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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Biblical Literalism and God's Standards

According to Black Belt Bayesian:

The default presumption for any statement is that it’s a literal truth claim. If I say my aunt lives in Ireland, then unless context, background information, tone of voice, and so on suggest otherwise, I am trying to make you believe that my aunt literally lives in Ireland. It’s not as if saying my aunt lives in Ireland helps you understand a philosophical point or moves your spirit.

Saying God made the world in a week is like that. That the creation story contradicts scientific evidence is something that hasn’t been widely known until the 19th or 20th century. If 1) God exists, and 2) we can hold God to higher conversational standards than the average internet troll, and 3) Genesis is not literally true, then it follows God would have inserted some sort of warning to guard against misinterpretation. If you want to keep 3) — as you should — then you have to throw away 1) or 2).

On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons why someone would not be telling the literal truth:

One of my favorite professors in college was a self-confessed liar.

I guess that statement requires a bit of explanation.

The topic of Corporate Finance/Capital Markets is, even within the world of the Dismal Science, a exceptionally dry and boring subject matter, encumbered by complex mathematic models and obscure economic theory.

What made Dr. K memorable was a gimmick he employed that began with his introduction at the beginning of his first class:

"Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures ... one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day." And thus began our ten-week course.

According to Jewish tradition, the warning not to take scripture literally was given in the Oral Law.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kent G. Budge said...

Black Belt Bayesian is missing a possibility: That God didn't write Genesis Himself with His own hand.

This opens countless other possibilities -- such as that Moses misunderstood, or that the signal that the creation account was not to be taken literally was given in a form not easily recognized outside Moses' milieu (including through other channels, as you suggest.)

There is something astonishingly arrogant about the intellectual that thinks he has the killer argument that is going to immediately close a debate that has been going on for centuries.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Dave M said...

It simply never occured to anyone to add up the lifetimes in the geneologies to arrive at a date for creation until medieval times. The text contains neither literal nor figurative indications that the world is x,ooo years old.

If Genesis were literally stating that creation took place a certain number of years before Moses wrote, it would say something to the effect of "this took place a certain number of years before the reign of Sargon I" or something.

9:19 PM  

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