Saturday, 30 May 2015

Reader's Question: Christianity and the dinosaurs?

Reader's Questions: "How can a Christian satisfactorily account for the period of natural history including the dinosaurs? To ignore this difficulty would seem dishonest and to take a cherry picking approach to reality of only including the bits of reality one would like for comfort. As a rational person (or at least someone who feels a strong need to try to be rationally consistent - flexible metaphysical assumptions aside) I have personally felt this is an Achilles heel to the traditional Genesis story which gets swept under the rug. Furthermore, but of secondary importance, I am very tired of secular a atheists ending religious debates about the existence of God or the integrity of traditional creation accounts with a "What about the dinosaurs?! Fossil record?! Etc. " Until now I disagree with them through faith and sidestep the issue as best I can but this feels dishonest and they seem to have an excellent point."

My Answer: All science is based on the metaphysical assumption of NOT using divine explanations. Scientific evolutionary theory's task was to find a non-divine but nonetheless still metaphysical explanation for the data, i.e. the 'appearances' of the world.

Life had been classified by Linnaeus before Darwin, what Darwin did was to suggest a non-divine and purposeless mechanism relating the cross-sectional forms of life (including fossils) with a linear explanation based on descent with modification.

Natural Selection is not science, it is not testable science, it cannot be disproven - it is a metaphysical system based on the assumption that the forms of life arose and adapted and diversified by non-divine mechanisms, with no purpose. Modern biology works within this set of metaphysical assumptions.

Therefore, the evidence of fossils, dinosaurs etc has - by its own definition - nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity: it neither proves nor disproves Christianity, because Christianity was ruled-out from the start.

The meaning of the Genesis story within Christianity is a different matter - I would say that the meaning is not very clear; indeed to me, the early parts of Genesis are among the most obscure parts of the Bible (THE most obscure part is Job). It is possible that a full understanding of Genesis may not be available to modern people, since we think in such a different way from our ancestors.

(Aside: My personal view is that some parts of the Bible are much more relevant, and therefore (by divine intention) more comprehensible, than others at different times and in different places. Consequently, some parts of the Bible are best (more-or-less) ignored by most people most of the time - not because they are 'uncomfortable' but because they are not very relevant or are simply incomprehensible (these parts of the Bible are meant for other times and places, past or future). Leviticus is the most obvious example. It seems clear that the Gospels are (by far) the most important parts of the Bible for our era - e.g. as seems to be confirmed by the relative success of conservative evangelicals and Jesus-(and Gospel)-focused Christianity in winning converts among the modern young - the Old Testament being, relatively, all-but ignored. I am not saying this near-exclusive Gospel focus is ideal - but that it has worked, it makes sense, and it is what most serious modern Christians actually do.)