to tell an important moral tale, or about the continuing nature of human perseverance in the face of utter obliteration.

Lastly, on your quotes from Job, the Hebrew denotes a circle, or disc, which is indeed still a two-dimensional figure. Every indication from the Old Testament records, and Hebrew from the period outside of the canon, is that the Israelites considered the world, as did every other nation in their time near by, as did the older Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian cultures, as a flat disc with an up-ended bowl over head, floating on a fresh-water sea, surrounding by a salt sea, or surrounding by nothing, and floating on nothing.

Again, these are just my two-cents, but also a bit of commentary on the state of archeology, literature studies, and what we are learning about other ancient Near Eastern cultures. Take it for what you will.

-Ragoth

Tobias Fong

Truth becomes not so subjective when you can consult the book he has written and find out answers.

I'm afraid I'm not so sure about this statement. Truth is subjective because all the denominations consult the same book and yet still interpret it differently.

I'm not saying the Jehovah's Witnesses are wrong, I'm just saying just as possible their (including yours) beliefs are true, it is also possible that the other denominations are right. How can one book (the Bible) bring out so many different interpretations from their text? It is because everyone interprets it differently and therefore their truth is subjective. Just because there are more Catholics than Jehovah's Witnesses, that doesn't make the Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs any less true. Conversely, just because you believe in the Jehovah's Witnesses, it doesn't mean the Catholic beliefs are a lie.

That is what I meant by subjectiveness. I'm sorry, but I'm not trying to put down the Jehovah's Witnesses or Catholics. Rather I'm trying to find a common (or neutral) ground among all the different denominations.

Look at the Molmorns (did I spell their anme correctly?) for example. A lot of the other denominations dismiss it, but to them themselves, their Molmorn beliefs are the truth. You cannot say they are lying, right? It's just that whether which denomination is right is a fact none of us know.

Put it this way. We all know the sun rises from the east. It is a fact. But for people who have never seen the sun (probably lived underground all their lives), they may be wrong to believe the sun rises from the west (some don't even believe there's a sun, comparable to atheists), but that doesn't make their belief a lie. We all know it's wrong, though because we have seen the sun, but that doesn't make them liars, see?

Right now, we are all like the people living underground, since none of us can claim to have seen or spoken to God. Yet we all hold our own beliefs, and until someone from the surface (or God Himself) comes down to our cavern and confirms all our beliefs, it is not fair for us to dismiss all other truths just because we have our own truth.

I hope I didn't offend anyone, especially you! I apologize if I did.

tom sheepandgoats

Ragoth:

"but the problem with the Greek Theogony is always that the younger generation of gods kill, castrate, or imprison their parents, with the help of their grandparents"

I hate it when they do that.

Thanks, Ragoth, for the background, and I may have more response when I read it through more closely. I will admit to being heavily influenced by the pieces-coming-together quality of the Bible which I described in my post. Not just the coming together, but also the fact that, in coming together, the completed picture gives satisfying, consistent, and reasonable answers to important questions of life - questions which I don't find satisfactorily addressed anywhere else.

Human findings, on the other hand, are notoriously changeable. What is in vogue one day may be out the window a few years later. It's happened before. No reason to think it might not happen again.

In other words, it's not really that I'm ignoring your facts, though it may seem that way. It's that I'm paying more attention to a different set of facts, a set which you may not regard as facts at all, but I do. Sometimes when facts do not resolve you simply have to put the whole matter on the shelf for awhile, awaiting more complete information in one or both disciplines.

Tobias:

You, too, I may have more response for after I read through and ponder. For now, just this....

"I hope I didn't offend anyone, especially you! I apologize if I did."

I truly do appreciate this, though I haven't found anything about your manner the least bit offensive. I live in the Western world, and people here routinely (though not Ragoth) say things 100 times more offensive than anything you've uttered, and think nothing of it.

We could learn from you, all of us in the West.

Ragoth

Hey Tom,

A quick question, something that came up in a discussion with someone else and I was wondering your own personal opinion. Not as a debate-starter, but just wondering where you stand on the matter.

I know you've said before that Jehovah's Witnesses are not committed to the young-earth creation viewpoint, and that you've also mentioned in one of your responses to me the necessity of the literal nature of the Adam and Eve story.

I was wondering if you could give me your perspective, and perhaps the "official" position, if there is one, on the age of the universe, when humanity arose and how, and if Adam and Eve were literally the first two people, or where the nomads that Cain joined came from. Also, do you believe that Bishop Ussher was correct in his chronology of humanity?

Again, just wondering, get back to me if you have time, here or on my blog, or even email, whatever works best.

Thanks,
Ragoth

tom sheepandgoats

Hello, Ragoth.

Adam and Eve stay. There's too much that logically hinges upon they being the two first created humans. Like these areas:

http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats/2006/07/the_first_and_t.html

and

http://carriertom.typepad.com/sheep_and_goats/2008/02/why-do-bad-thin.html

If, from that first couple, everyone else arose, then the offspring of that first couple must have intermarried. That Adam had sufficient children is shown at Genesis 5:4. Of course, such marriages would not work today. There are taboos about incest. Imperfections in the gene code are magnified in such a union, and the offspring suffer for it. But you must remember our overall view that humans were created perfect, and it is only with the arrival of sin that they have gradually deteriorated. That's exactly the opposite of evolution, which holds that life gradually improves. We hold it gradually declines. In the early stages of human history, unions among close relatives would not have presented the problems that they would today. The taboos came later.

But if much hinges on there being a first human couple, nothing especially hinges upon the age of the earth. Thus, we've no reason to take exception to estimates of the universe's age. Gen 1:1 says that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This is before the creative days mentioned thereafter, so that, even if you were to insist upon specific time periods for the creative days (and we do not) the heavens and earth were created before those periods commenced. Millions of years? Billions? Trillions? We've no reason to argue any of it. It's a different discipline.

I'm not familiar with Bishop Ussher and had to look him up. Looks like he's speaking of about 6000 years. That roughly squares with what we've worked out from Bible chronology. I'm sure there are differences, but offhand, I don't know what they are.

How did it turn out with Ms. Wright?

:) I hope. ?

Ragoth

Hey Tom,

I figured something along those lines would be your answer, and yes, I do agree that within the Christian story, it is absolutely essential that the Adam and Eve story is literal truth for a redemptive human blood sacrifice to make sense (though, personally, to me, the notion of blood sacrifice doesn't make much sense, and I never understood why God requires blood or death in general as a price, but, that's just a personal aside).

I've also heard the argument for the original perfection of mankind, and only subsequent deteroration of the genetic code that makes incest a problematic affair. Likewise, I've heard, a la Kent Hovind, his general idea that the Bible argues that in the beginning we were bigger, better, faster, stronger, and smarter, and we are getting progressively smaller, worse, slower, weaker, and dumber. I'd argue that apparently in our weakened and dumber state we have discovered rotating agriculture, modern medicines, and how to build things like space probes which seem to be beyond our smarter and stronger ancestors, but...another digression. One minor point of contention though, as far as the "That's exactly the opposite of evolution, which holds that life gradually improves." If by that you mean the 18th/19th century view of progressive evolution, which wasn't so much a view of biology as it was sociology/history, then I would agree. If you mean evolution in the biological sense...well, I have to argue. The biological theory of evolution merely states that those populations more suited to their environment tend to survive. The teleological notion of "improvement" is basically absent from this. Sometimes, a simpler form is better suited to the environment, such as when populations of fish become blind after living in cave environments for many generations (though, it's interesting to note that they still begin to develop eyes as embryos and only lose their function as hormones are down-regulated in development...basically the same way that whales still produce hind legs that are then stunted or reabsorbed, grow coats of hair and lose them; or that modern birds begin to produce a full reptilian tail but then have it down regulated early in development, or produce teeth that are lost in development [most of the time...you can find both wild mutants who lose that down-regulation pathway and develop full sets of reptilian teeth, or have been genetically modified to stop the down-regulatory pathway with the same result], or how modern birds have their arm muscles attached basically at the sternum and follow a rather circuitous path to provide torsion to lift the wing, showing the same muscle attachments of reptiles...an all-in-all rather inefficient design...and sorry, that was a rather long aside, but some interesting stuff. As a further side note, there is some interest in taking modern birds and one-by-one trying to eliminate some of the newer down-regulation pathways that block the full development of reptilian traits such as the long tail, teeth, claws and folded arm that basically give us modern birds. It's one of the fascinating things about embryology - watching these atavistic traits begin to arise, using the same molecular pathways of ancestral species, and then get down-regulated by newer hormones to prevent their full expression).

As far as the 6000 years bit, do you argue that that's roughly the time span of human existance, or do you go with the more common position of those who agree with it that it's also the age of the universe? Also, as far as historical, archeological evidence, both internal (i.e. culture's own dating methods compared to other coexistant cultures' dates or historical records) or external (radiodating) that dates to much longer than 4004 B.C., such as the city of Jericho already being inhabited for roughly 5000 years by that time (first evidence of settlement around 9000 B.C., with the first permanent settlement beginning between 8000 and 7000 B.C.), or the numerous other cultures in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the world producing art and the beginnings of literature, how do you square this with the Bible's internal chronology? I'm not looking to provoke a debate with this one, I'm merely interested in knowing your opinion on it and if there is an "official" position among the Jehovah's Witnesses. For me, personally, when I was a committed Christian, that was one of the hardest elements to take on faith - that Adam and Eve were the literal first people, despite ample evidence, internal to cultures and external, to suggest otherwise. Originally, before I became a strong agnostic/atheist I decided that the only way to really make sense of it and not deny the huge bulk of research into archaic periods was to recognize it as originally a Jewish document that saw the Adam and Eve story as either a metaphorical look at human origins, as I assume you think most other creation stories are (if not out-right false), or perhaps a literal story of the creation of a special people who became assimilated into the wider world (Although, yes, I do agree that from the Christian perspective, this utterly castrates any meaning of the crucifixition). It was always problematic for me that Cain was worried about people striking him down for being a known murderer - who else was known to be alive at that point, given just the Biblical record? Or that he had to wander long enough for Adam and Seth's descendents to become populous enough to form a separate tribe of nomads which Cain could join, and then have enough people to establish a city with specialized labor. Again, just a digression, but it was always a point of contention for me.

As for Ms. Wright, we're actually engaged. We have an apartment on the South Side of Chicago as we're finishing up our Masters degrees and I'm cultivating a small garden for over the summer and fall (yes, I was a southern boy growing up and I grew up farming every year...I've missed it, and we actually have enough land with the building to grow a few zucchini plants, peas, broccoli, and some herbs. All in all, I'm rather excited about it).

How are things in the Sheepandgoats tribe?

-Ragoth

tom sheepandgoats

First things first. I’ve always yearned to be a busybody matchmaker, and now I see I have become one. Doubtless you will want to call upon me when it comes time to select someone for your wedding talk. I’ll load it up with references to Adam and Eve, the first married couple, as any Witness wedding talk invariably points out. You’ll love it. So will Ms Wright. And it’s a slam-dunk your marriage will endure endlessly, on that account.

When I first encountered Jehovah’s Witnesses in the mid-1970’s, I was dumbfounded that I had found people who actually believed in Adam and Eve. They didn’t look stupid - or at least no more so than the general population - yet all my life I had believed that only the dumbest of the rednecks believed in Adam and Eve. From the Witness who later studied with me I obtained a book, “Did Man Get Here by Evolution or Creation“. I didn’t like it. I thought it was poorly written and took some cheap shots. (It has since been replaced by an updated “Life - How did it Get Here - By Evolution or Creation” and even that book has been replaced by another, which includes the biological evolution topic as one among several.) See, I had taken courses in biology in both high school and college, and had a good layman’s grasp of the subject. For a time, I could not resolve the two conflicting paradigms, but since everything else I was learning through that Bible study made so much sense and was so satisfying, I decided to put the evolution question on the shelf for awhile. In time, I did resolve the two, as you have observed by my present posts on the subject.

This was my first experience with the notion that we are not nearly so rational as we imagine ourselves to be. We are more complex. We are driven, not by logic, nor (in most cases) strictly by emotion, but by an interplay of the two, with the latter usually taking the upper hand. Interesting to me is that the Bible consistently says that God is making an examination of hearts (not of minds) to search out who is complete towards him. It is with the heart - an interplay of logic, emotion, intuition, and probably some other stuff not readily defined - that we determine which beliefs we will hold, and then we use our logic to put a rational face on it, since we live in a society that values that quality. This is not true merely with regard to religion, in my view, but with regard to most human activity. Nationalism, I think, can be explained no other way.

Facts do not point consistently in the same direction. You only get hamstrung by “cognitive dissonance” if you imagine that it’s possible to get to the bottom of all things through intellect alone. It’s not. The way that term is bandied about today, it is little more than a high-brow substitute for childish name-calling. That intellect has its limitations ought to be apparent from the fields of relativity and quantum mechanics. These fields teach us that we’re basically pretty blind as to the way things are, without much hope of resolving matters. And when you are basically blind with regard to essential building blocks of how things are, I don’t know how you can insist that they, nonetheless, summarily rule out this or that conclusion. Frankly, we don’t know what these fields teach us, nor what they rule out. We may be able to describe them mathematically, but we don’t know what the mathematics mean.

You may feel that the “proof” for evolution is - say -twenty times stronger today than it was in the 1970’s, with the advances of genetic research and embryology and so forth. I assure you, though, that having one twentieth of today’s present knowledge made evolutionists no less cocksure of themselves then as they are today. (Embryology is not especially persuasive to me as a proof of evolution. Most designed things also share components - various models of automobiles are built upon the same platform, for instance.) The field of evolution is mostly emotion, or “heart,” driven by the desire to escape the obnoxious, heavy-handed, narrow-minded, self-serving influence of religious leaders, who historically have enjoyed first place in human society, and papered over by heavy layers of logic and science to make it palatable in an age which prizes those qualities. One was able to make an excellent case for creation back in the 1970's. One can make it today. That evolutionists don’t acknowledge it means nothing. Humans have a dismal record for acknowledging other points of view, and characteristically resort to name-calling to disparage what they don't agree with. “My way or the highway” has long prevailed in human thinking. Probably, political correctness and the recent appreciation of “diversity” is an attempt to come to grips with this sorry history. We throw up our hands and say we can’t get to the bottom of anything, and therefore say we will accept and value everything. But that acceptance only extends so far. It only includes pre-selected subjects, not all subjects, and our herd mentality determines what those pre-selected subjects are.

So how do I resolve the dilemmas you have presented? I don’t. I put them on the shelf, awaiting further resolution, without knowledge of when, or if, such resolution will come. "Screech", in one of the comments on the post "I Don't Do Floods", offers a possible, if partial, resolution.
http://tinyurl.com/r6qute
Human thinking is notoriously changeable, and hence, unreliable. The present thinking - in all fields - is always presented as the latest, the greatest, the most uncontestable. Economic theory, for example, has completely been turned upon its head in just the past year or two. Now, I don’t think the two fields (economics and science) are as poles apart as you might maintain, though I acknowledge they are far from synonymous. It is economic ‘theory,” after all, not economic emotion or fad. Humans run with a herd mentality. But they never acknowledge it until the herd has turned. They don’t acknowledge it even then.

Nor do I rule out that our own views might change. They have before. Probably we, too, before my time, once supposed that the days in Genesis chapter one were twenty four hour days. Within my lifetime, we used to maintain they were time periods of seven thousand years apiece, a conclusion suggested by some internal Bible chronology which we needn’t go into here. But we now maintain that the scriptures do not insist upon such a view, and we present the days merely as indeterminate periods of time. It’s a concession to current scientific thought. We are not so inflexible as you may think.

And now for some specific replies to matters you’ve brought up - I’m not, like a politician - evading ALL your questions, in favor of simply saying what I want to say. [smile]

“I'd argue that apparently in our weakened and dumber state we have discovered rotating agriculture, modern medicines, and how to build things like space probes which seem to be beyond our smarter and stronger ancestors, but...another digression.”

Well - knowledge accumulates, after all, aided greatly by the printing press, by libraries, by increased mobility, and more recently, by the internet. Humans today can draw upon the efforts of thousands of thinkers, both contemporary and in the past, rather than merely their immediate neighbors. And I would also point out that human progress has come at the cost of severe social injustice and environmental peril, to the point where the planet itself is threatened. If you have a bright, but cocky, kid who insists upon pursuing whatever catches his interest, and ends up burning down the house with his chemistry set and killing all occupants, have you really gained? I would also add that it’s not uncommon for archeologists to dig up evidence suggesting that the ancients were much more advanced than commonly supposed. We never hear that they were dumber than previously thought, always smarter. Certain accomplishments, the pyramids perhaps, it’s not clear that we could duplicate even today.

“The biological theory of evolution merely states that those populations more suited to their environment tend to survive. The teleological notion of "improvement" is basically absent from this”

Okay. Thanks for the clarification.

Regarding Cain, yes, perhaps he was thinking long-term, concerned with the eventual consequences of his pariah status. His act, after all, was the first murder recorded, and the first of anything always has unpredictable consequences.

And, yes, I have rambled a bit. Maybe I will refine and winnow this material into a post of it’s own. Two birds with one stone, as they say.

How are things in the Sheepandgoats tribe? Well, we just froze our tusches off at the recent Lilac Festival, per my last post. But we are diehard fools, like Red Sox fans, and already eagerly awaiting the next one.


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