Did Scripture Change Human DNA?
It may seem like I’m obsessed by the new Karen Armstrong book, The Case for God (the subject of my last post), but when I innocently clicked on a link at Arts & Letters Daily I didn’t know it would take me to a double review by Jack Miles in the L.A. Times of the Armstrong book and Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God.
As Miles begins his review he cites a recent book by Nicholas Wade about human evolution, including the process of domestication or “taming” of homo sapiens thousands of years ago. In the evolutionary chicken or egg game it’s hard to say what causes what, right? So here is the paragraph by Miles that caught my eye:
Perhaps the “Epic of Gilgamesh” crystallized memories of the long human self-domestication that Wade writes of, but of equal interest is the possibility that rather than merely recalling the change, this and kindred myths may have contributed to it. If such a literary work were recited repeatedly, honored as supreme truth, taught to the young and this over centuries of time — if, in short, it were turned into sacred scripture, then could it not create social pressure, then behavioral changes and, finally, over a sufficiently lengthy period, even genetic modification?
As a literary guy, you know I have to love this.
By the way, when he gets to Armstrong, he strongly endorses her valorization of apophatic theology (the more mystical approach that tends to emphasize what God is not because it is impossible for us to grasp what God is) over the more rational, cataphatic approach to theology.
Von Balthasar and other Ressourcement theologians on the twentieth century made a similar point — that the poetry and mysticism of apophatic theology departs from the West in the late Middle Ages, to the detriment of Church and society.
But I think they would have embraced a Both/And approach rather than an Either/Or approach.Reason at its best understands its limitations.
The appeal of apophatic theology is intense — it’s why some of my Protestant friends are becoming Orthodox. But I want my cake and simultaneously like to wolf it down.
OK, I’ll stop here while I’m in way over my head on scripture, DNA, and apophatic vs. cataphatic theology.
I just find those subjects much, much easier than Afghanistan and health care. I guess I embrace an apophatic politics: I can say what things are not politically good better than I can say what things are….