COMMUNICATION WITH FUNDAMENTALISM (THIS IS LONG POST)
FIRST HIS LETTER, FOLLOWED BY MY REPLY:
> Date: Sat, 18 Sep 2004 02:36:41 -0700
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: missing link scenario
> Hello, George
> My name is H_______ K____, and I am a friend of Dave O______. We both go to
> Hayden Bible Church.
> A little about myself:
> I completed four years of college at Iowa State University as an atheist. I
> took courses in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Zoology, and so on, all the
> while believing evolution, which of course, was taught to me as fact.
> In 1971 I was confronted with the Christian Gospel, which I will condense as
> 1. God created me and loves me.
> 2. Because of sin, I am separated from God and condemned to death.
> 3. Jesus Christ died in order to pay the penalty of death for me, so that I
> could be reunited with God.
> 4. I can accept or reject the offer of peace with God; the choice is mine.
> At that point, I became greatly afraid that if I did not choose to trust
> Jesus as my savior, I would face the wrath of God in the (possibly near)
> future. I prayed, "Jesus, if you are real, come into my life and make
> yourself known to me."
> Putting my faith in Jesus was for me an extension of putting my faith in the
> Bible, because I knew the information about Jesus came from the Bible.
> Therefore, out of respect for my own intellect, I got a Bible and began
> reading it, to see what else it said. I have been reading and contemplating
> it ever since.
> The fascinating thing is that the more I adjusted my thinking to the words
> of the Bible, the more science (observable facts) made sense.
> For instance:
> I have never observed order come from disorder, particularly not from an
> I have never seen any mechanical thing improve on it's own: things always
> wear down and out.
> I have never seen an inanimate thing become a living thing.
> I have never seen one species come from another.
> I have never seen a dead animal turn into a fossil; they always get eaten,
> rot, and disintegrate.
> Evolution flies in the face of all my observations.
> Have you seen any of these things?
> The fossil record tells me that billions of creatures were buried in layers
> quickly, suddenly, and deeply, on a worldwide scale.
> The Bible agrees with all of that; evolution does not.
> In regard to your "missing link" scenario, yes, it is conceivable, if you
> accept evolution as a given.
> I no longer do so.
> My worldview now assumes that there is a God Who intervenes in history, and
> Who has revealed Himself in the Bible, and in the person of Jesus Christ.
> Does your worldview only allow for things to be explained by natural
> If so, consider this question carefully:
> Why exactly is it that you preclude the possibility of God?
> I'd like to invite you to come to the Adult Sunday School class that I teach
> at 9:30am. We are going through the book of Genesis. Last Sunday was the
> first time we met, and we are in chapter 2. It is very informal, and
> discussion is welcome.
> Be open,
I must admit your first letter has triggered a cascade of thoughts through the synapses of my body and brain. My exchanges with you and Dave have allowed me to crystallize my thinking about the reality of the universe. Things I have been reading for the last five years about the “evolution of consciousness” I now discover in my writing them down are synthesized in the bigger scientific picture of reality that has grown in me. I am pleased to see that my picture of the world has indeed grown. So I can see that I continue to learn even though I’m just an old codger. Hopeful, eh? I can only hope that you find the same flexibility of imagination as you go on with life. We Americans would not like to see any Taliban-like religious people flourishing among us who lack the imagination to escape the box their religion has put them in. Americans are not dogmatists like them, we hope.
Speaking of that, I noticed in my second or third reading of your missive that you closed your communication to me with the words, “Be open.” Let’s hope that we all have the same openness to ideas, and an ecumenical acceptance of others visions of reality, religions or non-religions and to life itself. This does not just mean “tolerance”, this means accepting others visions of reality to be as “true for them” as our own views of reality are “true for us” to the point that “proselytizing” will grow to be a taboo action in America. From that, true peace and coexistence can flourish. Otherwise, human animals will continue to tear at each others throats like the dogs in their lineage.
Speaking of dogmatic thinkers, I come to Hitler and an interesting thing I recall (if my memory recalls correctly) from reading Mien Kampf. PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING: When I say the next few things, I’m not comparing you to Hitler; I’m only making an example about a mental phenomena which I observed in him, in all of us and in you. When you describe your conversion experience back to Christianity, I noted that it was not “logical”; it was irrational. It was a sort of leap based in fear, i.e. you wrote, “At this point I became greatly afraid. . . .”
I understand how fear can motivate the human animal. Evolution tells us fear is pretty basic to our existence, but in the human animal, which has language, fear can become attached to “ideas”. As far as we know, no animal has an abstract level of consciousness that allows him to foresee a danger in the anticipation of an act which might occur in the future, though when an animal “freezes” just before it is struck (the human animal has the same instinctive reaction) by a predator, he freezes in “anticipation” of the actual happening. In fact, this reaction a moment “before” something happens is the basis of what I think is the human animal’s development of the concept of “future” and “past”. My hypothesis, only, at this point. What I’ve noticed lately is that I get an idea, then I discover that someone else has already had it. Very humbling.
But, back to Hitler. While he was a starving artist in Munich, he worked as a porter in a train station, carrying the bags of rich Jews and others. One day, he stopped in mid act and “noticed” that the people with the side curls were “Jews”, and he felt hatred. It’s an odd thought, out of nowhere, coming to him in the middle of humiliating circumstances after Germany has lost the war. All these things occur to him “out of nowhere” so to speak. Your turning away from science to religion has the same unplanned quality, just like the quality of my insight that I was trapped in my brain at the University of Dayton. I have had many moments like that in my life. Some turned out to be real moments of change, others only temporary, and others just gave me tremendous insights about how psychology works in me and in others. Scientists have leaps too, but then, they go on to develop real material evidence for their insights.
The odd thing about Hitler’s leap is that it was toward an irrational belief from which he never recovered. In fact, he even forced science (somewhat like Bush) to teach things such as that Jewish blood is different from Aryan blood and that Jewish skulls are different from Aryan skulls. Thus does superstition alter science in the regimes of true believers and alter truth based on nothing at all substantial. We all hope nothing like that occurs in America, don’t we? Perhaps we’ll reelect Bush, perhaps, we won’t.
Now I’m returning to that list of “beliefs” you say are unproven in the observed world around me. It’s the list after your words “For instance” in you first communication with me. May I counter with another list? And if, as you say, your list must prove to me that a force of nature you call god does exist, then, I say, on the same kind and quality of evidence, that many of your beliefs must be cast aside in the real world. Okay? Fair enough?
1) I have never observed a god force stoop down, take earth and make a man and, then, pull from the rib of that man, a woman, but I have seen the act by which a man and woman make another human like themselves. And I have seen a puppet master make puppets out of cloth, wood and string. I know I’m not a puppet who comes from puppets, unless I’m out of my mind.
2) I have never seen anyone return from the dead if they were really dead. They were always in a coma.
3) I have never seen anyone lifted up into the sky from earth except by plane or rocket.
4) I have never witnessed an animate thing being created from an inanimate thing, but that is no proof that it didn’t occur, and if it can occur, it can come from evolution as well as from some god force too, can’t it? That particular argument cuts both ways, I believe. But then I can’t see a quark either and it’s hard to decide how much “life” an atom or quark have and where life begins and ends and what life truly is, isn’t it? I do think that little spermatozoon which swims to the already living egg is “animate” but, then, it’s made up of proteins and other things which are inanimate of themselves in the natural world. So, who knows?
5) I have never witnessed a person walk on water.
6) I have never witnessed the laying on of hands return vision to anyone who was not first suffering from “hysterical” blindness. I have seen doctors perform “miracles” with the science of medicine however, and I have observed religious charlatans who with the help of accomplices pretend to cure people.
7) I have never witnessed anyone claim they were the son of god, an angel or a virgin woman with child except in my volunteer work in mental hospitals or during my discussions with street people who were clearly out of their minds during my days of wine, women and song.
Since I’ve never witnessed any of these things, except within the limited circumstances I mentioned, then, they couldn’t have happened. Is that the basis of your argument with your list? Clarify, if I misunderstood.
Now, by the way, as more comments to your list: I have seen many fossils of animals in my back yard. I pick up their bones all the time as I dig in my flower gardens.
Further, though I have never seen one species come from another, I have watched the many changes a butterfly undergoes and a maggot become a fly. To me, these are sorts of mini-species changes, viewed in the light I want to see them in, perhaps, maybe some left over vestiges of evolutionary change which is more rapid than the almost infinitely long pace of species drift we call evolution? Another interesting hypothesis, I think, don’t you?
Further, are computer programs inanimate or animate? There are computer programs which are self correcting and which improve themselves. To extend this further—there is quite a bit a interesting debate going on about freedom and free will in the human being, created by our new knowledge of how the brain functions. If this ever gets decided, then we’ll know that there is no difference between animate and inanimate. We’re all just matter and thoughts are matter just as a rock is matter, only the rock is an animate/inanimate thing which doesn’t have the power of motion.
Further, what is meant by the word, “order”? There is only “change”. Whether one chooses to call the result of any single change “order” or “disorder” is a value judgment, not a scientific or objective observation. When I arrange my desk drawer, I bring order out of disorder all the time, but my wife, not understanding my arrangement of items, might say that my drawer is now in disarray. And I would not consider today’s world particularly orderly, nor the human animal’s form particularly orderly because change is constant, moving from one shape to another. What I suggest is that the big bang has not led to order in the limited sense that you are using the term “order” (i.e. a drawer arrangement). There is only a continuous change going on from one form to another, one arrangement to another. The only order in the universe are the laws of physics which we can measure and quantify, but those laws underlie the universe in a way that the drawer analogy does not.
Man O man, Howard, I’m enjoying this. I didn’t know how much of my current reading I understood until I got into these discussions with you and Dave.
I’m growing tired again. That’s one difference between me at 66 and me at 22—thinking itself proves to take more energy than I realized (that’s probably why so few people do it) and I can’t sit for hours at a time reading, thinking and writing without getting dizzy and tired.
Finally, and to return to your invitation to attend your class. I now know that my debate with your adult ed. class wouldn’t begin with the first line of the Bible; it would begin outside the Bible and in history, for first, I would challenge you to prove that this Bible you are studying in was the word of that hypothetical superbeing Christian’s call “god”. Most people begin with a bias that this book is some sort of holy book, yet there is no proof of its being a holy book except within itself, and having a scientific background as you do, I know that you know that this is a circular argument and, therefore, invalid in any logical argument. Thus, I conclude, you wouldn’t want me in your class, stopping all discussion until you proved that these poems, stories, tales, and bits of history and law were the actual work of god. We could get nowhere. Science is one thing and religion another, and never the twain shall meet. The one depends on appeals to literary debate, to books and to authority for its validity while the other to appeals to the methods of scientific research in the natural rather than the unnatural world.
Anyhow, I’m awaiting your response, and at least poor Dave has gotten a reprieve from my many emails to him. Something useful has been accomplished, hasn’t it?
Love in reality’s name,