Friday, April 11, 2014

God and the Buzzard

He who foretells the future lies, even if he tells the truth

--Moroccan proverb-

I suggest the same is true of those who quote or speak of God's word. Perhaps that's demonstrated by the inexhaustible supply of such "words" and the necessary logical contradictions of all assumptions and assertions divinely attributed. God says this, wants that, does, doesn't, will or won't, can or can't and all in a flood of language that could bring down the tower of Babel -- and yet with little internal consistency and very much in the way of mutually contradictory theorems.  Perhaps that's why "Bible studies" so often consist of isolated and hermetic universes, never compared to others from the same source.  It's the well founded fear of refutation. We hardly need science to make it all unlikely and make much of it impossible and absurd, but arguing with the convinced is a bit like playing Scrabble with someone who makes up his own dictionary as he goes along and has a hidden box of tiles.  Love thy neighbor, seek justice -- kill everything that breathes and rejoice while you dash their children's brains against the rocks.

And they do speak of God's word: the people who insist science is untrustworthy as a method to ascertain truth and far less dependable than the politically selected words of God chosen to justify or demand or proclaim or delude.   But it's not so much the disparity between the vast Universe Science reveals and  religion talks of that disturbs the people who have their own alternate reality to maintain at an ever increasing cost.  It's the scientific method itself they pretend not to understand and need to deprecate because scientifically derived theories must be subject to testing and refutation. Received wisdom and divine authority cannot, for obvious reasons. God cannot, should not, must not be tested.  Yet we hear them insist that there are 'many scientists' that deny Darwin, many scientists that doubt the age and nature of the universe and the changing nature of our planet from people willingly or mendaciously oblivious to the contradictions.  The Biblical God demands we protect him by lying.

"Those among us who are unwilling to expose their ideas to the buzzard of refutation do not take part in the scientific game" 

Said Karl Popper of such people who hide behind Biblical authority and he's right -- by definition. "Scientists" who are cited as not supporting Darwin and doubting the thermometer aren't scientists. The religious opinions  regarding ontology to which we are so commonly forced to listen, usually rely on fallacious common sense axioms like ex nihilo, nehil fit to insist someone must have made everything -- nothing comes from nothing, but the weight of that 'axiom' rests on being ignorant of science since not only is nothing provably something, but things, virtual particles, are repeatedly observed as spontaneously arising and extinguishing without any agency. 

The ontological argument for God is a flimsy fallacy but it satisfies a legion of smug folk-theologians and their flocks. The void has properties not dreamed of in the bronze age and still not known about by most. It has properties that seem strange to people who went to Bible College and didn't study physics, and of course physics and common sense were divorced a long time ago. Should I point out that like all 'proofs' of God,  it would, if valid, support an infinite number of gods equally but not any ascribed attributes?  Indeed it can be used to 'prove' virtually anything.  It's hardly the thing to base a religion on since a religion is based not on the existence of a divine entity, ineffable, inscrutable or otherwise, but on it's attributes and attributes that have nothing but tradition and speculation and conjecture and arbitrary assertion as support.

Of course not all religions and denominations or their leaders are equal.  The Vatican has, under several pontiffs, expressed support for evolution and that the observable universe expanded from an infinitesimal point, but then any Pope has likely read Augustine's warning against "utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements" whereas that's not likely to be true of the kind of  Christians who roll on the floor babbling in gnostic ecstasy or insist that God hates Fags and punishes us with hurricanes.  But there's so much wriggle room in Genesis, after all. What is meant by "the heavens" isn't clear.  Is the author talking about our planet and the visible sky or about a universe unimaginable to the writer?  Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church now has genuine respect for the method it once persecuted as heresy, perhaps it's simply exercising Augustinian caution.

The astrophysicist Mario Livio observes that:

"instead of acknowledging  an error in judgement, people tend to reformulate their views in a new way that justifies their old opinions." 

 I can only speculate that normative Christianity, particularly of the American type, is trying to preserve what it can without embarrassment and yet will continue to push the old presumptions where it can get away with it. So it's no surprise that the continuing revelations of science will be trimmed and tailored and offered on the altar of God to "prove" biblical accounts of history. Hence we have the usual suspects asserting that the recent detection of gravity waves or ripples in space-time said to  support the theory of inflation in the very early universe also supports the Genesis account:

In the beginning God (the Elohim) created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Sorry The Earth wasn't created until the universe was ten billion years old, nor was the universe made of water that had to be separated by a "firmament"  into the waters above and below the Earth -- nor was it divided into day and night of course, or lights placed on the ceiling for our benefit. 

The Earth, even the larger one we learned of long after the current Biblical account was formulated, is so tiny in comparison to existence itself as to totally defy analogy. What we know about the origins of the universe doesn't allow for the specific and omnipotent actions described in the Bible as we have it today much less the essentially infinite size and great antiquity thereof. Yes, both scenarios suggest an existence prior to ours outside our universe but one relies on evidence and the other relies on the will to believe and to believe in a tiny, simple universe designed for a purpose: for human use. It relies on the importance of Man and his actions and thoughts and that demands an egotism, a desperate search for importance and meaning that is as incomprehensibly large as existence itself. 

Of course the promotion of science as supporting The Bible, as contorted as it is, is desultory and opportunistic. In this case, that it gets as far as it does relies not only on the scientific ignorance of the faithful as it does the Biblical ignorance.  A good reading of Genesis, with it's interleaved stories having different names of God and different accounts patched together like a fool's motley is almost as much at odds with itself as it is with science, with it's assertion that God had all kinds of sons on Earth and that they were a randy and unruly lot resembling satyrs or the assertion that animals have souls.  Perhaps the incoherence itself lends a hand to misrepresenting the contents and dressing them up as support for science, but I'm being foolish myself for pointing out mankind's foolishness and dishonesty and delusion.  Not only can't I get there from here but religion of all kinds is 'writ in water,' and like water, it fills in the interstices in truth, settles in the lowest places and flows from one gap to another. 

But neither Genesis nor Science can do much more at this point than speculate about beginnings. The concept of God as we have him in the West presumes that the beginning wasn't the beginning of everything and the current scientific theories allow for other and perhaps prior universes -- even universes to come.  We don't know much at the extreme level of the infinite and infinitesimal and that we don't know is the beginning of belief itself. There will always be more carrion than the buzzard of science can swallow.  It's left to fools like me to dream that it were otherwise.


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