A pupil in Ghana who attends any of the Ghana Education Service’s (GES) accredited elementary schools is bound to be faced with the following two schools of thought:
- A ‘God’ or ‘gods’ creation story depicted in the Religious and Moral Education (RME) textbook in line with the various traditional and religious creation stories and
- The scientific, ‘no-God’ or ‘no-gods’ explanation which seeks to give logical explanation for the existence of things of nature without ever introducing the concept of a deity.
So, one may ask: what is God?
Are there any pupil teachers out there who are able to reconcile these two contradicting views and still manage to maintain their credibility before any curious and probing pupil?
Is it the pedagogy to tutor RME and Science separately by different teachers so that no single teacher is ever put on the spot to explain these two contrasting positions at the same time?
Or are pupils discouraged from discussing matters relating to ‘God’ or ‘gods’ and science theories in relation to creation while in class?
Or is it the case that people in charge of our educational systems in Ghana underestimate the intelligence of pupils to ask probing questions?
To that Teacher and GES, what is God?
To that parent of, say a Christian background, how are you able to reconcile the creation stories based on the Bible [Genesis] and the scientific explanations found in the science textbooks of your ward without ever contradicting yourself before your kids?
How would you, as a Christian parent, relate the Adam and Eve story to the theory of evolution in the science textbooks and not end up confusing your kids – and yourself?
As a Christian parent, what would be your response to a ward who comes home from school and tells you about what they learnt in their science class, suggesting that humans are also primates just like chimpanzees, and they both share about 98% of the same DNA?
As a parent, what would be your response to the claim that humans are also animals, and descended from a single ancestor species like other primates such as chimpanzees, bonobos did?
As a Parent, what is God to you?
The two views expressed in the opening paragraph of this opinion piece do not complement each other; therefore, one of them must be right, and the other must be wrong. And maybe both could actually be wrong – Just maybe!
Once again, what is God?
The Jewish tradition credits Moses as the author of Genesis, as well as Exodus, Book of Leviticus, Numbers and most of the Book of Deuteronomy, but modern scholars increasingly see them as a product of the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Rabbinic Judaism estimated the biblical Moses to have lived around 14th–13th century BC. So one may ask: which is which? First contradiction to contend with!
According to the Book of Exodus, Moses’ first encounter with God was when he was fleeing from Egypt after having committed a murder, and on his way to the land of Midian he saw a burning bush that was not being consumed by the flame, and from which he was allegedly spoken to by God through an Angel of the Lord to go back to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites from captivity.
Is this alleged encounter with a deity a fairy tale? A folklore? Or a product of hallucination brought on by fatigue from escaping from one’s crimes – that is, to grant credibility to the story without admitting it was true; and trying to be logical and gracious! Or was it a statement of fact? Or…? I do not know!
Anyway, the overwhelming scholarly consensus of today is that the biblical Moses is a mythical figure. Therefore, would anyone be justified in saying that this verse and the various books that were said to have been written by this mythical figure who received commands [or commandments] from a mythical being, all works of fiction?
Are the verses and related books by this mythical figure something to be believed, and logically defend?
Everyone, please what is God?
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: the available scientific evidence of our time suggests that Genesis 1:1 is not a statement of fact; and probably a philosophical conjecture that was orally passed down from generations to generations and later found itself being included in the Bible of the old Testament.Genesis 1:1 states “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” KJV
In the context of this verse, ‘heaven’ refers to the sky above and the ‘earth’ refers to the solid ground [the planet] on which Moses [or whoever made this claim] was rooted when the verse was written. Whether it was revealed by an Angel of the Lord, or whatever it was, the notion of a heaven being a dome above the earth was very prevalent at the time of these biblical writings. Many were they who believed that the observable universe was fixed and all that there was, was as could be seen with the unaided eye. History also tells us that the prevailing hypothesis at their time [Ptolemaic System] supported this view.
The ancient knowledge about astronomy was very limited, and nowhere comparable to the astronomical insights of today, courtesy advancement in science and the rigour of the scientific method.In the 16th century, an astronomer by name Galileo Galilei invented the telescope, and through observation of the sky, he provided evidence in support of heliocentrism as opposed to geocentrism, which was in direct contrast to some of the biblical verses in first Genesis.
Heliocentrism is the idea that the Sun is at the centre of our solar system and the Earth and other planets revolve around it. Geocentrism is the exact opposite.
History also tells us that, prior to Galileo Galilei’s observations, there was another mathematician and astronomer by name Nicolaus Copernicus of Polish descent and a Catholic cleric who had provided a mathematical model for heliocentrism in contrast to the general belief by the church at the time.
Galileo then came on to the scene and discovered that there were actually many bodies in our solar system that revolved around other bodies and further surmised that the Earth was no different, and [NOT] at the centre of the universe, as suggested by the prevailing biblical view held by the Catholic church at the time.
Little did he know that this feat was going to land him into trouble with the Roman bishops for the rest of his life!
After many academic publications on the subject, Galileo was prevailed upon by the Roman bishops to change his mind and recant his publications or be sentenced to death for heresy. He eventually succumbed under threat of torture and recanted while facing his inquisitors. He was subsequently put under house arrest until he died on January 8, 1642.
In our very recent past, and on October 31, 1991, moving formally to rectify a wrong, Pope John Paul II of Rome, acknowledged in a speech that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in condemning Galileo 359 years ago for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun!
Does this historical fact ever get discussed in the churches of today at all? How many people out there still read the creation stories of Genesis and the Book of Exodus as the ‘Gospel’ truth? Which ‘God’ was Moses referring to as having created the heaven and the earth?
Moses, which God spoke to you through an angel of the Lord in the burning bush?
The [current] scientific theory for our universe (including the coming into existence of Earth, and many other planets and galaxies) is the Big Bang Theory. Though it also remains just a theory which cannot be tested in any laboratory settings to simulate the exact prevailing conditions prior to the coming into existence of our universe, scientists think it is fairly robust and helps them to make meaningful deductions that offer better understanding of our place in the universe.
The Big Bang Theory and many other variants, such as the theory of relativity put forward by Albert Einstein, continue to help scientists to develop innovative technological products that enhance our quality of life on Earth. Using these theories, we are able to communicate remotely over long distances, forecast weather, predict solar eclipses, track asteroids, to mention but a few, and all this without having to ascribe the existence of Earth, and the universe for that matter, to any deity. We are just fine without them!
It clearly shows that the introduction of [deities] to explain the observable universe was superfluous to requirement! Worst case, it has rather come to muddy the waters!
As a nation, we cannot choose to claim we are a religious country and continue to teach things that we cannot prove, while at the same time hope to develop a strong scientific foundation of critical thinkers for our industrial take-off. I would to suggest to GES to take a second look at the RME book and yank out the ‘Religious’ element while keeping only the Moral Education so that we would stop acting like ostriches and desist from confusing our young school-going kids and ourselves.
I recommend a new fiction segment be created by GES so that religion can be put under that category with appropriate disclaimers. This will make it clear to anyone reading it to know that it is not a statement of fact, and mere conjectures by people who were once like you and me.
I have come to the point still not knowing which God Moses was referring to, which of them created the heaven and the earth in the ‘beginning’!
In defence of reason!
Author: Vincent Kofi Afudego