Evolution, the Bible
and the halting of the sun at Gibeon
Here at Abarim Publications we often receive emails from fellow believers who inquire whether we have lost our mind, since every now and then we use the word 'evolution' and clearly flirt with the blasphemous idea of an earth older than 6,000 years.
We also frequently receive mails from fellow scientists, who commonly ask whether we have lost our mind since we keep referring to the Bible, which is stupid, since it tells of a story in which the sun stops moving, which is even more stupid.
Our usual reply to the first group is commonly evasive enough to pass for a plea for forgiveness, and replies to questions about the sun-miracle described in Joshua 10:12 usually come down to 'Ow, we don't know either, and who does, really?'
But finally, after much deliberation (as well as a recently received email from a certain delightful university professor of mythology), we have decided to come out with something of a formal statement concerning the whole affair.
Evolution: how it doesn't work
First of all: the quest for truth is not a football game. There's no need to huddle under one particular banner out of sheer disdain for the other guys, or fear of being left out when the winners are announced. Results are really all that counts; believing in something that demonstrably doesn't work is dumb enough, but preaching something that doesn't work is deadly (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, 1 Kings 18:21-40). Nobody worth listening too will force you to choose when you really haven't made up your mind or simply don't have the answer ready. Much more virtuous and effective is a calm regard for measurable facts. Let the facts tell you what to believe, and let your feelings tell you what to expect. And don't be scared of the unknown, or the known, or pretend that you're on to something while deep in your heart you know that you're not. Be honest.
Secondly: the Bible strenuously urges humanity to observe creation and derive understanding from that, rather than the other way around (Romans 1:20, John 4:22-24, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, or, if you dare: Genesis 15:5 relative to Matthew 2:2, Psalm 19:1, Psalm 139:14-18, and so on and on and on), and it's obvious that a wholesale rejection of evolution theory (that is the entire study of natural growth and change, and not just one particular conclusion) isn't very helpful for anybody.
What also isn't very helpful is the classical paradigm of evolution that suggests a gradual and linear ascent from simple to complicated -- the old idea that suggests that the universe started out exceeding simple and then, by sheer accident, proceeded to become more complicated, until one day it was so complicated that it could accidentally produce simple life forms that then evolved into more complicated ones, until ultimately, life produced a very dumb homo sapiens who then proceeded to accidentally get slowly smarter and much better informed, until he finally achieved levels of unprecedented glory which he invested into the willful invention of the smart-phone.
The truth, as we've known for decades now, is that all the energy that would ever form the whole universe zipped into existence at once. Then it swiftly rushed through a series of symmetry breaches, produced nucleons, had a glorious moment of hydrogen formation and spent the rest of its existence rearranging the same things over and over. Minute differences in initial energy distribution lead to the formation of huge stars. These burned out, imploded and evaporated, and their clouds of ashes wafted out into space, contracted and formed multiple smaller stars. And that's the basic rule of energy recycling in the universe: a big cloud forms a big star, which must eventually collapse into dust and ashes, and from this dust rises a multitude of smaller stars (Genesis 1:3, 1:14).
A confederacy of dunces
The universe today is mostly simple. It's mostly empty, and matter is mostly hydrogen and radiation. But it also contains some swirls of really complicated molecules. That's because, even for the universe, complicated things are harder to make than simple ones, and thus there are very few complicated things and an overwhelming mass of really simple ones. Elements heavier than hydrogen are simply hydrogen atoms mushed together in stars and super novae (hydrogen relates to uranium the way one car relates to a rush hour traffic jam) and molecules of all sizes and complexity are little more than randomly assembled atoms (like cars parked at the mall).
But the most complicated non-living thing relates to the simplest living thing the way one car relates to the whole of New York City, or the way a candy wrapper relates to the Library of Congress. And the colossal gap between the two can not be described by any process that governs either.
To the appreciated chagrin of all the right people, a bacterium is precisely as complicated as a human being. Their genomes are of different sizes but precisely as complex. And in the world of genetics, size says little. The biggest genomes we know of belong to plants, and plants and humans relate like campers and sedans.
This means that life was never simple. DNA-based-life started out as complete as the universe did. It hit the road running and spent all its existence mostly rearranging and augmenting existing stuff, precisely what the universe did after its initial inflationary beginning: via the 'big star small stars' principle. In other words: humans are not the crown product of a mysteriously reversed second law of thermodynamics but simply just another plagiarized book in the vast copy-paste library of life.
The same thing could reasonably be expected to be true for the 'sapiens' part of Homo sapiens. According to most scientific models, we've been around for a few hundred-thousand years but our brains have always operated the same way. Our minds have always been filled to capacity with the same kind of curiosity, logic and scientific leanings as those we so celebrate today.
What this comes down to is that when the human species was an infant, humanity's brains could not contain the nonsense humanity would come up with later, simply because there wasn't any yet. In stead, mankind's brain could only contain the truth about the world (Matthew 11:25, 18:10), and all cultural evolution that followed was a mere rearranging (and mutating) of things we have always known. That's why the cultural expressions of peoples world-wide are so uncannily similar. And it also neatly explains why crude Stone Age monuments can reflect enormously complicated knowledge of mathematics and cosmology: we knew the stuff but our information technology was still developing (Genesis 11:1-9). In other words: the iron age took so long to get going because the wizards of the human race had better things to do, not because they weren't smart enough.
(Here at Abarim Publications we guess that the material universe was able to produce DNA and ultimately life via resonance with Chladni patterns consisting of gravity waves generated by evaporating and eccentrically rotating black holes. Our further guess is that matter, life and mind are self-similar and that the universe is shooting for a condition of transfinite entropy; that the formation of material DNA is a small orderly investment for a much larger return of the chaos of life. And since data is also subject to entropy, a being that knows the universe, counts as one, and cheerfully adds to the mess; Genesis 5:29, Psalm 132:14, Isaiah 66:1.)
Better things to do
The term 'books of Moses' does not so much refer to the writings of one historic figure but rather to the collection of ancient wisdom that's been handed over to us moderns from a very smart and distant past. Particularly the first books of the Bible represent a junction of very old knowledge and very new information technology, that is the then freshly invented Semitic alphabet and subsequent art of narrative writing. And that is why the Standard Model of Elementary Particles could be captured in the story of the family of Abraham, and why so many principles of the ancient Hebrew language appear to be on a par with natural processes.
As many mythologists have noticed, many stories from unrelated peoples mysteriously contain the same themes and patterns. But the same is true for the very languages in which these stories are told. There are certain innate qualities to all human languages that unmistakably show that they're basically mere variations of the same original (big star, small stars). Really quite like DNA-based life forms.
And most shocking: these same operating principles that form the backbone of every spoken language in the world can also be found in DNA! The genetic information that is the fundament of life, and which is stored in the nuclei of all living cells (Deuteronomy 30:11-15, Romans 2:15), is written in a human language!
Some enthusiasts have concluded that, surely, ancient aliens must have coded our DNA with an interstellar telegram, but the opposite is more probable true: our languages are expressions of DNA just like our bodies and minds are, and our earliest stories tell the story of the universe that formed our DNA after its own image. The languages and mythologies of the world are similar for exactly the same reason why all life of our world is similar. They are the many small stars that came from one big one.
Linear and dispassionate journalism is an invention of the modern age and our pre-historic legacy was written in a genre that mystifies in its own right, but is in fact marvelously natural. The Bible calls it 'ancient parables' (Psalm 78:2, Matthew 13:35) but a snazzy modern term could be: fractalism -- a literary style in which every event is explained by self-similar events, which usually play out on different levels of complexity.
The Ten Commandments, to give an example, sum up the whole Law (and Law in the Old Testament is natural Law), and sure enough, the Law consists of two sets of instructions, one pertaining to the father (the first portion of the Big Ten concerns God; Exodus 20:1-7) and one pertaining to the mother (the second portion concerns social rules; Exodus 20:12-17; the Hebrew word for 'people' and 'mother' are identical). And these two sets cross over in the central command to keep the Sabbath, in which humanity is basically told to be like God (Exodus 20:8-11).
These two sets were kept in the ark in the tabernacle in the nucleus of the people, which is obviously self-similar to your basic eukaryote; its metabolism represented by the tabernacle's altar.
After the first templar destruction by Babylon, Judaism emerged as a movement with multiple centers, and at some point Jesus of Nazareth became described as Judaism's female gamete: his crucifixion is on a par with ovulation, and his resurrection with conception; hence the image of the pregnant woman that shows up all over the Bible (Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1:23, Revelation 12:2). And that means that the so-called Body of Christ is not some club or man-made institution but a whole new form of humanity that exists within the old humanity without much self-consciousness until long after its birth (individual human baby's aren't aware of their selfness until roughly a year old, and a proper Theory of Mind doesn't fully develop until around age seven).
Speciation, or so our esteemed scientific colleagues surmise, works precisely the same way: for whatever reason, a sub-population within the greater one begins to specialize, then polarize and ultimately branch off as a whole new kind. Thus this new species appears 'suddenly' to observers, but has in fact been germinating within the mother population until it was quite literally expelled by it (Isaiah 7:14).
The Jewish center-that-summed-up-all-centers, namely Herod's temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, as the climax of the Great Jewish Revolt, and much of the gospels deals with how the ancient wisdom tradition was to survive without a central building, capital and home land.
Sun, stand still at Gibeon!
The mysterious behavior of the sun (and moon) that so many people seem to find awkward was originally described in the mysterious and doubtlessly very ancient Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13). It's a detail of the third decisive engagement between Israel under Joshua and the indigenous peoples of Canaan (the Amorites, to be precise), and occurred right after the battles of Jericho and Ai and the scheme of the Gibeonites, who, significantly, hailed from the place where later the sun would stand still (Joshua 9:3).
The full scope of this story goes far beyond our present discussion. What's relevant now is that it is obviously tied to the evenly famous Battle of Beth-horon, during which Yahweh Himself pelted the fleeing enemy with stones (Joshua 10:11).
A millennium and a half after Joshua's invasion of Canaan, the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans broke out. Its first military battle unfolded at the very same Beth-horon, and in such a surprisingly emulative fashion that any informed observer should suspect something to be up. This Second Battle of Beth-horon occurred when an attempt to sort out a Zealot uprising in Jerusalem went pear-shaped, and the Romans were forced to make a hasty retreat -- albeit because they wanted to avoid military engagement and had assumed that the mere presence of the Syrian legion would calm the Jews down. It didn't, and the result looked quite alike the end of Braveheart. The Zealots roared, the Romans ran and the Zealots gave chase. At the hills near Beth-horon the pursuing Zealots began to pick up stones and pelted the Roman legion from above as it was rushing through the valley below. Thus trapped they became an easy prey.
But this Syrian legion was no ordinary legion. It was Julius Caesar's old pet legion with which he, a little over a century earlier, had defeated general Pompey and effectively euthanized the dwindling Republic. This legendary Legion 12 was nicknamed Lightning and see Matthew 24:27 and Luke 10:18 (or our article on the name Legion) for some hardly disguised commentaries of the gospel writers. Julius Caesar was of course the later deified adoptive father of Augustus, who was the creator and inaugural god-king of the Roman Empire. Augustus was also known as Savior of the World, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and of course most spectacularly: Son of God (namely Julius), and the gospel writers also had some comments on that.
Most of the Bible is an adaptation of the very ancient and quite global wisdom tradition that celebrated the exuberant freedom and autonomy of every human individual (Jude 1:24) and the subsequent psychodiversity of the entire human realm, whereas most formal Christianity is an adaptation of Roman Imperial Theology, which was designed to control the masses and make them compliantly stand in neat rows, waiting for orders in solemn uniformity.
Emperor Constantine famously made Christianity the Roman state religion, but Constantine's favored deity was and always remained Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun (hence aureoles and Christmas and all that), and many aspiring world-leaders before and since him have used the sun and its signature invincibility as their chief symbol. The sun's invincibility would be argued by the fact that nothing can stop it from moving. That is, of course, unless something even greater than the sun shows up and demonstrates this superiority by stopping the sun dead in its tracks.
Stopping the unstoppable
The Greek version of the name Joshua is Jesus, and Constantine's version of Jesus became the recipient of a vast personality cult: in effect, Constantine made Jesus the new and everlasting Caesar of the Roman Empire. This was obviously a blatant perversion of everything Jesus had preached, so the official next step was to discourage people from reading the Bible. That worked wonders too, and still does in many regions of the 'Christian' world.
The original Jesus-movement was a liberation movement, focused on the liberation from Rome or any other totalitarian or imperial regime. The very word 'Christ' or 'anointed one' denotes an 'autonomous person' and one of the core ideas of the gospel is that everybody can share in the anointing (2 Corinthians 1:21, Hebrews 1:9, 1 John 2:20).
The main difference between the Jesus movement and that of the Zealots was that Jesus and company only engaged the enemy in respectful conversation (hence Paul's obvious flirtations with Homer and the Stoics and such) while the Zealots engaged the enemy in military combat. But, history showed, an armed revolt against the Roman army came with a fool-proof guarantee of defeat and destruction (even Jesus' famous imperative 'knock and the door will open' most probably concerns the great war-door of Janus Quirinus and the always ill-resulting provocation of the Romans; Matthew 7:7-8, Revelation 3:7-8). Armed revolt was therefore an idea that occurred only to people who rarely had good ones, and unfortunately, there were many of those.
Despite its propaganda machine that still today befuddles audiences into believing that everybody loved Rome, the Roman Empire was hated by most. The Celts, the Greeks and the Phoenicians sported highly sophisticated democracies or at least non-centrally governed societies based on free trade and international diplomacy. They were doing marvelously well (Ezekiel 28:12-13, 1 Kings 7:13-14), until Rome came along and steamrolled them into oblivion. Rome's purported world peace, or Pax Romana, wasn't peace but global destruction. In the words of the defeated Caledonian general Galgacus, Romans were "robbers of the world, exhausting the earth with their world-wide plunder [...]. Robbery, slaughter and plunder they lyingly call empire. They create a wasteland, and call it peace" (Tacitus, Agricola.1.30).
In that and other senses, the Roman Empire was quite alike the more modern installments of its core tenets: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's USSR and Mao's China, which lavishly imitated Rome's abundance of regalia and marching square army divisions, and which all required the decimation of the intellectual core, the total annihilation of internal opposition, and the mechanical obedience of whoever remained. And, even more chillingly, in stead of lasting more than a millennium, the Roman Empire could similarly have gone the way of the dodo after a mere few decades of unstable existence. The world certainly tried. The early Empire was nearly continuously attacked from pretty much all sides, including from within (even Pilate, for instance, was in all likelihood a so-called Liberator).
Right around the time when Judea became a Roman province, a Roman military commander named Arminius (a.k.a. Herman the German) poised his native Germanic tribes against Rome and miraculously destroyed three whole legions. At the same time, the Illyrians (Bosnia) arose in their sustained revolt and kept the Roman army a bloody mess until the tides turned and the Illyrians were defeated and wholly annihilated. This was the year 9 AD; arguably the most decisive year in human history, because it was the year in which Rome and the Ways of Rome emerged as unchallenged world dominator, a disaster that still mars our world today. It was also roughly the year in which Jesus showed up out of nowhere (the name Jesus of Nazareth effectively means John Doe out of Nowhere) and began to engage the Jewish intellectual elite, who collaborated with Rome, in respectful discourse (Luke 2:42-47).
The Second Battle of Beth-horon resulted in the unprecedented defeat of the legendary Legion 12 by Jewish Zealots. This shocked the entire known world and obviously mostly Nero in Rome, who swiftly proceeded to order the whole region leveled and all perps crucified. Generals and future emperors Vespasian and his son Titus dutifully sprang to arms. Hence the Jewish War. Hence the gospels. And hence the modern world.
Neither the universe, nor the human past, nor the Bible are what we thought they were. Graham Hancock famously lamented that humanity is a species with amnesia, but it's worse than that: we moderns are so pleased with the little bit we think we've figured out that we additionally imagine that people who didn't have smart-phones must have been really obtuse then. Quite the opposite appears to be truer: by wanting to have smart-phones, modern humans demonstrate how intellectually and socially stunted they really are. We fill our heads with MTV, movies and sensational journalism, but the ancients had those same beautiful heads full of practical knowledge of the world around them.
Next time you eat a Big Mac, realize that long before they started farming on an industrial level, folks from the Stone Age had derived domesticated grains from wholly inedible grasses, and sweet potatoes from poisonous wild ones. Not only did they somehow know how to do that (it takes hundreds of generations without discernable benefit), they also somehow were able to detect crispy domesticated fries in disgusting muddy feral lumps. That demonstrates a knowledge of nature that vastly exceeds our own, with clear views not only of what is there now but also what might be. The ancients not only observed reality as it flies in one's face, they also saw reality's inner compass and ultimate potential. The reason why the ancients didn't go modern was not because they didn't know how to do it, but because they saw what would happen if they did.
All major staples we eat today were domesticated in the Stone Age. All animals that enliven our modern world were tamed and adopted in the Stone Age. Agriculture began in several distinct places on earth (albeit at different times), so multiple unrelated peoples had this same profound knowledge and prophetic insight. The Bronze Age started at roughly the same time from India to England, but it's often overlooked how much of a technological infrastructure had to be in place and ready to go long before the first trickle of copper could be extracted from ore. Nobody in the Stone Age needed fires that hot, so they had to be specifically designed, purpose-in-mind. Ore looks like nothing special to someone from the Stone Age, and mere trial and error simply would not have led to doing precisely the right things to precisely the right stones to arrive at something completely unexpected. It's without a doubt that they knew what they were going for.
The idea that Stone Age people were hairy brutes without noticeable refinery is a good old fascistic folly, and so is equating civilization with the use of technology, or sophistication with recording history. Long before humans began to record their histories, man has recorded what fascinated him. Humanity has been producing highly sophisticated visual art for at least 50,000 years and had complex musical instruments for at least 35,000 years. Spoken language, like agriculture, is an artificial modification of a natural phenomenon. Prior to proper verbs and nouns humans expressed themselves in a kind of super-animal language that everybody on earth understood (just like dogs understand the bark of any other dog anywhere in the world). Humans doubtlessly understood animals as well as vegetation, and obviously also themselves and other humans.
We doubtlessly always had social codes that far exceeded those of chimps and dolphins, and we've doubtlessly had more general fun and less general fear than any other animal. One human may seem vulnerable but a closely knit team of them has always been the strongest beast on earth. Humans have always operated within social networks. We have always marked our walls with status updates, and shared our favorite songs with friends. Man has always been the unchallenged emperor of earth.
How you have fallen!
For most of our past we've known everything about everything and only very recently has the urge emerged to write down what we were so rapidly forgetting. We moderns like to congratulate ourselves with our plastic world, but our world is really the most backward human expression of all time. We like to think that the steps from stone to bronze and from bronze to iron were steps up in sophistication, but in fact they were brought about when irresponsible people began to do incredibly stupid things.
Modernity is a spiral downward. For the last ten thousand years, mankind has blundered ever further down the hole, ever further away from Eden, like a plague, like a disease, and the whole of life on earth has never been as sick and putrid as during the most recent two thousand years. Farming, though based on contained brilliance, led on an industrial scale to a narrowing of staples, and mankind's general health went south as an immediate consequence (we know this from analyzing skeletons). While starving for nutritious diversity, mankind produced surplus of more of the same, which led to an unequal distribution of normally ubiquitous resources, which led to government and ultimately warfare and domination.
Animal husbandry resulted in the subsequent domestication of flue, measles, pox and anthrax. And humanity's bright idea to congregate in cities made sure that any outbreak would slay everything that breathed (Genesis 4:2-8). Metal, additionally, gave humans no advantage other than as a material to turn into weaponry (and tubas, of course). Both wealth and knowledge began to be hoarded and were no longer freely shared. Secrecy was invented. Folks huddled around their tribal totems, and spawned priestly castes that worked for kings. Ignorance led to fear. Fear led to control.
The universe, however, is rigged to produce ever increasing diversity (Genesis 1:22, 1:28), and whatever sits in the way will be calmly obliterated via immutable and unyielding natural laws (Genesis 11:6-8). Whether you call it the Tower of Babel, the Roman Empire, agriculture, the Third Reich, Hollywood, McDonald's or the Church; whatever contradicts diversity and demands uniformity will eventually disintegrate by means of the very natural forces these institutions try to subdue. It's a jolly fact of life that follows a simple rule of nature: one guy giving orders to a compliant mass of subservients is of a lower order of entropy than a seething mass of party-people who are free to do whatever they like (except oppress anyone). And nature, via its many subtle feedback loops, will always favor the situation of higher entropy. Psychodiversity is as fundamental to a properly functioning earth as is biodiversity. And psychodiversity requires the liberation of everybody from whatever restriction, including ignorance, prejudice and poverty.
The Greatest Show in Town
Right now, mankind is facing a very serious climate challenge, but otherwise (and this remains sorely underreported) we're doing absolutely fabulous. Whether you believe that the Holy Spirit is prompting us, or nature's immutable laws, or some combination of the two: in the last two hundred years or so, the quality of human life in the world has risen to unprecedented degrees, and the personal rights and freedoms of human individuals hasn't been as secure as they are today for the whole of recorded history. And the best part is that humans are born liberators. Free folks use their freedom to liberate others, and they don't need a leader to tell them that.
Even as recent as the nineteenth century, life was unspeakably horrible for the majority of humans, particularly those living in the squalor of cities and slaving for nasty masters. Now we live in a world in which dignity and general care is commonplace. For decades now, people have ventured to educate people on the dangers and inconveniences of overpopulation, and in 2005 (again underreported) humanity passed the point of global peak-child (meaning: today the average adult has one child, world-wide). The green-hype is saving the forests. Vegans are freeing the animals. Universities are not only studying biodiversity in theory, they also put practical plans in place to make biodiversity, social responsibility and environmentally beneficial programs economically attractive to the money junkies that run our show. And what a show it is!
The gentle and most inspirational scientist Richard Dawkins (who is not a very good theologian) famously called natural evolution the Greatest Show On Earth, but now there's an even greater show in town: the Resurrection. Our present generation consists of clouds of liberated people who are bringing about the remembrance of what history failed to record (Isaiah 41:22, John 21:25, John 1:50). These clouds will soon host the understanding that poverty, war and disease is nature's way of forcing humanity and its 'civilization' back into natural diversity. And just like life followed material diversity, and intelligence followed biodiversity, something absolutely fabulous is going to arise from stable psychodiversity. Like ants and bees, we're going to transcend our need for central government (1 Samuel 8:7, Proverbs 6:6) and build a world of splendor based wholly on natural law, individual sovereignty and utter transparency (Matthew 10:26-27, Mark 4:22, Luke 8:17, Revelation 20:12); a society infinitely far beyond the scope of any human tyrant (Revelation 21:2, Matthew 6:33).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been used by evil men to achieve the polar opposite of what it stands for. And what it stands for is an unavoidable function of nature: all humans will be free from oppression or dominion (Matthew 23:10, 1 Corinthians 15:24). There is nothing new under the sun except what is not under the sun: John Doe has always been greater than Caesar. Not by might but by divine decree the imperial sun will be made to set by something greater than it, and ordinary people will shine like the stars forever (Daniel 12:3, Isaiah 9:2, Genesis 26:4, Galatians 3:6, Genesis 1:17, Nehemiah 4:21).