Questions of the Tower of Babel for EC

Gen.11:1-9 NIV: The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

Perhaps this is time to listen to Einstein who noted that (paraphrased) sometimes religion (in this case, Scripture) is blind and sometimes science is lame; together they make better progress to a desirable future.

E. O. Wilson (in “Social Conquest of Earth”) cites the scientific evidence for the phenomenal success of insect societies (ants, termites, bees) arising from their eusocial nature, sacrificing individual survival for that of societal success. However, he was never willing to express any theological implications of this data.

Coming closer to home, scientific evidence (fairly solid) has the newly minted humankind migrating out of the Mideast, sometime around 60K yrs, BP, traveling as far as the subcontinent of Asia, China, and Australia (interbreeding to a minor extent with local Homo species along the way.). Whenever they settled for a time, their ‘native tongue’ developed dialects on the ‘outskirts’ of their habitats that, in effect, became separate languages.

But the important point for this thread is that Homo sapiens became the dominant animal species on earth because of the larger societies that language made possible, and because those larger societies could allow for division of labor. The other side of the coin is that it is now “societal survival” that directs evolution, and societal competition can become especially deadly. Until we, as a species, fully realize that the Christian directive to “Love thy Neighbor” applies to people living at the antipodes, we risk becoming an “endangered species.”

Perhaps, as a veteran of WWII who was asked to put his life on the line, the folks on this forum will ‘cut me a little slack’ when I say that patriotism can be overdone; i.e., I reject the motto: “My country, may she always be right; but my country right OR wrong!”
Al Leo

Beautiful linkage. Thanks.

That is not what I said, and perhaps if you read more it would have been more clear to you. The key words in what I sad were “united in a single language culture and civilization.” The problem of course is sin, which if it grows unchecked turns the world into a living hell. But as I continued to explain, in a world where you have to worry about neighboring nations, you have to have some decency just to compete.

As for your little burst of outrage, you obviously don’t have much of a picture of what a human civilization dominated by evil looks like. Because if you did and you were any kind of decent human being then you would be thanking God profusely for putting a stop to that. Is it possible that you do not know that there are worse things than death? How about the continual torment and abuse of women and children by psychopaths who have all the power and nobody to oppose them – circumstances where their victims are begging for death. Only the monsters would object to God putting a stop to that sort of thing.

Jay put it really well in quoting Middleton, “artificial unity is a danger to the human race. God’s remedy, therefore, not only enables humanity to obey the commission of 1: 28 to fill the earth, but contributes to the diffusion of human power for the sake of humanity.”

Indeed, “unity in diversity” is a whole different kettle of fish – something is sharp contrast with the “artificial unity” mentioned by Middleton quoted by Jay313. That is built upon a tolerance of differences which requires a clear understand of what differences can be tolerated, because of course this doesn’t mean we can tolerate something like the religion of the Aztecs, Mayans, and many others that practiced human sacrifice.

That makes no sense whatsoever. Your argument sounds like this…

If God is going to kill people for practicing the human sacrifice of children then He ought to kill them for punishing children in any way at all.

This is of course completely absurd.

The explanation I gave was that God stopped the world from going in the same direction it went the first time BEFORE it was a case of everyone “thinking only evil continually.” God certainly NEVER described the people in the story of the tower of Babel in that way! Instead it says explicity that God saw the where this was leading and took action to stop it so that this would not happen.

I see God’s statement as more vague than explicit, but your reading of it could be what he meant.

Love ya, Mitchell, but it’s a good thing I’m not sitting next to you right now. You speak like that to a 90-yr-old man who nearly lost his life fighting Nazism? You should be thanking God profusely for men like Albert Leo who put a stop to it! Can you pull your foot out of your mouth long enough to apologize?!

Amen and amen!

Cultural evolution moves faster than biological evolution. Toward the end of her book Mothers and Others, Sarah Hrdy warns that when our culture moves farther and farther away from the conditions that prompted the evolution of empathy and understanding, then "it won’t matter how valuable the underpinnings for collaboration were in the past. Compassion and the quest for emotional connection will fade away as surely as sight in cave-dwelling fish.” She suggests that may be the direction of our highly individualized, Western culture. A scary thought.

Totally agree with you about patriotism. There is a difference between it and nationalism. Returning to Babel, it is presented as the archetype of empire that reappears throughout history. The same pattern appears in Revelation 13.

In Revelation 13, the dragon (Satan), the beast from the sea (Antichrist), and the beast from the earth (the false prophet) are depicted as a parody and counterfeit of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The worldwide religion that they promote replaces worship of God with idolatrous worship of the state. The Beast, as head of the state, is worshiped above Christ, and the false prophet, as his religious ally, deceives the saints and promotes such worship through economic means. (What is good for the economy is the highest good.)

This pattern of the “divine king” is present in every empire that threatened the people of God. The kings of Babylon and Assyria were considered gods and had their images placed in temples. Antiochus Epiphanes declared himself a manifestation of Zeus and tried to stamp out Judaism. Caesar Augustus was worshipped as “son of god,” and the city of Pergamum was so well-known for its cult of emperor worship that Rev. 2 could refer to it as “Satan’s throne.”

So, when you start to see this pattern emerge in the dominant world empire, it’s time to start worrying.

1 Like

You may have something to prove to him, but I do not. WWII was not won by one person, so no, I do not give him credit for “putting a stop to that.” None of his claims gave aleo the right to pass judgement from an alteration of my words as he did. I think he misunderstood what I said and I was only trying to explain it to him.

The most I will do is read what he wrote again and make sure I haven’t overlooked and misunderstood anything. That is the only consideration really due to others on a forum, where the only solid reality are the words we read.

You call that obvious but I don’t even see it. To me that looks like ignoring as much of the Bible text as you ignored of what I wrote in my post. To be sure the same thing said can quite often be interpreted in different ways, depending on your attitude to the speaker – so much so that a compliment can sound like ridicule when you see the speaker as hostile. But when you ignore portions of what is actually said, then it is more like a knee-jerk reaction, jumping to soapbox with little justification.

The people in this country are quite a wide spectrum and I was raised in the extreme left of it, where patriotism had no place at all. If anything I need to be convinced that there is any value to any aspect of that thinking whatsoever.

Really? Unable to apologize? Your behavior is disgraceful.


Consider any needed slack to be happily cut … which doesn’t appear to me to be needed here in any case. I’m with @Jay313 in this … if anybody has the right to say this, it would be you, and is more powerful coming from you. And if I understand you correctly [that patriotism must itself be subject to higher, universal, moral standards], then to that I wish to add to your words my hearty “Amen!”. But I’m just a citizen who, unlike you, has not put my own blood or skin in the game. So I do recognize and honor such words from you.


That is demonstrably incorrect, since I have apologized on this forum before. But no I will not be your organ monkey to apologize on command just because you think so. Like I said, I don’t feel the need to prove anything to you or anybody else.

Frankly, it is twisting one of these discussions to something personal and judgmental which is disgraceful. These discussion should focus on the topic which in this case is the Tower of Babel as it relates evolutionary creationism. These forays into utterly blind comments of a personal nature are boring.

…getting back to the topic…

An excellent question to ask is… If God could head off the problem and stop mankind moving in the direction which led to a world where everybody was “thinking only evil continually,” then why didn’t God do this the first time? I bring it up because I have an answer to that question. The price for this alternative way of doing things the second time is a heavy one, for sinful man divided into different cultures and nations would very likely lead to war. And war is often thought of as the greatest of evils. But no, as bad as war may be, it is not quite the greatest of evils. At least in war, sometimes the good guys can win. Good guys? Yeah like those who spend money and time to rebuild the defeated countries. I would say that is a pretty good sign, and very different than those who followed up victory with a systematic extermination of large sectors of the civilian population.

Perhaps this response should begin with an effort to clear the air a bit. I have always enjoyed reading your posts, @mitchellmckain for it is obvious to me that you have a good mind and are well informed. However, on many of the most important points, I have not been able to follow your line of reasoning, and in my previous responses I was attempting to discern why this should be so. (I deem it somewhat impolite for you to place the ‘blame’ for my failure to follow your reasoning entirely on me–that I ignored portions of your posts, reacted in knee-jerk fashion and jumped on a soapbox.) I regret that you interpreted any response as an expression of outrage. When I engage in an intelligent discussion, I expect to be mentally enriched, and I certainly do not assume that my ‘adversary’ is ‘hostile’.

In other discussions of the Tower of Babel problem, (Adult Confirmation class)there was a consensus that this passage in Genesis has supplied support for the concept of 'the Noble Savage’; or, as Wikipedia puts it, the other who has not been corrupted by civilization.

To summarize (with oversimplification), my view is: (1) humankind arose thru an evolutionary process that favored the survival of the individual; (2) upon the acquisition of Mind & Conscience (mechanism unknown but probably epigenetic) humankind could form much larger societies that were so much more efficient that they soon dominated the earth, but ‘progress’ began to shift to the survival of the Society rather than the Individual [all this fulfilling God’s purpose]; (3) thus pleasing God (avoiding sin) involved following a Social Conscience as well as an Individual Conscience.

I like to think that in the last few decades, in the most civilized (??) of democratic nations, this dual Conscience system is possible. It is NOT preordained that the U.S. will lead the way in this regard, and I shudder at the prospect that, as a nation, we will try to isolate ourselves from the problems of our less fortunate neighbors to luxuriate in the excesses our society provides. Thank God for the humans who follow BOTH consciences: Doctors Without Borders; Smiles Train, and others. What % of the human population will such people constitute to prevent the earth from experiencing another Flood or becoming a Super Sodom?

Believe it or not, I am an optimist.
Al Leo

1 Like

First of all, thank you and @Mervin_Bitikofer for the kind words regarding my WWII experience. @mitchellmckain is 100% correct, tho, in stating that WWII was not won by one person. As a matter of fact, the outfit I was in made very little positive contribution to Allied victory. We were totally FUBAR–no mistaking us for “Band of Brothers” or “Saving Private Ryan”. (In late 1943 the Army brass decided they didn’t need any more officers–I was in the ASTP program–they needed expendable dogfaces–and so all the noncoms in the plush spots (Air Corps, WACC supply etc.) ended up where they last wanted to be: in the Infantry. In my squad of 12, I was the only private. Guess who was always picked as scout on night patrols? Although I was good at reading maps, those ended up in the hands of one of the sergeants or shavetails who, without fail, got us lost. I was the most eligible dogface to draw enemy fire. When we were fighting our way thru the Voges Mts. (7th Army), if we were facing the early Wehrmacht instead of the Hitler Jugend teenagers and White Russians, it would have been a disaster, not a victory.

So pardon me for taking this opportunity for reminiscence. I just have had no opportunity to join my buddies over a beer and recall our war stories. I do NOT claim this gives me any special vantage point from which I can opine on the meaning of the Scriptural account of Babel, except, perhaps having a closeup view of the evils that can result when a society (nation) grossly misuses its conscience.
Al Leo


A different war, but in the discussion of patriotism vs nationalism and discerning the will of God, it seems relevant to hear Kaiser Wilhem’s words in 1914:
“The spirit of the Lord has descended upon me, because I am Emperor of the Germans! I am the instrument of the Most High. I am His sword, His representative. Woe and death to all those who resist my will! Woe and death to those who do not believe in my mission! Woe and death to the cowards! Let them perish,—all the enemies of the German people! God demands their destruction,—God who, through my mouth, commands you to execute His will.”

The details are helpful in evoking some feeling on my part. The instinctive respect you get from Jay and Mervin isn’t in my “wiring,” but… The closest I can get is how I feel when a physicist tells me of their participation in some historical discovery. I tell them that must have been a great experience. In this case I am not sure the same response is a good fit. I guess there must as least be a sense of connectedness at being a part of history. The closest I can get personally is my father getting blacklisted, going as a child to peace marches, visiting a commune and black panther headquarters – all things that many people have just heard about but never seen themselves.

Yeah these personal experience simply affords us some insight into those things we participated in, the details make people sit up listen.

I concede that a failure of communication is a failure on both sides, but the fact remains that you left out the words “united” and “single” in your paraphrase. And I was shocked by they way you brought this to the conclusion that God as I understood Him was not good company.

Perhaps it is a measure of the enormity of miscommunication that everything which followed in that post talking about Einstein, insect societies, migration, “Love thy Neighbor,” and patriotism, was such a disconnected non-sequitur for me that couldn’t respond to any of that. Maybe if I understood how you went from Babel to those things, then I might better understand why you responded as you did.

…maybe the answer is in the following…

My view is not the same…

  1. The human species arose through an evolutionary process which included both survival of the individual AND the formation of communities. Thus we see all the brain functions supporting social interaction and communication in other primates. The biological species simply provided the environment in which the human mind (a self-organizing artifact of language and ideas) could come into existence from a communication with God.
  2. The acquisition of language and the human mind allowed for a pace of social development which far exceeds the pace of biological evolution, largely because inheritance via language does not have the biological limitations to no inheritance of acquired characteristics.
  3. It is not about pleasing or appeasing God like with all the pagan religions but about the development of human potential which is seriously damaged by the self-destructive habits known as sin. God was greatly pleased by our completion/creation and had great expectations which were horribly disappointed as these self-destructive habits quickly turned human society into a living hell. Thus God took actions, which were clearly painful to Him, in order to restore human potential to what it was before.
1 Like

Thanks for acknowledging the miscommunication, at least. My respect for @aleo is just partly instinctive, if by that you mean respect for our elders. I marvel at his sharpness of mind and memory. I enjoy his stories. He is kind and generous, and I wept for him when he lost his wife. Basically, Al Leo is my friend, and I will always and everywhere have his back.

No worries. One of these days, I might have your back too. :wink:

That is another thing which my extreme liberal western upbringing hasn’t given me all that much of. Instead you can say that I was taught that the attitude and thinking of elders can be a big part of the problem. Though I have balanced that with my own realization that just because something is a new way of thinking doesn’t mean it is better, and revolution is almost always destructive rather than helpful.

As for myself and @aleo … We have enjoyed a similarity of thinking that has put us on the same side of a great many issues. We are only now beginning to explore some of the differences in the way we think.

Indeed. I think I do understand some of your reasons for the stand you have taken even if I disagreed with the details. So no hard feelings.


Fwiw, I also had a fairly liberal upbringing, and this patronizing tone made me raise both eyebrows, coming so soon after Al’s last paragraph about being a WWII vet. It made me want to assume the best, knowing discussion can often outstrip itself a bit online, that you were replying to an earlier post and hadn’t yet seen the latest reply.

I am glad that the discussion seems to have reconciled since. Perhaps the story of Babel is really about the universal tendency of large projects to underestimate the importance of good and considerate communication at scales proportionate to the desired achievement.

1 Like

Which just goes to show that not all liberal upbringings are the same. Mine was one in which pratronizing tones were in ample supply. My parents were a couple of psychology majors who went into teaching. Not very controlling as many parents are, but it could be a bit manipulative at times with lots of psychobabble. Don’t get me wrong… I have a great respect for both my parents. They had many good attributes along with their flaws, and a few encounters with other parents made me shudder quite a bit.

The negative reactions make me wonder if people are reading some kind of implication that aleo was not a decent human being… hmmmm… it does make me wonder if I can rephrase this to bettter say what I meant…

As for your negative reaction to my view of God, perhaps you are not considering what a human civilization dominated by evil would look like. I think any decent human being would be thanking God profusely for putting a stop to that sort of thing. There are, after all, worse things than death.

I am so glad for your latest post, @mitchellmckain. This is the attitude I have had with all of the forum responders: If I seem to challenge their views, it is NOT that I want them to change; rather I want them to consider the possibility that some other viewpoints they may not ever considered might enrich their worldview. After all, isn’t it somewhat miraculous that some O.T. author is so inspired by an idea, a meme, that he manages to express it symbolically (using words of his native tongue) and that is passed on (processed into words of other language(s)) and 3,000 yr. later two other humans can argue over who has the closest feelings of what inspired the original author? Will we ever discover how the simplest of memes (ideas) are encoded in the brain’s circuitry?

I agree. For convenience, I use Teilhard’s expressions in stating that the important factor in human evolution takes place in the Noosphere, and it is the survival of competing ideas (memes, such as found in Constitutions, religious dogmas, covenants, by-laws, etc.) that “move humankind forward”. Education of the younger generation is the major (epigenetic) mechanism that can drive this kind of evolutionary change. Ideally, the educator should be sure the student realizes the positive contributions made by “the elders” of past generations. But the educator’s primary task is to teach the student to think for him/her self–to question: “Is this the best we can do?”

It is easy to overdo the reverence paid to elderly teachers. Unfortunately, it frequently happens in teaching religious dogmas, and Christianity is no exception. But in today’s climate of Muslim extremism, I am especially disturbed by videos of male students in Mideast madrassas all nodding in unison as they memorize the Quran. At a formative age, are some of these minds giving unquestioned assent to a warped view of Jihad? Muslim scholarship deserves respect, not only for its dominant role during the ‘dark ages’ but for its contribution in today’s society. I see this locally in the Claremont School of Theology just a few blocks up the street from where I am typing this. They are the ones bearing the brunt of the ''bad name" arising from this aberrant education.
Al Leo