Damien F. Mackey
Man is the measure of all things.
God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man, as men commonly say: the words are far more true of Him.
Attempting to Push God Right Into the Background
It is with the above quotations from the Greek sophist, Protagoras, and from Plato, that philosopher-scientist Dr. Gavin Ardley introduces his classic book, Aquinas and Kant – The Foundations Of The Modern Sciences, that I would personally rate as the best book ever written on the philosophy of science. Ardley then gets to work to demonstrate that there are two orders of being, the real (or ontological) order and the categorial (or artifact) order, and that man can be the measure only of the latter order.
This distinction of the two orders was recognised and acknowledged by the wise Cardinal (now Saint) Robert Bellarmine at the time of Galileo Galilei. The latter, himself a talented experimental scientist, did not make the necessary distinction. Thus John Paul II observed in his address on Galileo (text from L’Osservatore Romano, 4 Nov 1992):
In the first place, like most of his adversaries, Galileo made no distinction between the scientific approach to natural phenomena and a reflection on nature, of the philosophical order, which that approach generally calls for. That is why he rejected the suggestion made to him to present the Copernican system as a hypothesis, inasmuch as it had not been confirmed by irrefutable proof. Such therefore, was an exigency of the experimental method of which he was the inspired founder. ….
[End of quote]
Still, John Paul II credited Galileo with being “more perceptive” than “most” of the then batch of “Theologians” in regard to “scriptural interpretation”. “If Scripture cannot err”, Galileo had written to Benedetto Castelli, “certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways”.
But Galileo got completely carried away with his experimental science, and now wanted the Scriptures to be interpreted in the light of the new scientific discoveries. Dr. Ardley’s seemingly weak exhortation, “Above all, no zeal”! is meant to be understood, it seems, in the context of imprudent Galilean zealotry; a fault that Ardley claims did not affect some of the more common sense scientists of a later era, notably Sir Isaac Newton.
But it is certainly a common fault amongst many of today’s (third millennium) scientists, notably the confirmed atheistic ones, who, going much further than had Galileo – whom John Paul II accredits as being in fact “a sincere believer” – seek to elevate the inferior order, man’s, over the superior order, God’s – customarily now by completely denying the latter. In an article in The Daily Telegraph (a Sydney newspaper), an ailing Stephen Hawking, wheelchair-bound British physicist – a modern successor to Sir Isaac Newton as Cambridge’s Lucasian professor of mathematics (since 1979) – is quoted as stating as his goal “nothing less than “a complete understanding of the universe”.”
Now, in itself, the quest for total wisdom and knowledge is biblical, Solomonic. The great king of Israel claimed to have “come to the knowledge of everything”. But, not entirely by his own efforts, for in this he claimed to have been “instructed by Wisdom who designed it all” (Wisdom 7:21-22). Most modern sages, on the other hand, seek to acquire the ‘theory of everything’ without any reference at all to the Divine, which to them is an unverifiable hypothesis. That is, they act purely according to their own efforts. Hence they completely discard the Divine map or blueprint that King Solomon had so wisely followed, with such great success; until he, too, finally, and most tragically, succumbed to the folly of self-reliance (I Kings 11:1-11). In “The Folly of Scientism”, A. Hughes writes on this:
When I decided on a scientific career, one of the things that appealed to me about science was the modesty of its practitioners. The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion. This attitude was attractive precisely because it stood in sharp contrast to the arrogance of the philosophers of the positivist tradition, who claimed for science and its practitioners a broad authority with which many practicing scientists themselves were uncomfortable.
The temptation to overreach, however, seems increasingly indulged today in discussions about science. Both in the work of professional philosophers and in popular writings by natural scientists, it is frequently claimed that natural science does or soon will constitute the entire domain of truth. And this attitude is becoming more widespread among scientists themselves. All too many of my contemporaries in science have accepted without question the hype that suggests that an advanced degree in some area of natural science confers the ability to pontificate wisely on any and all subjects.
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Since the Fall, mankind has been – with the exception of the few enlightened ones (such as Seth, Enoch and Noah, to name just the pre-Flood sages) – attempting to push God right out of the picture and to re-write the ‘theology’ of the world as purely human mythology. One who has written most interestingly on this is Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr., in “Athena and Eve” (Answers-in-Genesis TJ, 17 (3), 2003, http://creation.com/athena-and-eve), which article – while it may not necessarily give the intended raison d’être behind the Greek mythology – has certainly presented it well as an allegory of philosophical or theological intent:
Atlas pushes away the heavens and with them, the God of the heavens
The Greek poets placed a figure named Atlas in the ancient Garden of the Hesperides. Hesiod wrote in his Theogony:
‘And Atlas through hard constraint upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the earth before the clear-voiced Hesperides; for this lot wise Zeus assigned him.’10
His presence there clarified the Greeks’ religious viewpoint, for it was his job to put the authority of heaven at a distance from them.
In Figure 5 [left], we see part of a plate scene depicting Atlas pushing away the heavens. We can see where the artist has drawn stars. As Atlas pushes away the heavens, he also pushes away the God of the heavens—the very object of his efforts. Victory for the Greek system means that the Creator is kept at bay, pushed out of the picture, and His influence nullified, so that men become free to believe and do what they will. The way of Greek religion, which is nothing less than the way of Kain (Cain) referred to in the Scriptures, is a life lived without God’s interference with mankind’s desires. The Creator must be pushed away and ignored if Zeus-religion is to succeed.
Yahweh cursed and condemned the serpent in Genesis 3:14: ‘On your torso shall you go, and soil shall you eat all the days of your lives’. As God is pushed out of humanity’s realm, the curse on the serpent becomes void. He rises up, as on the plate depiction, to take his place as the illuminator and enlightener of the race.
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John R. Salverda has also entered into this debate. For an interesting, and sometimes heated, exchange between he and Johnson, see http://genesisflood.blog.com/2014/02/10/athena-is-the-ultimate-representation-of-naamah-as-the-one-who-brought-the-serpent%e2%80%99s-
According to Salverda, the Fall of Atlantis was based upon the Genesis story, with Atlas representing Adam:
…. Then there was the story of that previous civilization on the Earth, from which our modern culture sprang, which was destroyed, engulfed, in a great aqueous catastrophe. This previous civilization, called, “Atlantis,” was named after Atlas, he was said to be their first king, and the flood which engulfed the place, is still known as the “Atlantic” Ocean. We learn the story of Atlantis from the Greek Plato, who explains why these ancient People were drowned away back then. He says that at first, their race was pure, but they earned their destruction because they had a racial fall, and had degenerated through mortal admixture. And that was that for Plato’s Atlantean civilization. So it was much like the Bible’s antediluvian civilization, where Adam’s daughters, bred with the giants, and this caused racial impurities, (His Spirit could not “strive with men indefinitely,”) precursing the intolerable state which lead to Yahweh’s flood.
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And for Catholic readers, German mystic Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, claiming to have been favoured from childhood with visions of the ancient world, gives this fascinating ‘window’ into the pre-diluvian world of the Giants descended from Cain; people of great technical skills, but, spiritually, completely bankrupt (The Life of Jesus Christ):
I saw Cain’s descendants becoming more and more godless and sensual …. Their children were very large. They possessed a quickness, an aptitude for everything, and they gave themselves up entirely to the wicked spirits as their instruments …
I have seen many things connected with the race of giants. They could with ease carry enormous stones high up the mountain [where they had congregated], they could accomplish the most stupendous feats …. They could effect the most wonderful things, they could do whatever they wished; but all was pure jugglery and delusion due to the agency of the demon. It is for that reason that I have such a horror of every species of jugglery and fortune-telling. These people could form all kinds of images out of stone and metal; but of the knowledge of God they had no longer a trace.
[End of quote]
Today’s ‘giants’ of science would of course laugh at the very notion of demons. The fact is, however, that there is a God and there is a devil, and we ourselves must be the slaves of either the One or the other. So how did fallen man now, under demonic influence, come to explain things, without God any longer in the picture? Well, it seems that he simply followed the serpent’s propaganda from the Garden: ‘You will become like God’ (Genesis 3:5).
Man now took the place of God. Man became ‘the measure of all things’.
This transition is wonderfully explained again by Robert Bowie Johnson. He tells how the Book of Genesis was completely re-cast by the pagans in favour of fallen man. Johnson is here specifically discussing Greek mythology, which arose much later than the Fall, but Greek mythology (also Roman) borrowed from the far more ancient mythologies of the ancient Near East, and, presumably, from the original Cain-ism. Here is Johnson’s account (“Athena and Eve”, p. 85):
There is no Creator-God in the Greek religious system. The ancient Greek religious system is about getting away from the God of Genesis, and exalting man as the measure of all things. You may think to yourself that the Greeks are exalting gods, not man; but haven’t you ever wondered why the Greek gods looked exactly like humans? The answer is the obvious one: for the most part, the gods represented the Greeks’ (and our) human ancestors. Greek religion was thus a sophisticated form of ancestor worship. You have no doubt heard of the supposedly great philosopher, Sokrates [Socrates]. In Plato’s Euthydemus, he referred to Zeus, Athena, and Apollo as his ‘gods’ and his ‘lords and ancestors’.
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Johnson continues, explaining how the Greeks appropriated Adam and Eve into their own mythology, as Zeus and Hera (Dione) (ibid., p. 86):
We are told in Chapter 2 of Genesis that Eve was created full-grown out of Adam. Before she was known as Hera, the wife of Zeus had the name Dione. The name relates to the creation of Eve out of Adam, for Dione is the feminine form of Dios or Zeus. This suggests that the two were once, like Adam and Eve, a single entity.
[End of quote]
The Greeks, Johnson goes on to explain, saw the capitulation to the serpent, not as a shameful Fall, but as a veritable enlightenment (ibid.):
From the Judeo-Christian standpoint, the taking of the fruit by Eve and Adam at the serpent’s behest was shameful, a transgression of [the Lord’s] commandment. From the Greek standpoint, however, the taking of the fruit was a triumphant and liberating act which brought to mankind the serpent’s enlightenment. To the Greeks, the serpent freed mankind from bondage to an oppressive God, and was therefore a saviour and illuminator of our race. The Greeks worshipped Zeus as both saviour and illuminator; they called him Zeus Phanaios which means one who appears as light and brings light. The light that he brought to the ancient Greeks was the serpent’s light that he received when he ate the fruit from the serpent’s tree.
How utterly perverse!
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This explanation by Johnson I find most intriguing and even plausible since it is – as I intend to argue further on, as I progress from the ancient to the modern – something of a paradigm of how modern man, too, has operated from Galileo through the Enlightenment and Rationalism to the present day.
Johnson’s explanation might even change how one may regard this old Sumerian seal (next page), illustrating the Sumerian Adam and Eve and the serpent in the primeval garden.
Whereas I had always previously perceived this as being an ancient Mesopotamian recollection of early Genesis (after all, the early inspired texts were always available to these people), see my:
I am now more inclined to regard it differently, as Johnson does (see following quotes).
By contrast to atheist Joseph Campbell, who, says Johnson, “maintained that myths are ‘cultural manifestations of the universal need of the human psyche to explain, social, cosmological, and spiritual realities’ …”, which Johnson says “is really nothing more than a fancy way of saying that ‘myths are what they are’”, Johnson instead explains (“The serpent worshipers”, TJ, ibid., p. 67):
Contrary to Campbell’s disguised tautology, I maintain that myth is essentially history, and that many ancient myths and works of art tell the same story as the book of Genesis, but from the standpoint that the serpent is the enlightener of mankind rather than its deceiver. Campbell was blind to this simple truth as the following example of his errant thinking will show. On page 14 of his The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, he features an illustration of a Sumerian seal [see above]…. Here we have a man, a woman, a tree, and a serpent. We think immediately of Eden. But Campbell writes that this ‘cannot possibly be, as some scholars have supposed, the representation of a lost Sumerian version of the Fall of Adam and Eve’ …. Why not? Because, he writes, there is no ‘… sign of divine wrath or danger to be found. There is no theme of guilt connected with the garden. The boon of the knowledge of life is there, in the sanctuary of the world, to be culled. And it is yielded willingly to any mortal, male or female, who reaches for it with the proper will and readiness to receive .’ ….
But this is exactly why it is Eden. This is the view of the events in the garden taken by … Cain … and those who embraced his way. They defied and ultimately dispensed with the angry God, so He and His wrath are not going to show up here. There is no guilt because there is no sin; there is no sin, or falling short of the ideal, because, according to the line of [Cain], Adam and Eve did the right thing in taking the fruit. In Genesis 3:14, [the Lord] condemned the serpent to crawl on its torso and eat soil. On the Sumerian seal, the serpent rises to a height above the seated humans. ….
[End of quote]
It is in this context, too, that Johnson explains the myth of Atlas (notice the serpent is behind him), ‘pushing away the heavens’, which Johnson takes as indicating that “[Atlas] pushes away the God of the heavens – the very object of his efforts” (“Athena and Eve”, p. 88). “The Creator must be pushed away and ignored if Zeus-religion is to succeed”.
As I say, I accept this as a philosophical point of view, if not necessarily what the myth writers had actually intended.
Complete Triumph of the New Adam and the New Eve
With the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ some millennia later than the Fall, the power of the serpent was greatly curtailed; his head being firmly crushed by the New Adam and the New Eve (cf. Genesis 3:15). Catherine Emmerich (op. cit.) tells how man’s power to work satanic marvels was henceforth greatly diminished by comparison with before.
Mary, the Mother of God, was the new Paradise, created by God for himself alone, and for those to whom He would choose to grant admittance. “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed” (Song of Solomon 4:12). Scott Hahn is typically humorous, yet profound, when discussing Mary’s complex relationship with God (http://www.ewtn.com/libraray/scriptur/maryark.TXT):
In Isaiah 62 we read in verse 11 about daughter Zion who is vindicated and glorified by God, “for as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons, daughter Zion, marry you”. Think about that. Kind of an odd image, isn’t it? Daughter Zion is God’s daughter. “As a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you”. I mean, you talk about an Oedipus complex, what is going on here? “Your sons, daughter Zion, marry you”. The Blessed Virgin Mary is Christ’s daughter because he is her creator, but he creates her to be his mother. But then, after he bestows his glory upon her and calls her to himself and makes her the Queen Mother of all, he fashions the New Jerusalem after her as the blueprint. She becomes the bride of Christ.
No wonder he calls her “woman”. He can’t decide. “Are you my daughter? Are you my mother or are you my bride?” Praise the Lord!
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Perhaps ‘Satan of the crushed head’ decided now to continue to diminish man and his place in the world.
The ‘Copernican Revolution’
Whilst being quite a legitimate scientific and mathematical experiment, Copernicanism, as a world view, completely destroyed the traditional cosmology, according to which the earth was the hub of the universe (so important from a salvific point of view), replacing it with heliocentrism. This was the new cosmology to which Galileo so ardently adhered, and for whose cause he was so great a propagandist. Gavin Ardley tells of the “violent” transition from the traditional view to the new cosmology as left us by Galileo and the French philosopher, Descartes, and beyond (Berkeley’s Renovation of Philosophy, pp. 124-125):
The universe undoubtedly appears to be anthropocentric (man-centred). This is most striking at the simple level of geometry: wherever we stood in the solar system, the heavens would appear to revolve around us. But our belief in centrality is not confined to geometry; in practice, in a thousand ways, we take it for granted that the world is made for us, that we are participants at the focus, not spectators who happen to be present. Of the appearance of anthropocentricity there can be no dispute; the crucial question concerns its reality. That reality was defended by Plato and Aristotle against pre-Socratic detraction; it is implicit in the Judaeo-Christian tradition; it was taken for granted by almost all medieval philosophers. But it was subjected to violent assault in the Seventeenth Century in the name of the new astronomy and the new mathematical science of Nature.
The popular metaphysical philosophy, supposedly authenticated by the scientific revolution, passed through two stages with regard to man’s place in the world. In the first stage man was transferred from centrality to the role of spectator: spectator of an autonomous mechanical system quite different in nature from our sensory beliefs; anthropocentricity is a delusion. This was approximately the situation as Galileo and Descartes left it, with mind set over against matter.
In the second stage, man was reabsorbed into the system of nature; mind as a separate entity was depreciated; the human constitution in its totality was regarded as part of the one system, differing from other parts of that system only in the greater complexity of articulation and function. The reality of anthropocentrism continues to be denied ….
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Exalting Man’s Measure Over God’s Measure
“I thought it was more important for the theologians to listen to me
than for me to listen to them”. (Scientist Lawrence Krauss)
Due to the extraordinary technological success of the scientific revolution, all men must now bow to their lord, Science, an idol of man’s very own creation. God is no longer merely pushed back into the distant universe (the Atlas myth as interpreted by Johnson), but has been “expelled … from the universe” by Charles Darwin (as novelist Samuel Butler wrote in 1901); or he no longer exists (Nietzche’s “God is dead”), or he is now just part of the evolutionary process (Teilhard de Chardin). The philosophers and theologians, many of whom seem to have absorbed the spirit of Teilhard, have not been able, or even willing, to resist the tidal wave of science worship, but have instead themselves bowed to scientism. Thus Ardley wrote, in Aquinas and Kant:
Anxious theologians scan the latest scientific theories to see if they do or do not support the existence of God. Grave scientists issue their pontifical pronouncements. Sir James Jeans tells us that God is a great mathematician; Einstein says ‘God is slick but not mean’; Laplace, answering Napoleon who taxed him with not mentioning God in his Mecanique Celeste, said: ‘I have no need of that hypothesis.’
Even good Thomistic philosophers wrack their brains trying to reconcile purely scientific conundrums of ‘indeterminism’ (Heisenberg) and the ‘quantum enigma’ with the principles of the perennial philosophy, without appreciating (what St. Bellarmine already knew) that these two disciplines exist on two entirely different planes of being, one real, one conventional and ultilitarian.
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Because of the metaphysical malaise, perhaps similar to the inadequate response of ‘most Theologians’ at the time of the Galileo crisis (John Paul II), scientists now wax so bold as to consider themselves able to dictate the terms completely to Theology, when it should in fact be the other way round. Thus Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University in Phoenix, boasts (in “Science the Catholic church can’t ignore ‘New Scientist’,” 7 February 2009, p. 25) of his assault on Theology right within the confines of the Pontifical Academy of Science in the Vatican:
IN ONE of those accidental juxtapositions that make life interesting, in the same week I went from co-moderating a seminar on science and religion with a leader of the John Templeton Foundation, which funds research that aims to connect science and religion, to sharing a platform with Richard Dawkins at the annual conference of the American Atheists organisation.
These events got me thinking about the “culture wars” I had heard much about from my co-moderator. He used a term I have only heard over the past two to three years: “scientism”. It is often used pejoratively to describe a philosophical position that extends beyond the simple presumption of science that empirically verifiable physical effects have physical causes, to the more expansive claim that the empirical world reflects all of reality. It includes, by inference, the idea that because there is no evidence for either divine purpose or spiritual direction these do not exist.
These perceptions cause much of the strong reaction against the scientific community by even those who, like my co-moderator, are not religious fundamentalists. Presuming that all scientists advocate scientism also makes it easier for those who fear that science might undermine their faith to attack the basis of the scientific process.
In response, a participant in the seminar used the term “religionism”, which describes the philosophical position that God exists and therefore all progress in science, and everything else for that matter, must be interpreted in light of this reality.
Neither position accurately reflects the real relationship between science and religion, which, I believe, is really rather minimal. I once spoke at the Pontifical Academy of Science in the Vatican to a meeting that included theologians, biologists and cosmologists. I was discussing cosmology and I said, partly to be provocative, but also because it was true, that the theologians had to listen to me, but I didn’t have to listen to them. Indeed, for modern theology to make any sense, it must take into account what we have found to be true about the physical universe. But as a cosmologist, theological revelations are irrelevant. ….
[End of quote]
It is high time that metaphysicians recognise that they, having the superior discipline (meta, ‘beyond’ -physics), must take the upper hand again, and explain to empirical scientists the limitations of their man-made (albeit useful) research.