In the Beginning, God Created Ignorance

Galileo - My HeroWhile talking to myself yesterday on the way to the gym I decided (erringly) to pretend I was an attorney in the evolution vs. creationism debate that is going on all over this country. I used Galileo as a prime example of the error of misguided thinking, that taking the bible literally equates with locking a man up for merely pointing out the truth: that the Earth is not the center of the universe. And I thought, why can’t God and evolution co-exist? To me, humankind’s emergence from proto-bacteria after billions of years of selection, mutation, and chance, is in some ways more profound than a diety waving his magic wand and saying, “Well, there ya go.”

But that makes for a poor legal argument. (I never was good as my Ps and Qs. ) To me the bible(s) and holy books of the world represent humankind’s yearning to connect with something greater than themselves, codifying a series of moral and ethical rules to a world that their creators percieved as lacking such standards. And while their aspirations were high, we all know that they, unlike the God (or gods) they tried to emulate, were not omniscient, they could not forsee a time thousands of years in the future when small minded fools would take their words as the word of God and use them to forcefully ignore one hundred and fifty years of evidence to the contrary.

As Maimonides points out in his huge treatise “The Guide for the Perplexed,” any literal interpretation of the Bible (specifically in his case, the Torah, or Old Testament) is an incorrect interpretation. The book is a series of metaphors meant to teach valuable moral lessons. Yet even in his profound insight he was not immune to the knowledge of the times, and incorrectly assumed that the Earth was the center of the universe surrounded by the celestial spheres, and attacked anyone who did not “know this to be so.”

Even great minds make mistakes. Einstein called his cosmological constant “the greatest blunder of his life.”

But smaller minds make even greater mistakes, because they often do not know the harm they are capable of. To me, a Cosmos that’s 13 Billion years old, perhaps one in a series of infinite universes, with scales ranging from galactic superclusters to the infinitesimal vibrating string, with creatures that evolved on at least one planet and perhaps millions merely from swirling energy and dust , with unfathomable structures like black holes, gaseous globules, neutron stars, magnetars and infinitely more sprawled across an ineffable space, speaks more to me of God than any literal interpretation of a phrase in a three thousand year old book that says, “And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.”

2 Replies to “In the Beginning, God Created Ignorance”

  1. Hmm… so I don’t know if you’ll actually read this comment, since the blog entry is several months old, but I shall comment away anyway since I am avoiding doing any real work (hence reading blog archives =).

    Mostly, I just wanted to say that there’s a passage in THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED by F. Scott Fitzgerald that talks about things very similarly to your post, and if you’d like, I’ll dig up my copy of it to find the exact quote. I remember it as being cynical and the characters were drunk at the time (and possibly sitting on a roof as well, but I’m not quite sure), but it was a brilliant synopsis of what the Bible really is, and it resonated wonderfully with me at the age of 13.

  2. Hi Jenny! I get an email when anyone posts, so I do read the comments (but are you reading this?). Yes, I would like to see that quote!

    (And someone actually reads my blog. Hurray!)

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