For most of human history it was, ‘if you want to figure out something, go to what has been revealed about it.’ That was Scripture—information given from on high, information revered because it “had stood the test of time.”
It was not only Scripture. When “science” emerged (at first called “natural history,”) it followed that same pattern of knowledge through revelation, knowledge that had been revealed, knowledge that had stood the test of time! Aristotle philosophied on how the world was three hundred years before Christ and his teachings were dogma for almost 2000 years. Euclid, Aristotle’s contemporary, derived rules of mathematics and nobody dared add to that structure for as many years.
The motive to think of and do things as they had always been done was overwhelming. Experiment with new growing methods in the days of subsistence farming and if you get it wrong you die! Who would take a chance on something so risky? Stick with ideas “that had stood the test of time.”
At first glance, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not unduly hobbled by this mindset of knowing things by revelation. They have at least three things going for them. One, they keep up with science, more or less. They’re not the ones who put dinosaurs on the Kentucky ark. They put them on the inside of their 1961 Bible cover, but they took them out in deference to science declaring that those monsters lived long before humans. 1961 might seem awfully late to still be putting dinosaurs on your inside Bible cover, but recall it took till 1987 for the evolutionists to arm twist the U. S. Supreme Court (Edwards v. Aguillard) that creation science is not science, and since that time the Witness organization has never said it was. Maybe they never said it at all, since “creation science” has political overtones and the Witnesses don’t do politics.
Instead, Witnesses have become accustomed to reading such things as “the Bible is not a book of science, but it is in harmony with true science.” Materialists will choke at this phrasing, for they assume that ALL science is true, and if it is not there is no other way to correct the problem than a further advance of science. But the Watchtower’s phrasing is in accord with the truth that not everything is examined physically; some things are examined spiritually, and when science encroaches on that field where it has but clumsy and inapplicable tools, it is apt to come up with something other than “true science.”
So if scientists have been convinced of evolution since the day Darwin stepped off the returning ship, the teaching was still controversial for the great unwashed up till at least 1987. Jehovah’s Witnesses by and large are from the great unwashed. Few are scientists. That being the case, it’s reasonably progressive of them to be interviewing Michael Behe in 1996, who believes in evolution in the main but insists it has limits—the “edge of evolution,” in his words. Micro-evolution is correct, he maintains. It is the bird beaks that Darwin wrote about, little different than animal husbandry that farmers have known of forever. But macro-evolution is unproven, Behe says, and abiogenesis much more so. In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses will have little objection to Darwin. They wouldn’t have interviewed Behe if they hated his guts. When they do object to Darwin, it is because of correctly anticipating the tractor-trailer loads of dogma that atheists will drive through the door he leaves open.
Not everything dovetails. But by and large, the Witness organization takes the view, ‘let scientists be scientists and Bible students be Bible students.’ You don’t have to know everything this instant. It’s okay to put some things on the shelf pending further information. Is it true that we cannot hold ideas that don’t entirely square with one another simultaneously without our heads short circuiting? One look at a Pharma ad suffices to show that cognitive dissonance is a concept vastly overrated—with narrator insisting that you must have the drug peddled and voiceover saying that it may kill you.
To be continued…
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