Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Bible as Natural History? Pull the Other One!

Sent to "The Star", Johannesburg, on Sat 30/01/2010, published in abbreviated form.
Bob Holcombe (The Star Letters, January 29 2010) waxes lyrical as to our uniqueness.

Has he heard of the Anthropic Principle?  This says that the reason we are on a planet and in a solar system hospitable to life, is because life would not survive in a place hostile to life.

If the Tau Ceti system (for example) were more hospitable to life, we could have been on Tau Ceti IV waving our tentacles in the methane in praise of our tantacled god who placed us in such a life-giving environment instead of on barren Earth.

Mr Holcombe goes on to credit his god with the design of the solar system and suggest that we look at the account given of our origins in the Bible.

Has he read the tale of Creation in Genesis?  Every fact about the origin and structure of the universe contradicts it.

Genesis 1 says the world was created in six days.  Not symbolic "days" of millions of years: literal, 24-hour days, as made clear by repeating "And the evening and the morning were the n-th day" (in those days, and still in Jewish tradition, the day was taken to start at sunset).

Based on hard evidence, science says that the universe is about 13.73 billion (USA billion = 109) years old, the sun only about 4.57, and the earth a bit younger at around 4.54 billion years (source: Wikipedia).

The Bible says that the sun, moon and stars were created on day 4, some days after the earth, and well after the creation of "day" and "night".

Today everybody knows that day and night are due to the rotation of the earth, which exposes sequential parts of the globe to the rays of the sun.  "Day", "night", "evening" and "morning" are meaningless without the Sun.

I'm sorry to offend, but the Biblical account of our origins is not merely inaccurate, it is nonsense.  It is not possible that it is the work of a (truthful) divine creator.

Along with the very nasty god it portrays, the Bible is fiction steeped in the mythology of its time.  It is no more reliable a handbook than Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

"Miraculous, Divine Intervention" or Sloppy Thinking?

Sent to "The Star", Johannesburg, on Sun 24/01/2010, published (to The Star’s credit).

The Editorial in The Star of Friday 22 January credits the survival of some of the survivors of the Haitian earthquake to "miraculous, divine intervention".

We are used to The Star, as Johannesburg's Newspaper of Record, giving us well-researched, factual reports and truthful editorial comment.  So:

Could the Editor please tell us what research was done to back up the claim of "miraculous, divine intervention"?  Were scientists –medical experts– consulted and did they agree that given the conditions, science could not explain the survival of these people?  Did The Star then consult religious experts (assuming there are such things) and did they agree that it was indeed "miraculous, divine intervention"?

More importantly, did they say which god or gods were responsible?  Were they also able to explain why said god or gods were able to save a few isolated survivors, but not prevent the earthquake itself?  Was the saving perhaps the work of an apprentice god who hadn't mastered whole earthquakes yet?

These questions are posed tongue-in-cheek (and without intending any disrespect towards the earthquake victims) because I strongly suspect that ***THE EDITOR*** (as James Clarke refers to you), put no thought into the phrase whatsoever, simply assuming that because he automatically credits unusual events to his particular gods, everyone else does too.

Sir, may I point out that this is an unwarranted assumption: If we have no explanation for some phenomenon at present, it is not justified to invoke the superstition of bygone ages and credit that to some god (if so, which ones and why?).  The correct scientific attitude is to say "we have no explanation for this at present" and then, perhaps "let us see what evidence there is and where it leads us".

I suggest that there is no evidence for "miraculous, divine intervention" whatsoever.  If you disagree, Mr Editor, please present your proof.