By A L Katz
It always comes down to awe — the awe that we all feel, be you atheist or person of faith, when we gaze up at the cosmos. How do we explain the awe — what is it exactly that’s awing us? Yes, it’s enormous and powerful and dangerous and filled with mystery — well, with questions to which we don’t know the answers yet.
Science arrives at the answer (if it can find an answer) by measuring things and how they change. Once it knows what the change is, it can begin to ask “why?” Measuring things (repeatedly over time) creates context — an idea of “normal”. If the context stops being normal, we need to know what caused that — and why.
Why, for instance, does the moon go through phases? Why are there tides? Both questions came because something was observed. But the answers? Science will measure everything it can. it will look for cause and effect. It will experiment with its theories, using reproduceable means that, it hopes, gives consistent results. Those results will allow for theorizing — the why. Religion won’t measure a thing. In its mind, it doesn’t have to. What would it measure anyway? It’s waiting for God to answer any questions. And if God doesn’t answer? Maybe that’s his answer. Get it?
The thing with science is, you have to show your work.
Religion has a real luxury in that it never has to measure anything. Even when it does, it never has to show its work or explain it. What calendar were the OT’s writers using when they describe “the lineage of Noah” with men in their 90’s, 100’s 110’s are reproducing like young rabbits? Genesis claims (chapter 6, verse 23) that “After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham an Japheth”.
I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to prove it — that Noah or anyone back then lived anything like 500 years in a pre-penicillin world. It’s just a stone cold fact — no human lived a life that long. If you can’t back up the claim with data, it’s bullshit. But, let’s forget math for a second. Let’s look at straight logic. How are there people in the world to begin with? How were there enough evil people around that Yahweh felt compelled to flood the world out, killing not just all the rotten people but pretty much every creature?
I ask because the text itself — the infallible, word-o-god text — claims this in Genesis, chapter 4, verses 25 – 26: “Adam knew his wife again, and she bor a son and named him Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him. To Seth also a son was born and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.”
Did you catch that little sleight of hand? First of all — the story is Adam and Eve produce Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel leaving behind as the only humans Yahweh has created Adam, Eve and Cain. Then Adam & Eve replace Abel with Baby Seth.
Back to four humans here on the planet. Except… “To Seth also a son was born”. Hmmmmm… how’s that exactly? We’ve got three humans and only one of them is female. By that story logic, in order for Seth to so have a son, the only possible female he could have it with IS HIS MOM. That’s a problem. But what’s the alternative? If it ain’t mom? Where’d all the “other woman” come from?
The text makes things worse for itself. “At the time people began to invoke…” — wait, say what? “People” began to invoke? Who’s this “people”? Where exactly did “people” come from? The text doesn’t say “a couple guys” or “a few of the neighbors” or “the bridge club”, it says “people”. To be honest, I’m less concerned with whatever they’re invoking and more concerned with where the hell they came from and how they got into the story.
If the bible were a book of science rather than one of religion, it would ask those questions. Being a book of religion however, it doesn’t have to — and it doesn’t.
The beauty of a spiritual journey is it doesn’t rely on anyone measuring anything other than one’s spiritual progress.
How would one measure “awe” anyway?