Weighing religious emotion, scientific fact | Wally's World

Well, class, it's time for a little anthropology, a subject that's always been close to my heart.

Roughly 30 miles north of the Syrian border lays the Turkish city of Urfa, otherwise known as the "City of Prophets." In the Bible, it's simply known as Ur, alleged to be the birthplace of Abraham – considered a holy man by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike – and, within Urfa's city limits, there's a celebrated cave where Muslims claim Abraham's birth occurred. Urfa is also believed to have been the home of another prophet, Job.

A few miles into the countryside surrounding Urfa, nestled comfortably between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, there's an anthropological dig known as Gobekidi Tepe (Turkish for "Hill with a Potbelly" or "Fat Hill"). It's a vast complex of Stonehenge-type, T-shaped, multi-ton, limestone megaliths that are decorated with carvings of rather dangerous animals like lions, scorpions, snakes and vultures. Many of the animals have erect penises. Some of the pillars are almost certainly human figures with tall, narrow bodies and large heads.

The structures were discovered in the early 1990s, buried beneath several feet of soil. Excavation begin in 1994 and the site is still being uncovered today by German and Turkish anthropology graduate students. The project is expected to continue for several more years.

Both Biblical scholars and anthropologists speculate that Gobakidi Tepe might be the historic site of the Garden of Eden. (That two such diverse schools should speculate about the same thing is, in and of itself, quite remarkable.) The site is approximately 10,000 years old. That predates Abraham and the Walls of Jericho by 800 to 1,000 years.  This is late in the Neolithic Age, about the time mankind was making the transition from hunting and gathering to more settled agricultural societies with domesticated farm animals.

No one knows for sure how Neolithic man managed to hew such huge blocks of limestone from regional quarries using nothing but hammers and chisels. And even more baffling, how did they move and mount such gigantic pieces of stone?    But, in any case, such large stone megaliths couldn't have been mined and erected solely by Adam and Eve. This would have required hundreds of people.

Of course, science indicates that modern man – that is, Cro-Magnon – was plentiful 10,000 years ago.  For that matter, so was Neanderthal. Perhaps even more plentiful. And there's ample genetic evidence to prove that both types interbred.

But perhaps you're one of those who believe ancient stone-age civilizations were visited by an advanced race of aliens from outer space and these visitors constructed the megaliths. Or maybe you believe evolution is just a theory and the entire world was created a mere 6,500 years ago. Or maybe Adam and Eve had special, super-human powers.

Well, I don't know how to respond to any of that. I mean, anything is possible. But not very likely.

Faith and reason certainly aren't mutually exclusive, but let's not confuse our religious emotions with scientific fact.

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