Metaphorical? But why?

Dürer: the fall of manMost modern believers interpret their sacred texts as mostly metaphorical. Only the most hard-core fundamentalists maintain that Genesis for example is an accurate historical account of the origin of Humanity.

In order to maintain such a hard stance, they must reject most of what the modern world has to offer, in particular empirical science and its discoveries.

The myth of Adam and Eve as the two ultimate ancestors for the whole of humanity for instance has been destroyed by genetic evidence and by population genetics in general.

It is unfortunately an extremely important myth as without it there is no original sin, and without original sin there is no need for a universal redeemer.

Faced with the evidence, believers resort to a number of techniques to salvage their faith. Some reject empirical science as a whole, some misrepresent the evidence and twist it to fit their pre-established conclusions, and some revise their interpretation of the text by declaring it "metaphorical".

I'm not too interested about the first two, which have willingly moved beyond reason. The third is more intriguing, but I think not much more consistent.

If the god of the Bible exists, he had the power of making the world exactly as it is described in the books he supposedly inspired. Why didn't he then?

Archived comments

  • Ludovic said on Monday, June 6, 2011

    That's a pretty weak question, isn't it? If you exist, you had the power of, I don't know, go live in Portland, make this blog run on Wordpress, or get 5 kids... so why didn't you? Something interesting would be to graph how and what parts of the Bible get increasingly treated as "metaphorical". Would make a pretty nice animated infographic. Also: at what point of "metaphoricalness" does the Bible loses its holy status and is down to the same level as any self-help book?
  • bleroy said on Monday, June 6, 2011

    @Ludovic: that's an extremely weak objection. I'm not god and the claims you cite are of a different kind altogether. Nor did I write a book making those claims (and even if I did the stake would not even register in comparison). I do agree with the rest of your comment though.
  • Sergey said on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    "... most of what the modern world has to offer..." What exactly it has to offer? Sophisticated killing machines? Families where kids do not know who is their father or mother, because fidelity, morality, good or bad is out of scope of "empirical science"? World where it will be hard to tell apart human beings from animals based on both looks and behavior? "... has been destroyed by genetic evidence..." Evidence? " generally estimated...", "...most likely in East Africa.", "...the latter hypothesis is now the dominant one." Evidence like this hardly would be excepted even in the corrupted human court. And quite possible by the time I finish typing this (I am a slow typer) , there will be another news article, something like that: "We thought it was like this, but now we think it was different".
  • bleroy said on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    @Sergey: life expectancy more than doubled, diseases wiped out of the face of the Earth, and marvelous, marvelous knowledge. You have a very sad worldview. It must suck to be you. You are attacking a straw man. Where are these families where fidelity, morality are out of scope? How do you explain that divorce rates are highest in the Bible belt? The rest of your comment is incomprehensible, except for the fact that you don't understand the first thing about science. I could recommend books but I doubt you would understand them.
  • Stephen Cleary said on Saturday, July 7, 2012

    You state that the Adam and Eve story has been "destroyed by genetic evidence", yet the article you linked to just discusses M-Eve. I'm missing something here. How does the existence of a female who has a direct female line to all living humans disprove the existence of a single first human female?
  • bleroy said on Saturday, July 7, 2012

    @Stephen: read the article entirely, in particular the misconceptions and implications sections. Also follow the second link. Population genetics tell us unambiguously that our ancestors were never less than about 4500 individuals, at any point of our (pre)history. I recommend Dawkins' Ancestor's Tale for a good introductory-level, but in-depth explanation of all this.