Today’s lead item among the Lively Stuff (below) is another example of humanity’s attempt to post-rationalise holy scripture out of an earlier and more credulous age. In the case of the story from the South China Morning Post, a biologist re-interprets “Let there be light” in the context of the evolution of light-sensitive body parts. The result is a claim that when the Bible is taken figuratively rather than literally, “. . . it not only keeps pace with the hottest science, it precedes or heralds it.”
This raises more questions than it answers, e.g. who does the figuring and within what cultural context, in order to underpin what belief? But it does not prevent the majority of the world’s believers, Judeo-Christians with their Bible, Muslims with their Koran, from carrying on contentedly in a wholly literal apprehension of their holy text. Even then there exist quasi-scientific apologists for holy miracles such as the Great Flood and the parting of the seas, as if combinations of comet, tides and wind can provide rational explanations (but without explaining the coincidence of these phenomena at precisely the hour of the Israelites’ need).
We don’t need such imagination when combining the teachings of neurology and history to understand the context in which scripture was born. The key is that how we knew what was known mattered far less when we didn’t know much. Far more important was how we used that knowledge, and how we behaved. Believe as you like, but mess with The Man and you burn eternally. That got people’s attention.
It interesting to witness how the inexorable stock-piling of information throughout history increased our store of knowledge, all with a commensurate decline in belief systems built on miracles, even those that might now be dressed in scientific garb.