Science and the Christian Faith

There are, and I still have to dwell on these as yet, a few non-physical but for mankind’s world view crucially important facets of the issue. If indeed the positions of the Earth on the twenty-second days of June and December are an in principle measurable 299.106 km apart, then the astronomical establishment has a formidable case. If this distance cannot be paced off because it does not exist, then its popularizers are talking through their hats and preaching a world view of a value less than null and void.

If Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was correct in declaring the stars to be just far-away Suns, and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) plainly wrong in denying this, then macro-evolution from a Big Bang to advanced anthropoids fabricating Big Bombs acquires by implication and extrapolation an attractive probability. There is then the immense Cosmos of so and so many billions of years and miles with uncountable galaxies harbouring numberless varieties of stars and nebulae, all these without any truly apprehensible system scattered through the unbounded Heavens. Somewhere in an out-of-the way corner of that Universe on a cooling speck of star dust circling a minor fireball we live our lives, from now on as by benevolent chance not aborted younger than five-month fetuses, to certain death and decomposition. Whence it all came, why we are there, and how everything will end or be recycled -we shall never know. For who, after accepting the Universe preached by the Sagans and Goulds, can without mindwrenching rational contortions still believe in a Bible that already begins its message with a make-believe story of an in six days completed creation of an unique Earth?

Clearly: Genesis 1:1-19 is strangely without rhyme or reason when its account is compared with the after the Copernican Revolution obtained “facts”. And strangest of all are the rear-guard skirmishes of creationists staunchly believing the literal truth of the Biblical report, but only from Genesis 1:20 on. In one respect I cannot blame them: from their tenderest years on they have been bamboozled into believing Galileo to have been a scientific prophet without peer. A five-year old grandson of mine, for instance, attending a (Christian) kindergarten came up to me the other day and took me to task about the error he has heard his father and me talking about. “Grandpa”, he remonstrated, “teacher says that the Earth goes around the Sun.” Yes, and two plus two equals four – never doubt it!

Therefore only after reading the opening verses of the Bible as interpreted and elucidated by the wisdom of the world, do the protagonists of a strictly orthodox six-day creation abound in fervent testimonies about the ingenuous matter-of-fact manner Moses has employed in narrating to them the happenings during the Hexamaeron’s days five and six. And rare are the orthodox theologians who realize that by taking such an approach to the plain text of Scripture they are halting between two opinions. Forgetting how “the exegete must explain what is written and restrict himself to that”(126) they go to work by the light of questionable information from science. By means of introducing poetical hyperboles, sleight of hand glosses, doubtful comparisons, and by applying desperate scientific ad hocs, they delude themselves into believing that thereby they have God’s report of His doings effectively cramped on the passe-partout of secular astrophysics.

Why does standard-creationism play this risky game? If “the things that natural science is positing lie hidden in or behind the simple childish language of Genesis One”(127), why then this “childish” – where are we told that is the case? – restricted to the first half of the Revelation’s first chapter and not applied to the second half? “The Lord means what he says, and says what He means.” If this adage does not apply to the beginning of the Torah , where remains then our certainty that the rest of Scripture is plain truth? Time and again, in the New Testament as well as in the Old, the authors refer to Genesis as a trustworthy historical text. Nowhere, neither in the Bible’s first ten chapters, nor in all that follows, do we find the slightest hint or warning that the information about the creation of Heaven and Earth, of Sun, Moon, and the stars also, must not be taken as an eyewitness’ report just as straighiforwardly as that of the creation of man and beast.

If the proponents of modern astronomy have hit the mark I can see how Biblical Christianity may well appear to them as a soothing syrup for incurable parochial minds. As a faith by analogy equal to the tribal religion of an untutored people, not yet touched by civilization, among whom in days of old a few wise souls concluded that for the purpose of keeping societal life on an even keel a with divine authority festooned ethics and a “pie in the sky” are practical necessities. For myself, if in the matter here at stake I am wrong and the modern picture of the Heavens will turn out to be incontrovertibly established… well, I shall hold the faith, but will also realize that the world with David Hume (1711-1776) may well characterize that faith to be “some unaccountable operation of the mind between disbelief and conviction, but approaching much nearer to the former than to the latter.”(128) However, to quote Pascal for the last time: the heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.

It has, happily, not yet come to that. Of the believers in the ruling varieties of cosmological models, all of them are bound to admit that the cornerstone of their imposing theoretical edifices – the Earth’s motion -is on their own acquiescence not testable. Over and against this I have shown the scheme of Tycho Brahe -adapted to the “aberration” only having become observable many years after his death – to be easily testable. Hence I refuse until further notice to renounce the conviction of that cantankerous Dane with his partly silver nose. Until, that is, the experiment I insist on shall -be sure: it will not! – have given a result putting me in the wrong.