Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Dinosaurs, Magic Elixers, and Chronological Snobbery

I realize looking back that my last post seemed very ranty. This is probably because it was written hastily while I was in the midst of sermon writing at 1:00 in the morning, and feeling a cold coming on. In any event, I want to clarify my argument a bit so it will hopefully be a little more coherent.

I'm not opposed to Science, much as it may seem to some. Science, since 18th century, has brought innumberable advances to civilization and changed the world we live in. The thing that distinguishes modern science from the esoteric sciences before the Renaissance (i.e. alchemy) is that modern science works. Not that people previously had no understanding of the world around them. There was just no reliable system for testing scientific knowledge. With the advent of the scientific method this changed. Now scientists had a way to form hypotheses, test them, and pass on their results for the experiments to be repeated. This resulted in rapid advances in the knowledge of how our physical universe works.

As time passed however, this new science began to operate autonomously from other areas of knowledge. Laws of nature were seen as pieces of clockwork, automatic and inevitable, rather than as observations of God's providential control of the world. Philosophers such as Hume, Bentham, and J.S. Mill attempted to create ethical systems based on empirical science. Darwin invented a creation myth based on some of the assumptions of empirical science. And the myth of the "Dark Ages" began: the idea that the world had languished in ignorance and error throughout the Middle Ages, only to be delivered by science. As this Enlightenment metanarrative took root in the popular mind, language shaped itself around the new scientific theories. Old "superstitious" language was scoffed at, and even poetic and metaphorical language was seen as less true than science's language-game. So even though these creatures being unearthed seemed shockingly similar to what had for thousands of years been called dragons, the name dragon had to give way to the more scientific and tame, "dinosaur."

At the same time the Bible is written in an ancient, non-scientific style, describing such "ridiculous improbabilities" as fire-breathing dragons, giant sea monsters, composite angelic beings, dark magic, and miracles. What were Christians to do? Well, many Christians felt that they had to find some way to make the Bible speak the language-game of the scientists. The Deists had no problem simply excising all references to miracles. More recently many educated (but, I believe, misguided) Christians have taken it upon themselves to show that the Bible is indeed a sort of proto-scientific textbook. And so Creationism arises, with attempts to find dinosaurs in the Bible, find evidence of the Flood in rock strata, and prove the scientific accuracy of the Bible. This is a type of acquiesence to chronological snobs; rather than letting the Bible speak as an ancient text and saying that this is the type of language God chose to use to communicate with His creation rather than the language of a textbook, we must apologize for the embarrsing apparant inaccuracies in Scripture, and show what the Bible really means in scientific language. As in this current post: it says "dragons", it means "dinosaurs."

I for one would give scientists three cheers if they would at least change their language enough so that we can see the importance in what they do. I am thinking of a scene in Chesterton's Napoleon of Notting Hill where the main character, Adam Wayne, tries to rally a pharmacist to the defence of their neighborhood against the encroaching enemies:

"It is on such clear and mellow nights that your shop is most itself. Then they appear most perfect, those moons of green and gold and crimson, which from afar, oft guide the pilgrim of pain and sickness to this house of merciful witchcraft...I ask you a question which goes to the roots of your miraculous toils. Mr. Bowles, shall all this witchery cease?...Shall it be destroyed? I have met these men of Bayswater and North Kensington--Mr. Bowles, they are materialists. They see no witchery in your work, even when it is brought within their own borders. They think the chemist is commonplace. They think him human."

This whole post and the last came to mind as I was sipping a probiotic dairy drink in desperate hopes of boosting my immune system and warding off a cold. As I quaffed, it ocurred to me that I was drinking something from a small vial that was suppposed to put tiny living creatures into my stomach to fight off illness. And I thought "Probiotic Dairy Drink" my foot! Why don't they be honest and call it "Magic Elixer of Health"?


Ojalanpoika said…
Ever thought the colour of the dinosaurs?

Here's 150 figure examples of the magnificent Dinoglyfs & Dinolits:

Let's remember that the longest and most detailed description of ANY animal in the Jewish Scriptures was having to do with "dragon" leviathan (Job 40-41).
Biochemist, drop-out (M.Sci. Master of Sciing)