Monday, November 19, 2012

"One of the Great Mysteries"

Such is how Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) characterizes the origins of our universe and the age of the Earth.   Andrew Sullivan goes off on his back-handed denial of FACTS. 

Pivoting off of Andrew, I just started imagining a conversation I might have with someone who believes that God created all of creation 6,000 years ago in six Earth days (and then, presumably, "rested").  Since Archbishop Ussher of Armagh published his paper 362 years ago stating that based on biblical research (essentially adding up the begats since the time of Adam & Eve) about 6,000 years have passed, I would start by asking how he/she knows that the 6,000 number is true.  "The Bible says it is, so that's good enough for me," comes the reply.  OK, I sigh, what about all that science that suggests the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and that the Universe came into existence about 13 billion years ago?  Did you see the article about the Hubble Space Telescope spotting and identifying a galaxy that was 13 billion light years away?  "I don't need science to tell me what's true," he spits. "The only truth is The Word.  Science is just a bunch of guesses.  Educated guesses, maybe, but there's so much scientists still don't know and will never know."  You do realize, I press, that actual science involves a lot of mathematics, right?  That it involves observing the world and noting what happens under certain conditions -- like when you heat water to 212 degrees, it changes from a liquid to a gas.  It doesn't happen at 211 degrees, or even 211.9 degrees.  It happens precisely at 212 degrees.  "Right," he says, "what's your point?"  My point is that math is a constant.  It's not a guess that 2 + 2 = 4; that's a fact.  The same about the boiling temperature of water.  That's a fact too.  And science is pretty sophisticated, to the point where, using math and observation can yield pretty precise and reliable results.  Scientific processes like carbon dating use math to pinpoint the age of the Earth.  Tell me: is math a guess too?  "No, of course not," he scoffs.  Then how can you be so certain that the Earth is only 6,000 years old?  How can you be certain that all of the known universe came into being in six Earth days?  Back in the 17th century, Galileo realized that Earth was not the center of the universe.  Do you think it's possible that the people who wrote the Bible didn't know enough about the earth and the stars and the way people and creatures came about to explain it in any other way than by writing this creation story?  "The Bible is the word of God!  It can't be wrong."  It's not wrong! The Bible is inspired by God, but not directly written by God.  Were these writers, these human beings, so connected to God that they were able to write, word for word, what God wanted to say?  Were these writers connected to the mind of God, and has no one else since the time of Jesus been so inspired?  I'm no scholar of theology, but doesn't that seem like an awful waste of the human mind?  Are scientists, and those who are satisfied with the facts at which they arrive, simply deluding themselves? 

You see where I'm going.  Facts matter.  There is no "great mystery" to the creation of the universe.  You don't have to be a scientist to say, "I know the earth is 4.5 billion years old."  Science tells us how long ago earth came into existence, and how long ago various species of animals came to exist and die off on Earth.  Science tells us what is happening today, on earth, with our bodies and our planet's climate.  And science tells us what very well may happen to our planet's climate, land, seas, and people.  There is lots of theory out there, of course, and it's true that there are some things we might never know.  But what we already know based on science is pretty much beyond doubt and in extremely little danger of being disproven.  We can comfort ourselves all we want with religion.  There's a great deal of peace we can derive in believing that we are part of something much greater and unknowable, that there is a Creator or creative force that drives us, motivates us, energizes us.  But we should never confuse that with the idea that God has already answered everything for us.  There is a monumentally strong possibility that what we don't know is knowable, and an equally strong human imperative that we try to know it.  And finally, there is no possibility of peace in digging in and saying that you know all that you need to know because you have Jesus (or Allah, or Adonai) and your sacred text.  Ignorance, despite the old aphorism, is not bliss.  Rabbi Hillel said it best: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

Go.  And learn.

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