11 posts • joined Tuesday 3rd July 2007 11:27 GMT
Mithra(s) and Jesus
I can't resist replying to Pete's claim that the Jesus 'myth' was copied from the pagan Mithra 'myth'. Let me set out differences between Mithra(s)/ Mithraism and Jesus/ Christianity, as follows:
Mithraism was a new religion founded in the 1st century BC that borrowed the name of a Persian god to make it sound exotic.
Christianity sprang from monotheistic Judaism in the 1st Century AD.
Mithra(s) the god was born from a hollow egg-shaped rock.
Jesus was born of a virgin.
Mithraism maintained strict secrecy about its teachings and practices.
Christianity, except when locally forced into hiding from persecution, was an open society.
Mithraism excluded female devotees.
Christianity was open equally to men and women.
Mithraism's temples were natural caves or artificial tunnels.
Early Christians met mostly in peoples' homes.
Mithraism is thought to have produced no literature. Its beliefs can only be deduced today from temple icons and artifacts.
Christianity produced the New Testament and patristic writings.
Mithraism's icon, found in every Mithraic temple, is of a man slaying a bull.
Christianity has never been identified with bull iconography.
Mithraism's icon, as interpreted by modern scholars, is an astronomical star map illustrating the signs of the zodiac.
Christianity has never been associated with astrology.
The 'X' appearing in Mithraic iconography is a sign borrowed from Platonism.
The 'X' in Christian iconography is a sign of the cross.
For more information on Mithraism read "The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries" by David Ulansey.
For more information of Christianity read the New Testament.
When Pliny the Younger, AD 61-112, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to Emperor Trajan to explain beliefs and practices of the early Christians his description matches beliefs and practices of various modern Christian denominations. It doesn't in any way relate to the beliefs and practices of Mithraism. The Christians about whom Pliny wrote belonged to a society whose members faced lions in the Roman Colosseum. They faced death gladly because they wouldn't burn incense to the emperor's statue. Mithraism's devotees would have had no qualms about doing that.
In conclusion, if there is a link between Mithraism and Christianity it can be established only with the various gnostic sects that sprang up from the 2nd century AD. A number of popular so-called scholarly books, e.g. Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", have been written to promote gnosticism as authentic Christianity. Authors of such 'scholarly' works must either be ignorant of history or intellectually dishonest. I leave your contributors to judge.
Blue Moonshine - 5
Pete's scatter-gun approach raises too many issues for me to address them all. So, let me settle for the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Jesus 'myth'.
Because Abraham originated from Ur of the Chaldees sometime around 1800 BC, and would no doubt have been well acquainted with Mesopotamian flood narratives, it is a nonsense to suggest that ancient Hebrews only discovered their existence during the exile in the 6th century BC. It is equally nonsensical to imagine that Christians are so unaware of them that they have failed to apply serious scholarship to the relationship between these accounts and the Genesis narrative.
No serious scholar questions the age of Babylonian cuniform script on stone or clay tablets. And none would doubt that the Gilgamesh and Ziusudra epics of the flood predate the Noahic narrative in its present form in the Book of Genesis. It is likely that all of these derived their basic facts from more primitive sources. Scholars generally regard the least embellished record as the one nearest to the source of an historical event. If that is true, the Noahic account, being by far the least embellished record of the three, should be the most reliable. There are enough similarities in the three accounts to indicate that they refer to a real event in history. There are enough differences between the Noahic account and the others to indicate that the former didn't copy the latter, merely changing names of the participants. Moreover, the Gilgamesh and Ziusudra epics, while interesting in themselves, contain absurdities which do not appear in the Noahic account.
By comparing Jesus with Mithras and Dionysus Pete indulges once more in sloppy scholarship. Ascribing myth to large swathes of the Christian Gospels was a favourite ploy of German liberal scholars from Schliemacher to, more recently, Bultmann. They realized that generations, even centuries, of elapsed time was needed for myth to build up. Consequently, they repositioned the Gospels, Pauline epistles, etc., to dates well into the 2nd century AD. Of course the original apostles and their contemporaries were dead by then, so New Testament documents bearing their names as authors must have been written, in their judgment, by others who invented miracles, etc., to immortalize Jesus. Calling these documents "pious frauds", the way was opened for liberal scholars to daub as myth any part of them with which they disagreed.
One of the most famous liberal scholars of recent times was John A Robinson. As Bishop of Woolwich he wrote a way-out book in the 1960's called "Honest to God" that placed him in an even more extreme position than most theologians of the German liberal school. It caused quite a stir. But after retiring as bishop he decided to revisit the dating of New Testament documents for, as he later admitted, "a bit of a joke". What he discovered astonished him. Almost all must have been written within 30 years of the death of Jesus, leaving no time for myth to evolve. His discovery, along with the works of a new breed of conservative evangelical New Testament scholars, have put paid once and for all to the "Jesus myth" gravy train. Why has nobody told Pete?
By the way, can Pete name those medieval Christians who wasted time arguing about "the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin"? This hoary story has been told ad nauseam. It is a secular myth.
Blue Moonshine - 4
The flood narrative in Genesis is an eyewitness account by a man (or woman) living in ancient Mesopotamia, who sat in a boat surveying the devastation all around. It is not an eyewitness account by a 21st century technocrat who surveyed planet Earth from an orbiting craft and discovered it was entirely covered by water. So when phrases like "the mountains were covered" are used in Genesis 7, they need to be understood in the context of the fairly flat topography of Mesopotamia. The Hebrew word translated "mountain" refers to a rising of indeterminate height. In fact, archaeologist David Rohl, who specializes in the cultures and languages of ancient Mesopotamia, points out in his book "The Lost Testament" that the Akkadian equivalent of the same Hebrew word was used to describe earth mounds on which ordinary peoples' homes were built in those days - perhaps indicative of a history of inundations in those parts. Far more likely it is that heart-broken preacher Noah checked the depth of water over mounds that had once supported homes of friends and neighbours than that dispassionate scientist Noah logged the depth of water over Everest. His understandable grief would have been an inadequate reflection of God's, Who we are told, was grieved in His heart. How unlike both are recent creationists who appear to revel in the flood story!
But recent creationists take no account of the chiasmic structure of the Genesis narrative. A chiasm is a literary device that splits a passage of scripture in halves, making the second half a mirror image of the first. In the case of the flood narrative, 7 days of waiting for the flood + 40 days and nights of rain + 150 days of rising water level are followed by 150 days of decreasing water level + 40 days and nights without rain + 7 days of waiting before venturing onto dry land. Chiasms were structured to highlight the bones of a story, not its incidentals. They were intended to act as aides memoire and were particularly important in an age before literacy became widespread.
While I agree with Azrael's point that we should get back to the science, I've had to deal with Danny's position because recent creation science, which first arose in the backwoods of the US in the early 20th century, keeps screwing up intelligent debate.
Blue Moonshine - 3
Danny, you entirely miss the point I'm trying to make. The ark was built not for kangaroos and kiwis, but for people who would repent through the preaching of Noah. If space wasn't available for them what would have been the purpose of preaching? So the ark was an Old Testament type of Christ. There was space enough for those who repented to bring sufficient lifestock aboard as would enable them rebuild their lives after the flood subsided.
It is here that we differ in interpretation of the word "earth" as found in the Biblical narrative. Recent creationists will maintain that "earth" means planet Earth. But as I have already indicated the Hebrew word "adamah" can just as easily mean "land". That same word "adamah" is used later in Genesis to describe the extent of the famine in Joseph's day. Surely you can't argue that people migrated from the ends of the world to buy food in Egypt! In quoting verses from 2 Peter you missed key words "the world of that time". Peter was referring to the world of Noah's day, not of his own day, nor of our day. That world consisted of the land of Mesopotamia and very little beyond. It was there before the Tower of Babel incident that primitive mankind lived. Once that land had been destroyed by the flood only 8 people survived.
As happened recently before Mozambique's Limpopo River flooded and before Indonesia's tsunami struck wild animals fled to higher ground and were saved. That being so, there never was a need for Noah to take them on board. Pictures of zebras and kangaroos on his ark look beautiful in a Sunday school room, but bear no relation to the account in Genesis.
Blue Moonshine - 2
Recent creationists claim that they alone remain true to the Bible's teaching on creation, the flood, etc. They interpret the Bible in an arbitrary, mechanistic way. For example, in their interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis in particular, they make no allowance for distance in language, time and culture between ancient author and modern reader. In the words of Henry Morris, "The scriptures do not need to be interpreted at all, for God is well able to say exactly what He means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. Morris's words, while sincere, are simplistic.
Because ancient Hebrew as recorded in the Old Testament scriptures had a very limited vocabulary (about 5000 root words, if I remember rightly). Words often had multiple meanings, the significance of which could only be ascertained from the context in which they are found. For example, the word translated "day" had the same range of meanings in ancient Hebrew as it has in modern English. And the word translated "earth" could mean "planet earth", "land" (e.g.Egypt), or "soil", once again depending on the context. These two words lie at the root of differences in understandings between recent creationists and other Christians on the creation and the flood. If it were only a matter of interpretational difficulties, there is no reason to doubt that a relationship of mutual love and respect could exist between them. But recent creationists poison that relationship by accusing those who sincerely disagree with them of compromise and apostacy. Clinging to their ultra-literal interpretation of the Bible they alone must hold the high ground.
But this claim is manifestly false. For recent creationists blatantly add to the scriptures ideas totally foreign to it. They claim that the laws of nature were suspended until Adam sinned, after which they remained invalid until the Noahic flood. They claim that animal death occurred as a consequence of Adam's fall. They claim that man and animals were all vegetarian before the fall. They claim absence of global rainfall before Adam sinned (and this despite the fact that rivers flowed through the garden of Eden, which implies rainfall elsewhere). The scriptures give no warrant for these additions.
In their version of the Noahic flood, recent creationists introduce tsunamis, hurricanes, suddenly rising mountains, suddenly sinking ocean floors, gigantic mud movements, etc., none of which are mentioned in the Genesis flood narrative. Moreover, to fit the world's animals into the ark, an impossibility, they impose a meaning on the work translated "kind" (e.g animals after their kind) that is totally foreign to the Genesis author's mode of thought. This they do to permit a post-flood biological evolution miraculously faster than ever envisaged by Darwinists. So much, then, for their literal adherence to the text of scripture!
In the first place, recent creationism is a danger to Christian scientists who, having embraced it, later discover its falsity and lose their faith altogether. I know a number of people who this tragically happened to. In the second place, recent creationism brings the message of the Bible into disrepute among a wider audience. Outsiders conflate its scientific imaginings with the truly scientific works of Christian scientists like Behe, Gonzalez, etc., and dismiss both to the detriment of the Gospel.
Let me first answer Danny who, I believe, is ill-served by 'answersingenesis'. That is the main website of creationists who claim on the basis of the Book of Genesis that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago. However, as most evangelical Old Testament scholars will confirm (e.g. Gleason Archer), this interpretation is based on incorrect understandings of Hebrew texts and genealogies. For other viewpoints on this important issue he should read "THE G3N3SIS DEBATE" edited by David Hagopian, available from any good Christian bookshop. Alternatively, he should go to Dr. Robert C Newman's website www.IBRI.org or Dr. Hugh Ross' website www.reasons.org to obtain a more balanced view of the early chapters of Genesis. Newman and Ross are full-inspiration Bible believing evangelical Christians. Both hold doctorates in astrophysics. Newman, in addition, holds a masters degree in theology.
Now, let me answer Danny's critics. We keep hearing of these 'proofs' of Darwinian evolution. But all fail to fulfil their early promise. Richard Dawkins once claimed that random mutation and natural selection are ever so simple. By taking 23 alphabetic characters to represent genes, he reasoned, then randomly moving them (i.e. mutations), allowing useful letters (i.e. beneficial mutations) to be retained, and disregarding spacing between words, the text "methinks it is like a weasel" can be produced in a finite number of moves. Hey presto! Evolution is proved.
Someone has devised a computer programme based on Dawkins' procedure. Called "The Richard Dawkins Mutation Challenge" you will find it on www.mutationworks.com/rdmc/index.cfm. I challenge you to prove from this programme that Dawkins is right. Keep working on it for 24/7/365, then call me back in ten million years time to let me know how you are getting along, if at all. I'll be pleased to hear from you.
ID is science -3
In this closing contribution let me return to the article that first prompted the debate - whether the UK government should "boot intelligent design back into 'religious' margins." In earlier contributions I argued to the effect that government should do no such thing for the following reasons:
Firstly, far from being a backwoods movement, ID is supported by a small but growing number of scientists and philosophers of science who hold doctorate degrees in relevant disciplines from prestigious universities around the world. Far from being fundamentalist, right-wing, evangelical, recent creationists, their number includes Christians, Jews, Muslims and religious agnostics. These 700+ are among ID's best proponents. The fact that ignorant people might believe the earth to be flat, or to rest on the back of an elephant, or to have been created less than 10,000 years is entirely beside the point.
Secondly, ID is argued, not from the Bible or any other religious book, but from recent discoveries of science. These include (1) the finely tuned physical constants of the universe, (2) the rarity in the universe of a life-supporting planet remotely resembling planet Earth, (3) the extreme improbability of complex life arising randomly from inanimate matter and (4), a point I should have made earlier, the sudden emergence of a wide variety of animal body forms during the Cambrian explosion. These are matters for consideration in science, not religious education classrooms.
Thirdly, I showed that Darwinism, the current scientific paradigm, has a long history of bungling and deception. In my lifetime, due to a false Darwinian belief in the existence of vestigal organs, children were being unnecessarily operated upon to remove tonsils, appendices, etc. Haeckel's wood carvings of embryos and Kettlewell's moths glued to tree trunks, that I referred to earlier, were deliberately constructed to mislead people into believing Darwinian evolution had greater scientific supporting evidence than was actually the case. The list of such misdemeanours is lengthy.
Fourthly, I showed that the Christian religion has had a profound beneficial impact upon the development of modern experimental science. Science in the cultures of Babylon, Egypt, China, India, Judaeo/Christianity, Islam, etc., started from a fairly common knowledge base. But only in Judaeo/Christian culture did it develop: elsewhere it remained stillborn. And I cited Stanley Yaki to show why this has been so. Moreover, when science repudiates its Christian heritage it becomes a menace. For example, Darwin's book "The Descent of Man" placed in the hands of his first cousin Francis Galton led to the invention of the science of eugenics that began to be applied in the US with forced sterilizations of 90,000 American Indians, blacks and impoverished whites, and led directly to the gas chambers of Nazi Germany.
Finally, Darwinian evolutionists left in full and undisputed control of university biology department and school science classroom have proved ithemselves to be bullies. Against their opponents they are master operators of slur and innuendo. You may have noticed this from the tone of some contributors to the website. I mentioned in an earlier contribution that more than 700 scientists and philosophers of science have publicly dissented from Darwinism. That number would have been greater but for the fact that aspiring dissenters were "leaned upon." Veiled threats of repercussions in employment prospects, etc., were sufficient to bring the more timid to heel. Some dissenting school teachers found themselves moved into teaching non-biological science subjects. Some dissenting academics like Guillermo Gonzalez (competent enough to author a standard textbook on astronomy published by Cambridge University Press) were denied tenure. The most blatant example of Darwinian bullying involved Sternberg, who holds two doctorates in life sciences and is employed by the world famous Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Though not himself a supported of ID, he fell foul of his employers by innocently allowing publication in the Institute's magazine of a peer-reviewed article on body forms that arose during the Cambrian explosion. It did not confirm Darwinian evolution. For this "crime" he was forced to resign as editor of the magazine, locked out of his office and denied access to his papers and specimens. The treatment meted to him was justly condemned by the US Senate.
When all other methods of silencing critics have failed, Darwinian evolutionists have no compunction about using the machinery of state to achieve their ends. Painting Armageddon-style images of the awful future awaiting science if one of their tenets is questioned, they inveigle gullible parliamentarians into passing laws to counter the threat. Once passed, they increasingly resort to the courts to settle issues they are unable to win in university debating chambers.
Readers should now see why the UK government is being pressurised into booting ID back into "'religious' margins." I rest my case.
ID is Science - 2
Before the late 19th century agnostics/atheists (Spinoza, Hume, etc.) made valuable contributions to philosophy. They were never persecuted for their philosophizing by the Christian communities in which they lived. But the contribution in those days of fellow agnostics/atheists to the advancement of science was miniscule. Conversely, the hated Puritans and other Protestant non-conformists (e.g. Boyle, Hooke, Newton, etc.), who in 1663 consisted of not more than 5% of the population of England, occupied 62% of the membership of the Royal Society.
Stanley Yaki, a historian of science, investigated the cultures of non-Christian civilizations like those of Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Islam, India, China, etc., to find out why science failed to develop there, and discovered they lacked one or more of the following characteristics that had allowed it to flourish in Christianity.
Monotheism. This placed all nature under the control of one Judaeo/Christian God who governed by stable laws He had established. By contrast, the unpredictable behaviour of the Greek gods (e.g. Zeus, Apollo, etc.) made it very difficult for classical Greek science to mature.
The ethical standards of the Judaeo/ Christian God. A spirit of inquiry, humility, honesty, truthfulness, accountability, and so on, essential in any scientific enterprise, is inculcated throughout the pages of Old and New Testaments. Pagan gods were unashamedly amoral.
The Biblical work ethic. Labouring with one's hands was and still is an honourable way of earning a living. Ancient Jews, for instance, insisted that their rabbis should have a trade in addition to academic studies. For example, the apostle Paul, when a rabbi, had learned to be a tentmaker. So Christians saw nothing infra-dig about hands-on scientific experiments. Ancient Greeks, on the other hand, viewed manual work of any kind as fit only for slaves to carry out, hence, experiments were never attempted.
Finally, I cannot prove the existence of God. Nor, for that matter, can anyone prove in the ultimate sense, the existence of chance. Computer program designers tell us that pure randomization is well-nigh impossible. Sooner or later, patterns begin to emerge. Just like a pack of 52 cards, no matter how well shuffled, will reveal patterns that experienced gamblers can detect (it was how Frederick Jagger broke the bank at Monte Carlo), any finite system, even one the size of the universe, may have patterns that cannot be detected within our current mathematical capabilities. Even chaos, as Richard Bird shows in his book "chaos and life", is orderly.
ID is Science
To LW & Rob Crawford
Although it doesn't seek to explain how life arose in the first place, Darwinism claims that, having arisen, it evolved by random mutation and natural selection from the simplest organism to the most complex (i.e. homo sapiens) by an incredibly large number of tiny step changes. In The Origin of Species, Darwin invited any who might disagree with his theory to refute it. Nowhere did he stipulate that only those who denied the existence of a Creator had a right of reply. In fact, Bishop Wilberforce (who incidentally was an accomplished mathematician and vice president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science) presented arguments against the theory, which caused Darwin much concern. O, that Darwin's evolutionary successors were as open-minded to refutation as he was!
You need to realise that the foundations of modern experimental science were laid, not by atheists, but by Christians. Names like Copernicus, Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Bernoulli, Dalton, Faraday, Clerk-Maxwell, Mendel, Joule and Kelvin spring to mind but there were many others. More recently, Arthur Holly Compton (1927 Nobel Prizewinner for physics), Henry Fritz Schaefer (the inventor of computational quantum mechanics), Francis Collins (Head of Human Genome Project), and John Bryant (recent vice-president of the Society for Experimental Biology) have continued this tradition of Christian participation in science. So, it is a bit rich for atheistic evolutionists to seek to exclude their modern Christian counterparts.
If you cannot even begin to look at the writings of modern scientists who profess religious faith, then why bother to heed the scientists named in the paragraph above? Moreover, what grounds can you possibly offer for refusing to read the works of agnostic scientists and philosophers of science like Denton and Stove, who also reject Darwinian evolution?
Methinks, you need to think again.
Yes Indeed - Intelligent Design is Science
Intelligent Design is an inference from nature's phenomena to the best explanation. For example, the fine tuning of physical constants of the universe is better explained by design than by fortuitousness. The rarity of an Earth-like planet in the universe (see "Rare Earth" by geologist Ward & astronomer Brownlee, also "Privileged Planet" by astronomer Gonzales) is also better explained by design than chance. Moreover, the extreme improbability of complex life arising randomly from inanimate matter, as demonstrated by Denton & Behe, so convinced world renowned philosopher Anthony Flew that he repudiated his lifelong attachment to atheism. None of these evidences are religion based.
Darwinism, on the other hand, as manipulated by atheists, has a grim history of fraudulent claims. From Piltdown Man, Haeckel's embryos, Kettlewell's moths, redundant body organs, Galapagos finch beaks, to junk DNA, etc., its "proofs" and "predictions" have been falsified repeatedly. Even Darwin's abilities as a scientist are now being called into question (see "The evolution of textbook misconceptions about Darwin" by Paul Rees, University of Warwick, 2007).
Try reading "Icons of Evolution - science or myth?" by biologist Jonathan Wells and "Darwinian Fairytales - selfish genes, errors of heredity and other fables of evolution" by philosopher David Stove. If these should prove too difficult for you, then begin with "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design" by Jonathan Wells, PhD. Happy reading!
Intelligent Design is Science
More than 700 scientists and philosophers of science holding doctorate degrees from prestigious universities around the world have recently expressed doubts about the claims of Darwinian evolution. Instead of hurling personal abuse and wasting time in toppling strawman arguments, your contributors would be better employed by engaging with the scientific basis of ID as presented by its best exponents. In order to do so, I suggest they read the following:
"Evolution - A theory in crisis" by Michael Denton (1984)
"Darwin's Black Box - The biochemical challenge to evolution" by Michael Behe (1996)
"Nature's Destiny - How the laws of biology reveal purpose in the universe" by Michael Denton (1998)
"The Edge of Evolution - The search for the limits of Darwinism" by Michael Behe (2007)
Denton, holding 2 doctorates, is Senior Research Fellow in Human Molecular Genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
Behe, holding 1 doctorate, is professor of Biological Science at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania.
Neither writer is a right-wing evangelical fundamentalist. I understand that one is a Roman Catholic, whereas the second is an agnostic.
Finally, for the benefit of Danforth, Behe deals with mutation of the AIDS virus in the last-mentioned book.