Clearly defining terms
Anyone who carefully reads the book of Genesis can quickly tell that the first eleven chapters are markedly different from the rest. Indeed, readers have noticed this feature for millennia. Genesis 12 describes the call of Abraham and the rest of the book chronicles events in the lives of Abraham’s posterity. Genesis 1-11, however, is quite different. The scope of these parts of Genesis is cosmic and global. Genesis 1-3 describes the creation of the cosmos, earth, and humans. William Craig argues that when read in light of the whole of Genesis, the Pentateuch—of which Genesis is only one part—and the ancient Near East (ANE) contexts, Genesis 1 to 11 is best understood as a myth with a keen interest in history. Genesis 1-11 functions to situate the nation of Israel within the cosmos. As Craig writes, it “is a sacred preamble to the history of Israel” (54).
If the Copernican revolution defended by Galileo Galilei displaced humans from the center of the universe, the Darwinian revolution completed what was left by stripping humans of any sense of unique worth. Whereas people had embraced the idea of being created by some supreme being as the science of human origin, Darwinism offered a radically different narrative in which a human is no more special than a SARS-CoV-2 particle. Indeed, the former owes its existence to viruses which are her genetic ancestors. While not challenging the Gospel of Jesus, the Darwinian idea seeing 32ly invalidates the message of the first few pages of the Bible. For the theologically minded persons, those were very trying times. Theologians and skeptical scientists levied critiques against Darwinism—a not unusual development; new scientific ideas always benefit from reviews. These critiques helped refine the Darwinian thesis. Today, Darwin-inspired evolutionary science is the scientific consensus—even if substantive debates continue about various aspects of the dogma. All in all, theology yielded grounds to the unstoppable mighty Darwinian force in all of this.
An Everlasting Myth
Every schoolchild knows something about Galileo Galilei. She may not know that the 16th-century Italian scientist studied at the University of Pisa or designed telescopes that he later used to observe mountains on the earth’s moon. But she knows that Galileo was a bold scientist who stood up against the Pope and the Catholic Church with his scientific findings and got severely punished for so doing. Indeed, even today, people continue to formulate Galileo’s friction with the Church as an archetype of science versus religion or reason versus faith. In many people’s minds, religion is just the sort of thing that hinders scientific progress, as the story of Galileo showed. This story is a myth, an untruth, as I shall show below.
The Big Human Factor
It is no news that science and religion often make claims concerning the same things. Sometimes they concur in their proclamations; other times, they do not. For instance, for some 2000 years while science, under the influence of Aristotelianism, maintained that the universe was eternal even though the first page of the Bible vehemently disagrees, proclaiming that the universe had a finite past. Similarly, Galileo, a Christian and scientist, knew about the church’s teaching that the earth was the center of the universe when he proposed heliocentrism. These observations need not be surprising. Whatever else one may think about religion and science, this is true: humans play considerable roles in both endeavors and do so with their messy humanness.