That’s So Second Millennium

Episode 021 - Hypocrisy and Geology: Battlegrounds Between Faith and Science

August 20, 2018

Bill and I start off by discussing some of the reasons why there is such animosity against faith and such a tendency to credit the claim that science and religion are mutually incompatible.

I think we miss a great deal of the point if we do not take into account the relentless critique Christianity has mounted OF ITSELF over the past half millennium. The Reformation splintered the Christian nations and sparked unprecedented bloodshed between Christians. There had been terrible episodes before, but these wars, culminating in the Thirty Years' War, were on a new scale. The massive hypocrisy of Christians killing Christians, and the continuing hypocrisy of Christian clergy enjoying positions of wealth and privilege in both Catholic and Protestant nations, sparked further critique, leading to the Enlightenment and modern liberalism and progressivism. I ask you...do you think anything like modern progressivism, which bases itself on advocating for the poor and the repressed, could have arisen except as a Christian critique of Christianity?

In any case, we continue down to the present to be living in the dwindling, waning days of that union between Church and State, even in the US, and the scandals from that are still with us, as we know this month in Pennsylvania and with the spectacle of Cardinal McCarrick. That provides powerful impetus to look for other sticks to beat Christianity with.

It doesn't help that there are also people, in numbers enough to be visible, who really do espouse a form of religion that is contradictory to science. The Bible itself makes no claim to be the only book worth knowing, but the post-Reformation world has quite a few people willing to make that claim on its behalf.

Turning back to the intellectual issues within the debate itself, I bring up the question: why does so much of the fracas around science vs. the Bible center on biology, when the real question is the Bible vs. geology? Biologists have no real basis for determining the rate and overall progress of evolution if they were not given access to the fossil record and geological time scale...by geologists. Further, there is a great deal more of the Bible that makes claims about geology than about biology. (It's still an extremely small fraction, but of that small fraction...)

In fact, as the science of geology got started with people like Nicolaus Steno (his sketch of a shark and shark's teeth is the image for this episode), one of their first tasks was to try to evaluate the record of stones and sediment for evidence of Noah's Flood. One of the first crises in geology was dealing with the failure of this quest to find evidence for a global flood (which may or may not be an accurate translation of the intent of the writer of that part of Genesis, but that's another story).