Literature: Historical – Yes, History – No

Dangers found in Interpreting Literature as Historical Documents

{Peer} wrote: “Far too often we find people who believe there is a divide between science and religion and that you can’t believe in God and evolution.”

For certain people, I believe that could be true. However, it is not necessarily “God” that needs proving – it is one’s religious doctrine and belief of what God entails that is questioned. Christian dogma was questioned because the young-earth creationists insist upon a 7,000 year old earth,[1] a huge contradiction with the scientific understanding of the earth being over 400 billion years old. With a bold claim as demonstrated by the biblical timetable, a reasonable scientific consideration cannot be assessed. The claim in particular is one of humankind’s and not a challenge issued by the individual ingredients that make up the ability to believe, nor is the claim attributed to any outside forces. James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, traced Adam’s heritage through the Hebrew patriarchs in the seventeenth-century; Bowler and Morus said, “By taking the seven days of creation literally, it was then only a matter of adding on those seven days to arrive at the date of the creation of the earth and the universe itself.”[2] The religious mind consulted the Bible and religious doctrine like they were reading historical documents, believing the stories to be true. An issue science has with religion is that humanity is not the center of the universe, nor are human beings yet perfectly evolved. Science sees evolution as a process of perfecting the individual so as to better the species, whereas religion, namely Christianity, sees the human being a priori as God’s perfect creation. I see the conflict more in interpretative issues. Each individual attaches to a belief that works for them in efforts for that person to understand themselves as well as their place and meaning in life. Religious individuals see harmony in their preferred genre of faith, whereas scientifically minded individuals look for empirical truth and proof. Philosophical minds grant truth for subjective reasoning, and issue Truth for scientific method – but philosophers are able to utilize their understanding to incorporate additional factors for accepting personal truth and universal Truth.

{Peer} wrote: “All I am saying is that one should keep an open mind and to believe that you have all the answers, regardless of your beliefs, is to be a truly foolish.”

I really think it all boils down to what method works for the individual – if organized religion is not your bag, there are other spiritual methods absent of convention. Science is always available to address concrete fact, but, for the human condition, the messages relayed with feeling might resonate a “truer” personal meaning. With belief as wind in one sails, subjective truth can appear to conquer the authorities of the objective. I agree with Socrates in that a questioning mind realizes that they know nothing. The moment absolute “certainty” without evidence steps in it is almost like blinders are dropped over one’s vision. Personally, I am not certain of anything – other than that I have a lot to learn and consider.



Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

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[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 106.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 106.