Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Answering George Coyne's Comment to Bill Maher

As it has been attributed via wikipedia, reservations for negligence and vandalism undetected by myself:

Coyne was featured in the movie Religulous, by political commentator Bill Maher, commenting that all of the scriptures are written around/between 2000 BC and 200 AD, and modern science has only come into existence in the last couple hundred years, and thus the scriptures in no way contain any science and should not be taught as such. He said:
"How in the world could there be any science in Scripture? There can not be, 'cause the two historical periods (Scripture and Modern Science) are separated by so much. The Scriptures are not teaching science. It's very hard for me to accept not just a literal interpretation of Scripture, but a fundamentalist approach to religious belief. It's kind of a plague. It presents itself as science, and it's not."
English wiki : George Coyne

So, the two historical periods are separated by very many years, and even cultural traits. Ergo, Scripture is another system of cultural product than Science is.

I do not know that any Intelligent Designer or any Young Earth Creationist ever has denied precisely that.

What does the outburst (irrational outburst if meaningless) mean?

"Fundamentalism presents itself as doing science. It is however doing Scripture quoting. But Scripture is another language than Science, so only quoting from Scripture will not constitute science, even facts have to be translated, at least tentatively into Scientific language."

OK, what exact ID or YEC or OEC (Old Earth Creationist) would not answer "no shit Sherlock! How about taking a look at what we are actually doing!"

And I suppose even George Coyne realises that, so I suppose he might have meant something else.

Let us try another interpretation:

"Fundamentalism presents itself as doing science. It is however taking facts from Scripture. But Scripture was not expressing its facts in Scientific language. They have a translation problem."

O ... K ... we have a translation problem?

We maybe had back in the days of Lyell, when the Biblical concept "kind" was deemed to be exact terminological equivalent of the Scientific concept "species". From this Lyell concluded that since Ark of Noah could not have contained all species we find today (lions, tigers, jaguars, nandus, ostriches, emus, horses, donkeys, zebras all different etc.) either the Flood must have been local or there must have been many creations of new species outside creation week. Both of which tenets we fundies reject. By now, I think at least that translation problem has been or is being fixed. Check out baraminology. Lyell was btw active before Charles Darwin.

So, no, that cannot be an appropriate meaning of George Coyne's outburst. Perhaps it was irrational after all.

A third try:

"Fundamentalism presents itself as doing Science. It is however taking its facts from Scripture as if it were somehow concerned with facts. But Scripture is expressing something else than facts. Facts is a concept invented by Science, and no one in the world can be trusted for any fact before Science came around, invented facthood and reeducated every Occidental into comprehending its importance which no one, least of all anyone involved in the 2200 years of Scripture writing, had had the least notion of."

Now the charge starts to be somewhat pertinent. Fundamentalists as we are, we do indeed think we can take facts from Scripture at least if avoiding clumsy errors of translation. Because we do not think the respect for facts started with Francis Bacon of Verulam or with Isaac Newton or any other English nobleman between or around their time.

Least of all do we admit it was unimportant to those writing Scripture - more like 1500 BC (Exodus took place around 1510, and if Genesis contains older material Moses is its redactor, same thing very possible for Job) to 100 AD (by which time I think the Gospel of Saint John had been written and its human author had left earthly cares) - no, on the contrary we think they differred very much from any Babylonian eagerness of adapting the story to the audience, from any Egyptian flattery of Pharaos that left out defeats (except the one recorded in the Ipuwer papyrus), we think they very scrupulously observed facts, both such observed by their own eyes or those of men they trusted and such as were revealed by dictation of God in prophetic moments.

And if to its writers every natural fact had some kind of spiritual component, that does not obscure its sheer facthood, nor its naturalness. Only a very biassed adept of the culture Coyne rightly considered to have come into existence these last hundreds of years could deny that. Or an Atheist, an unbeliever who is unbeliever because he does not think God or Angels exist or if they do that they regularly do anything at all. But such unbelievers are by now usually adepts - and very biassed such - of the Scientific culture.

And by biassed I mean so biassed that they really imagine respect for facthood or sober observation came to exist along with:

  • a) the Scientific Culture
  • b) those whom the Scientific Culture considers as its precursors.

Such an assessment is of course an extreme example of bias. If that is what George Coyne means, he was not making an irrational outburst, but a fanatical one. He has shown himself a fanatic and an enemy of Christianity.

We who do not share this kind of bias and fanaticism are aware that not everywhere facthood is the major point of Scripture, but this does not take away from its being inerrant also in its side issues. And in some points facts very definitely were a major concern to the writer. Like Creation Week or the Miracle of Joshua.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Juvisy sur Orge
Our Lady of Mercy

Also posted on Creationist Blog:

Creation vs. Evolution : Answering George Coyne's Comment to Bill Maher

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