Thursday, 22 May 2014

Eden and Evolution - the Life of Bryan

The sort of kerfuffle that only happens in the States, or at least on a big scale, is going on in the States. A college called Bryan (feel free to sing the theme song) has caused trouble by expecting its professors to assent to the existence of Adam and Eve as "historical persons created by God in a special formative act".

The article I've just linked to asks the question "Can Darwin and Eden Coexist?".  And I reckon the answer is "of course they can". In the same way that Emma Woodhouse and nuclear power do; Betjeman and sunshine; the speed of light and the monthly edition of "Gardener's World". If you don't make some stupid category error, and expect Jane Austen to tell you something about the properties of borax, or an East Midlands railway timetable to tell you when the train to Nottingham calls at Bedford, then they co-exist pretty well. They all do on my bookshelves, those that are books, at any rate.

Read the Book of Genesis. It's great. Parts of it are beautiful, parts are fascinating, and parts are a soap opera. Chapter 1, for instance, tells you about an ordered, consistent, comprehensible world. The Origin of Species tells you how those consistent, comprehensible laws of nature worked to bring about ourselves and the plants and animals we see around us. It's a fascinating tension between the two, but that's the borderlands where I like to hang out.

I was struck tonight by a quote from the last Harry Potter film. Harry Potter asks (the dead) Dumbledore whether their conversation, the ghostly Kings Cross Station and the expiring fragment of Voldemort are real, or happening in his head. And Dumbledore replies,

"Of course it's happening in your head, Harry. That doesn't mean it's not real."

That's the way it works. The Book of Genesis happened in the heads of a number of writers. Some of it is a kind of national folk-history: a national origin myth. Some is a reworking, a challenge, a poetic response, to the Babylonian myths of creation. And some is a nice little tale about a man, and a woman, and a snake, in a garden. It happened in the authors' heads. That doesn't mean it's not real. It just means it's not proper history, proper science. I don't care. It's still real.

In the States, the fight goes on. Still, cheer up, Bryan College. Worse things happen at sea.

1 comment :

  1. Bryan wasn't real, he was a very naughty boy!


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl