Theology: the art of making stuff up

Hat tip to Jerry Coyne over at WEIT for this one:

NPR recently did a program featuring various religious thinkers discussing the implications of the entire story of Eden being scientifically discredited. There were a few fundies, and several accommodationists including some writers for Francis Collins' organization BioLogos.

Dr. Coyne has a fine summary on his blog, but I wanted to add my own thoughts. Basically the issue is this: there is simply no possible way that Adam and Eve existed as described in the Bible. All genetic evidence we have shows that we modern humans are descended from a population of at least 10,000 – not two.

This creates some serious problems for Christians. Paul, for example, in both the book of Romans and 1 Corinthians, explains that the whole point of Christ's death and resurrection is to undo the Fall. But if Adam and Eve did not exist, then the Fall – at least as it is described in the Bible – did not happen. It's a major dilemma for Christians, because if there was no Fall, then there's no need for redemption, and no point to Christ.

So, Christians are left with two options. The first is the path of the fundamentalists: deny reality. Protest that somehow, the science has it all wrong. It's the modern-day equivalent of putting Galileo under house arrest or the Scopes trial, and the fundies basically just look stupid. In the battle between science and religious fundamentalism, science always wins.

The second option is to do what various BioLogos writers have tried to do: re-interpret the story of Eden. Perhaps Adam and Eve did exist, but they were just two of many, and somehow their sin infected all other people. Perhaps sin had some other way of gradually infecting humanity. You can hope over to BioLogos and spend a good weekend reading all the material they have on this topic.

But here's the one big problem with the accommodationist approach – the elephant in the room, if you will: It is entirely conjectural. Not a single one of these theologians has the slightest factual basis for affirming or, in most cases, even testing their theories. They are simply speculating about how it might have happened, and there is absolutely no way whatsoever they could ever confirm their hypotheses. In other words, they are literally just making stuff up.

Such conjectural masturbation may ease their cognitive dissonance, but this is not "sophisticated" or "progressive" theology – it's religion, as usual, being dragged kicking and screaming into an era of secular modernity driven by scientific knowledge. These otherwise intelligent individuals are so desperate to hang on to these primitive myths that they will literally just pull unfalsifiable conjecture out of their asses in the vain hope that it may sooth their consciousness enough that they can continue clinging to beliefs that are being ever more marginalized by the inexorable march of scientific progress.

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