First Verse of Genesis

The inability of science and religion to reconcile their points of view occurs in the first verse on the first page of Genesis. “When God began creating the heavens and the earth” is interpreted by literalists as the scientific beginning of the world as if these ancient monotheists were modern scientists publishing their findings. Science as we understand it today was not invented when Genesis was committed to parchment. Debunking their argument, the Bible is not a scientific text and should never be construed as one. Tanakh (Hebrew for “Bible”) is first and foremost, a proudly theological collection of books. The books are about Adonai God and the people of Adonai God, the children of Israel.

Theology and science are disparate disciplines, fundamentally different and incongruous. To read a compromise between theology and scientific inquiry on the first page of Genesis is an act of futility – there is no compromise because theology and science are two divergent disciplines. The battles we witness between the “the Bible is wrong” crowd and the “science is evil” crowd is the continuing failure to find compromise when none is available, plausible, or more to the point, necessary. The battle is the result of a categorical error.

Too many assume that the both approaches are attempting to answer the same question: how was the universe made? Science asks that question and has reams of exciting facts, theories, and emerging hypotheses. Science asks what is the process and how does it work. Science leaves the “why” or more precisely, “why was the universe created?” to philosophy and religion.

The author(s) of Genesis ask a different question: “Does the universe have meaning?” The typical-of-its-time mythology of the Greeks has Zeus chopping off the head of the monster and hoisting it up in the heavens as a bloody trophy called earth. There is no meaning for humans in crawling across the face of rotting skull like maggots. In contrast, the Genesis story argues that if God made the world, then the world has meaning. By being created by God, humans have a meaning for existence as well. To argue that our lives have meaning is a worthwhile theology to hold dear.

Science has nothing to say about the maker of the universe and Genesis has nothing to say about the science of creating universes. They are asking different questions. The fault of our thinking is assuming that science and religion are opposite of each other when they are actually working in two different, though parallel realms, answering different, though both worthy questions.

Star Wars for the Ignorant

The Star Wars pre-trailer trailer was released and a torrent of commentary and opinion was released through every media outlet available. Rampant speculation about a big budget action film is a great way to build anticipation for another episode of a movie franchise.

Imagine the thrill of this writer, http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/02/opinion/beale-star-wars/index.html?hpt=hp_t3, who got his essay/rant posted as a link on the front page of the CNN website. Of all the points of view, insights, speculations, and ruminations that are currently available, this writer makes it to CNN. Way to go, sir! A great coup!

Except the piece is factually incorrect.

The entire article pivots off of this sentence: “But here’s the thing: George Lucas’ creation, basically a blown-up Flash Gordon adventure with better special effects, has left all too many people thinking science fiction is some computer graphics-laden space opera/western filled with shootouts, territorial disputes, evil patriarchs and trusty mounts (like the Millennium Falcon)” I cannot speak for the writers of Flash Gordon who were writing in the twenties and the thirties but I am certain about the origins of George Lucas’s creation.

George Lucas was interested in being an excellent storyteller as much as an expert cinematographer. Joseph Campbell, a professor of world mythology and a clear, concise writer, was ascendant in the sixties and the seventies. His most provocative thesis was the existence of a universal set of plot lines, which he presented in his book “A Hero of a Thousand Faces”. Mr. Lucas read this text carefully and crafted the plot of the first three movies on Joseph Campbell’s scholarship and arguments. Bill Moyers discussed the Star Wars plot at length with Joseph Campbell on a PBS television presentation titled “The Power of Myth”. (Campbell has another book using the same title.)

Star Wars, especially the first movie, was extraordinarily sophisticated on many levels, which is why the movie was so successful across the globe. Before the groundbreaking special effects and use of science fiction conventions, the story was captivating by itself.

The writer of the CNN opinion piece was ignorant. The editorial staff at CNN is guilty of the same crime. More of the shame is that the origin of Star Wars is a compelling story. Joseph Campbell’s books are still worthwhile reads although some of his conclusions have been scaled by the next generation of scholarship. Star Wars was not an accidental success although many of the actors thought as much during filming; the movie was cinematic storytelling at its best.