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When a Believer in the Myth of Scientism Tells You…

BY Mark Shea

| Posted 6/9/13 at 10:59 PM

 

"Science Destroys Creation Myths" consider the possibility that the reply to this is "Rubbish".

But given that “destroying a creation myth” means “showing that the myth is not true”, why does one need a science to do this? We don’t need sciences to know that myths are, well, myths. Or is the claim that no one recognized that (the relevant) creation accounts were myths until science told us so? But then the claim is just false: we didn’t need the sciences to know that creation accounts are mythical. Millions of people could recognize creation myths as such before any of the modern sciences. It takes no knowledge of science at all to recognize a myth for what it is and to take intellectual satisfaction in it and this, if anything, should show us that myth is a different way of satisfying intellectual curiosity than science is and therefore is not the sort of thing that science destroys.
 

The creation account in Genesis hails from a time "before philosophy" (as a suggestively titled book calls the period of antiquity). It is a time before science, religion, magic, miracle, myth and poetry have been teased apart into separate categories. So in Egypt, real advances in medicine are inextricably bound up with magic and the wearing of amulets. In Babylon, the question "Are you an astronomer or an astrologer?" would be unintelligible since the interest was in trying to trace our relationship with the heavenly bodies and nobody has pulled those two approaches apart yet. In Israel, the constellations are sacramental images of the "heavenly hosts" and Israel's banners reflect the zodiac because Israel is the earthly host commanded by the same God who made the heavens.

Not surprisingly then, the Genesis account makes no attempt to distinguish the construction of the cosmic temple of creation from the construction of the liturgical temple of Israelite worship. The two are one in the Israelite mind and the account of creation in Genesis is not a rival (and bad) scientific account of the birth of the universe to that of scientific modernity, but a liturgical account that sees creation as a gigantic temple in which the human person takes the place normally reserved for the statue of the god in ancient semitic temples. It's not trying to answer scientific questions about how the universe was created (and indeed elsewhere in Israelite literature such questions are dismissed as unimportant, as when God tells Job: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding" (Job 38:2-4).

It is Job, not Genesis, that gets the closest to showing us the ancient Jewish attitude toward what we now call "scientific" questions, and the writer's basic attitude is "Who cares how God made all this stuff? The real issue is why." And the mysterious answer of Genesis, never fully fleshed out until the coming of Christ, is "Because he loves us."

Genesis is, recall, a book written to prepare us for the main story of Torah: the book of Exodus. That story has, right at its heart, the covenant of God with Israel at Sinai and the establishment of the worship of God via a Levitical priesthood and a cultic space called the Tabernacle. Later, that cultic space will be succeeded by a Temple built on the same model as the Tabernacle. Genesis sees creation as a gigantic Tabernacle/Temple just as it sees the Tabernacle/Temple as a sort of microcosm of creation. The notion that SCIENCE[TM]! has anything yea or nay to say about such a view of creation is like the notion your plumber's knowledge of hydraulics has conclusively disproven that Handel's "Water Music" is a great and beautiful piece of music.