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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » Mr. Card: Guns, Germs, and Steel...and Gospel?

   
Author Topic: Mr. Card: Guns, Germs, and Steel...and Gospel?
Scooter
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I have been reading Guns, Germs, and Steel based on a recommendation you made in an interview I heard. I realize how ignorant my thinking has been to date regarding historical timelines. If the dates he (Diamond—author) cites are even close to correct regarding populating the continents (e.g., N. America—16,000 BC, Europe, 50,000 BC, etc.), developing farming, etc., how does any of this fit with the timeline in the Bible?

Without having really studied or thought too deeply about the issue, I have been able to grasp the general idea that evolution and creationism can coexist, that creation periods (or days) could have been extremely long, that the world was more or less assembled or organized from preexisting matter that may have contained artifacts that we dig up today, etc. etc. I have a harder time making such reconciliations in light of the specific dates cited in this book—I guess in part because I assume that there are enough artifacts to show some semblance of a meaningful timeline of technological advancement instead of just a random placement of artifacts.

Isn’t the conventional interpretation from the Bible that the world is about 6,000 years old (or at least the human population as we know it)? At least as described in this book, the people who lived tens of thousands of years ago sound very human, not ape-like ancestral links to homo sapiens. Anyway, my questions aren’t necessarily as much about evolution (unless that is really the only paradigm that fits here) as much as timelines for people that by all important indications seem as human as we are today (just less advanced due to less experience), but that appeared to live far earlier than Adam and Eve. Can the Garden of Eden and prehistoric hunters and gatherers be reconciled?

I realize that the dating processes of artifacts are at least somewhat controversial, and a potential way to reconcile these issues is to say that all the dates are wrong…but I’m having a hard time being that dismissive—though I have no real basis for accepting or rejecting the argument. Perhaps what is typically presented as fact in this and similar books is much more speculative and a consistent overextension of the facts—in which case I would wonder why you so highly recommended this book if the text is based on seriously flawed assumptions.

How do you read this type of book and make sense of it in light of your understanding of the restored Gospel? Of course, this could all be chalked up as mystery and faith-demanding phenomena, but I suspect that you at least have some working hypothesis that helps you make sense of these apparent science versus faith contradictions.

Thanks!

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mothertree
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What I find interesting is the tendency for instructors to present the span of geologic time as though it were a day or a year. I actually saw one video that made fun of the guy who estimated the birth date of the earth, and then turned around and used the day analogy. And the year analogy was in my college biology class. I believe it was in the textbook.
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0Megabyte
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What you should realize is that Genesis (where the timeline from Adam to Abraham to much farther is outlined in detail) wasn't all actual perfect history. Much of what came later? I believe it was. But Genesis was at least in part influenced by other civilizations of the time (As an example, see the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story that had been around longer than Genesis. It has some rather familiar elements. The Flood, for example. And something suspiciously similiar to the Garden of Eden.)

Much of Genesis is legend. (Check out chapter 6 and the talk about the Nephilim.) The way they talk about how God acts, especially in early Genesis, is reminiscent of how other early people spoke about THEIR gods. (well, except for the whole "one God, who just so happens to be just" thing. Which is very, very significant. After all, I AM a Christian.)

It seems that geographically the Flood didn't happen throughout the entire world. The tower of Babel wasn't really a true thing. The world isn't divided by a "vault" (or firmament, depending on the translation. Basically, a big dome) separating the waters above the heavens and the waters below the earth.

If Genesis were absolute physical fact, then why is the universe NOT the one described in Genesis? Heaven, i.e., the sky, is not a solid half-sphere. The earth is round. There are no waters above the sky, only empty space and other similar bodies. There is rock and liquid rock under the earth, not water.

The first humans weren't in Mesopotamia. They were in Africa, if my memory serves well enough. The two creation stories, Genesis 1 and the story from Genesis 2 onward, are different, and perhaps written in different times.

So what does this mean? Not that Genesis isn't True. In fact, I DO believe it is holy. But the facts are simply wrong. Why? Because those who wrote it did not have the instruments to know HOW things were. They observed, and they wrote to the best of their abilities. The point of Genesis isn't that it was so many generations from Adam and Abraham, for example, or that so and so lived so many years. No, the point of the book is bigger than that, the fallable human element at work. It speaks of WHAT God did, and WHY. That is the aspect that truly matters. The little details, the myths, the legends within? They serve the point of explaining why the world is. Does that mean that they are litarally true? No, it doesn't. Do they explain HOW? Not really. But that's not the point.

Please don't feel offended by this. It is not my intent, and if I have failed, then I truly apologize. These are my beliefs, coupled with the little knowledge of the world I have gained. In fact, I believe that knowing this may have even HELPED my faith. Because I learn more and more not to focus on the little details which are innacurate because the ancient Hebrews COULDN'T have known. I focus more and more on the meaning, and on the God-inspired Truth contained within.

I hope this makes sense.

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IanO
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So I assume (and forgive me if I am wrong) that you are saying that the first part of Genesis is primarily allegorical and not necessarily true in any (or all) the details. But it does give a 'sweep' of history that has some truth in it.

Given that is the case, how do you reconcile the fall with the core Christian doctrine of reconcilliation? One necessitates the other, no? Just curious because I don't understand the acceptence to two ideas that are grounded in (I think) mutually exclusive paradigms.

The thing that started this thread was that from an LDS perspective (both doctrinally and directly from scripture, both ancient and what is believed to be modern) the fall (and Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel) were real. And the (admitedly tentative) chronology in Genesis doesn *seem* to harmonize with the modern scientific view that is so prevalent in Diamond's GGS. So how are they reconciled in OSC (and other's) mind.

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TomDavidson
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I've heard Geoff explain that he's not entirely sure, but that it doesn't bother him that he's not entirely sure. I know it's a mistake to extrapolate from the son to the father, and I certainly don't claim to speak for Geoff, but I think the approach I understood him to take to this issue is a perfectly sensible one:

1) Based on your understanding of science, you believe that the technical details of evolutionary theory and/or books like Guns, Germs and Steel are mostly correct.

2) Based on your belief in your religion's validity, you believe that the descriptions given in Genesis of the Fall and the creation of life are broadly correct, if allegorical in places.

3) Reconciling the details is difficult, and you aren't sure how to do it. But then you realize it's not necessary to reconcile the details, since the details are unnecessary to your religious belief. So you let it slide, and have faith that you may someday understand.

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Scooter
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OMegabyte, no offense taken. I wouldn't be offended if you told me the Bible was pure fantasy--your opinion is your opinion. I appreciate your thoughts though, and I can relate to the overall thrust of your argument. I think Tom put is quite succinctly, and I would have to say that what he said is a pretty fair characterization of where I am now. I was just hoping to hear a little more "gap filling" from someone who clearly appreciated the book but also shares strong convictions to LDS doctrine.

I try to apply as high a standard of critical thinking to my own beliefs as I do to others' beliefs--which keeps me up at night once in a while, but usually makes me stronger for it...but it can be a real pain!

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IanO
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I think that is a fair explanation, Tom. I use similar reasoning in regard to a lot of areas where reconcilliation is not completely obvious.
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Blayne Bradley
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My "LDS is a cult" friend believes that there is a good possibility it is metaphorical and that the purpose is to find the meaning in the bible, course he also says there a good chance that it is literal.
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0Megabyte
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Ahh, I understand, Scooter. I am simply unfamiliar with your posts or beliefs in general, so I tried to make clear that I am not trying to put down the Bible or anything such as that. (I have friends, for example, who view anything like my beliefs as blasphemy. I've been learning to tread carefully. Same friend hates Inara from Firefly/Serenity because it isn't "necesarry to show someone in such an evil profession in such an unrealistic manner.")

Anyway, alright, Tom hit it then. I clearly did not understand well enough!

Hmm, IanO, good point. But I don't think that there is really a contradiction. Do I believe there was a literal Adam and a literal Eve? No more than I believe in a literal Lilith, from related Jewish mythology. Yet the obvious fact remains that we as humans aren't perfect, and we do not live up to our Creator's standards. The "Fall", I believe, is a metaphor, grounded in the fact that we ARE tainted by human imperfection as well as the wage of death.

The story of Adam and Eve was meant to explain why we die, why we suffer, why we sin. Yet I do not think that it literally happened. We do need that reconciliation with God, though. Whether or not there ever really was a mystical tree of knowledge of good and evil, we as a race chose knowledge and power over love of God. We sin, and do not follow those most basic, most important principles.

And when it comes to Genesis in general, I believe it does explain why the world exists, and what God did, and why we are as we are. (creating the universe, creating mankind in his image, our own disobediance causing our fall from His graces, etc.) But the how part is something I don't think it explains. That isn't the point, after all.

Okay, LDS perspective: I jumped in, as someone not an LDS, and as someone who does not have that perspective. I apologize! I'll be quiet now. (Just remember not to fret too much over these problems! The inconsistencies bother me too. My view is flawed too, just like all others. After all, no matter how hard we reason, we'll never suceed. The mysteries of God indeed...)

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IanO
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Nice explanation 0Megabyte. And there's nothing wrong with jumping in with an explanation. As you can see, across the spectrum there are similar ways of interpreting the world.
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Scooter
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OMegabyte,
Apparently I came across too strong with you. I DO appreciate your perspective, and I didn't mean I only wanted to hear from LDS people. I was just stating why I posted the question to OSC in the first place.

Regarding your points, as has been alluded to, if you completely dismiss the Fall, then it seems there is no real justification for the Redemption, and hence a Redeemer (unless one assumes that people were already created in a fallen state--but I don't think even that fits within the paradigm from which you seem to be coming from). Thus, when you say you are a Christian, I can see why some would scratch their heads wondering how Christ fits into your idea of Christianity. If he was just a good example (or maybe you think he was just a methaphore like Adam and Eve--according to your view), what would set that belief system apart from non-Christian religions that acknowledge Christ as merely a good teacher/person/concept?

I'm just curious...please interpret these words as you would coming from a child or friend who is just trying to figure something out--that's the tone I mean to present here. Thanks.

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