/ Cosmology /
All hail Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish: wonderful science, wonderful humor. In episode three, Your Inner Monkey, Shubin demonstrates that baby monkeys learn to believe that objects continue to exist even when they’re no longer visible at an earlier age than human babies learn it. In the lab a toy is hidden in a box, the baby monkey immediately opens the box and takes out the toy; the human baby looks around bewildered. No toy! out of sight, out of mind. out of existence?
What a great series!
Now, mortal creatures don’t have time (or processing power) to prove everything, and still prove it a minute later. What if the scientist puts the toy in the box, then, while the toy is in the box, out of sight of the baby monkey, switches ToyB for ToyA? The monkey believes the toy is still in the box: does the monkey care if it’s the same toy?
Science? Fine, but you instantly see, I hope, that I’m talking about theology. God appears to Abraham, God appears to Abraham and Isaac … how do we know it’s the same God who appears to Moses? How do I know that it’s the same God who appeared to Ivan Illich, and who has filled me with bliss on more than one occasion?
We study math: let’s say that we study Pythagoras’ theorem with perfect attention and adequate intelligence: let’s say that we agree that his theorem proves the theorem: is it still proved minutes later after we’ve had a martini? Is it still proved an hour after God has refuted it at Judgment?
It ain’t just theology: American’s believe that the election expressed the Voice of the People: that was in the first week of November: now it’s the second week of November: does the President, does Congress still have the voice of the people?
The Bible repeats the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible repeats the Sermon on the Mount a century after Jesus preached on the mountain slope. Ten years, twenty years after the crucifixion there was no Bible, no Sermon on the Mount: how did it come into existence a century later? Can we trust that we have it right?
Your father dies, some lawyer shows up saying that your father left the house and bank accounts to you, the lawyer takes a portion of the accounts for himself … next year, can you be sure the house is really yours? All your neighbors agree that it’s yours, but what do neighbors know? and does the tax office agree?
If Genghis Khan shows up, does he agree?
Human society is based on a belief in existential endurance, and further on the integrity of existential endurance: we took Crazy Horse’s Black Hills in 1874, Crazy Horse’s Black Hills are still ours in 2014. Had Hitler taken Crazy Horse’s Black Hills from us in 1944, Crazy Horse’s Black Hills would still really have belonged to us, not to Crazy Horse, not to the Apache, not to Hitler. Right? Isn’t that the basis of civilization? believing that the earth is ours to do with what we please? build roads? poison reefs? eat the last bluefin tuna?
So: The Roman Catholic Christian Church tells us who’s in heaven: God, Jesus, Mary … They told my Catholic friends when I was a kid, they’re still telling Catholic kids: but is it still true? Was it ever true?
At what point does the priest get out of the way and let God tell us?
No, no, no. The priests will never get out of the way. God will never get a word in edgewise: until it’s resolutely too late.
No, no, here’s a better example: a much better example: in the late 1960s I was imaginging cybernetic record keeping extending beyond banks and goverments to the society at large. In 1970 Ivan Illich said that a free people would have data bases, unsupervised, instead of a school system: freedom instead of coercion. I said, Goody, I’ll do it! Send me resources, I’ll do it. And the government sat on my face till I suffocated, then said, And we’ll supervise it (after emasculating it).
I said, I want freedom for myself and my neighbors, and the government said, You don’t want any freedom, you want our supervision. You don’t want what you invented, you don’t get any roalties, there’s no patent on ideas: you want us to administer your invention, without consulting you.
Nothing in our history has been true, not for five minutes running.
Will the day ever come where God will take what’s been stolen by the kleptocrats and shove it up the kleptocrats’ ass? I’d like to see it, but I doubt it.
Actually I have seen it: but was it still true five minutes later?
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