Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Fossil thorns? They exist, and they neatly falsify the fundamentalist distortion of Genesis

The clash between YEC and much of modern science is an example of how shoddy exegesis creates problems that would not exist if the Bible was interpreted in context, rather than in a naive, woodenly literal way. Fundamentalist rejection of geology, biology, and cosmology are without doubt the best known examples of problems created solely by a poor approach to Biblical interpretation, but one lesser known problem is the curious belief that thorns and thistles did not exist until Adam sinned. The reason for this belief? In Genesis 3:17-18 God speaks to Adam after Adam's sin and declares:
Cursed is the ground because of you; 
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
Given that earlier in the narrative, God speaks to the serpent and declares that it will eat dust, any genre-savvy reader would be primed to realise that stark wooden literalism is already not how to read these passages.  In fact, if one reads it hyper-literally, then the text does not say that thorns and thistles were created as a consequence of Adam's sin, but rather the ground would produce thorns and thistles for Adam, a somewhat different reading. 

The fatal objection to the hyper-literal reading is the fossil record. Thorny plants have been around for millions of years, which means any literal reading has been falsified. Take the fossil beds at the Florissant Formation in Teller Counter, Colorado. This formation, dating back 34 million years has some remarkably well preserved animals and plants, with the latter including fossilised thorns:

Credit: NPS