Wednesday 3 June 2009

Did Darwin Kill God?

Looking through some two-month-old notes I found something I scribbled in response to a BBC TV programme shown on March 31, "Did Darwin Kill God?" Part of the BBC's Darwin programming, it was presented by Conor Cunningham. This is what I wrote (copy-edited for a modicum of clarity):
A mess. Hardly surprising - Conor Cunningham describes himself as a philosopher and theologian. He claims that literal interpretation of the Bible is not mainstream, and never has been. The conflicting stories in Genesis (Adam and Eve created together vs. Adam, then Eve) are stories intended to deliver deeper truths, and should be read thus.

So what's stopping anyone interpreting the Bible as a story whose deeper truth is that God is a figment of human imagination?

Theology is made up. It's like a lesser form of literary criticism. At least literary critics acknowledge that what they're studying is fiction. How would you react to a long, in-depth critique of Harry Potter that started from the presumption that J. K. Rowling's stories were historical fact?
A couple of days later the programme came up for discussion on, to which I added the following comment:
This programme rang alarm bells as soon as Cunningham stated he was a philosopher and theologian. Maybe he's right about the historicity of the interpreted understanding of the Bible - I don't know enough about it to agree or disagree. But as all theologians do, he started his interpretation with the assumption that God exists. (He had to; without this assumption, all of theology crumbles to dust.)

To go a little further in interpreting the "apparently" contradictory stories in Genesis ("Adam and Eve" vs. "Adam, then Eve") - if these stories are not to be taken literally (which they can't be if they contradict each other), and instead are intended to be fables that reveal deeper truths, one might come to the conclusion that Adam and Eve never existed as real people.

Nor, then, did the talking snake exist, nor the fruit, nor the tree. Perhaps none of the characters portrayed in either story actually existed in the literal, or any, sense. An allegorical or metaphorical reading of Genesis, according to Cunningham's argument, does not require the reader to take any of it literally, including the existence of one other character in the stories - God.
Later in the same thread, user "lazarus" posted a link to the BBC message boards discussion of the programme, and the programme itself is apparently available via BitTorrent. Incidentally, I've aired my opinion of theology previously on this blog.