Monday, March 07, 2005

science isn't scary II

Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian apparently gets nervous around "religious" folk, even if they have a Ph.D.

In fact, even if they have two.
"Biologist Richard Sternberg filed a legal complaint against Washington's Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for branding him a religious fundamentalist and denying him access to facilities, due to his editorial role in the 2003 publication of a scientific paper by intelligent design advocate Stephen Meyer" (source).
Nevertheless, it struck me in visiting the Smithsonian's phenomenal walk through the history of life, that one could have just as easily been navigated through it using the first chapter of Genesis as by their museum guide.

Here is the history of the earth as we know it now. What follows, is how that seems to playfully (not fixedly) correspond to Genesis chapter 1.

Verse 1: The eternity of the earth was an idea so common in the ancient world that creatio ex nihilo was one of the main objections against early Christianity. Fortunately early Christians stuck to their guns despite the unpopularity, for if ever there was science capable of supporting the position, the Big Bang is it.

Verses 2-9: Precambrian period

Verses 11-13: Paleozoic period

Verses 20-23: Mesozoic period

Verses 24-26: Cenozoic period

Verses 27-31: Holocene period

Does anyone know of a cosmogony written in the Ancient world that comes anywhere near the kind of proximity to contemporary science as does Genesis? To my knowledge, the answer to this question is no. Which leads me to think that there is certainly something special about this text. And because Scripture should not be expected to submit slavishly to modern standards (let alone postmodern ones), "inerrant" is not the word I would choose to describe the property. But "inspired" certainly is.

(That image from this exhibit, also now in D.C. at the N.G.A. - See it!!!)

The first proponents of Darwinism in America, it is so easily forgotten, were Christians. Said Dr. Asa Gray,
"a theistic view of Nature is implied in his [Darwin's] book" and Darwin's ideas "would leave the doctrine of final causes, utility, and special design just where they were before."
One historian explains Gray's position like this:
"If Darwin's view of natural selection implied that the history of life resembled a game of dice, these dice had been loaded by a merciful and intelligent Deity"(p.19).
But still lingering as we are in the shadow of the Scopes disaster, I can unfortunately imagine the Smithsonian exhibit having a shaking rather than confirming effect on one's faith.

That considered, why don't they have field-ed placements (which is Seminary speak for on-site education at hospitals or churches that one needs do in order to graduate) at natural history museums? In the meantime, considering the scenario described above, we may have to go undercover.