Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Fisking of the Lord

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

Hey God! It's me. Hope you're well. I just wanted to get back to you with a few notes. To sort of update things.

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

Well, I have an internet connection, and I'll show the links. But I'm not putting on pants for this.

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

It's a sphere first of all. Actually it's kind of a potato. And it's about 4.54 billion years old, formed from an accretion of solar nebula.

Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

Yeah, this is a common Middle Eastern idea - the Egyptians and the Babylonians both had this notion of the ancient "waters of chaos" from which the universe was made. Really it was the Big Bang, which created all matter 13.7 billion years ago, give or take.

Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment. And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.

Kepler's three laws of planetary motion pretty much covered it. Plus, people do bad stuff during the day all the time. So I don't see your argument here.

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

Did it.

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?

We're working on that. I don't know how far we'll get, honestly. You can't always trust those TEDtalks. We know a great deal about why things die. But so far, we can't make anything live forever. Can you? Yeah, I know what you're going to say, but can you prove it? Let's just mark this as a tie... for now.

Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.

Eratosthenes nailed it awhile ago. Now we have this.

Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

Here's the "How Stuff Works" page on light. It's pretty widely understood as a phenomenon. But it makes me wonder whether you know how it works. You're using a great deal of metaphorical language here... Kind of like the kid who gives a book report about how fun it was to read the book, but without mentioning the plot points. The Big Bang, the rotation of the earth, elctromagnetic radiation... You up on this, Big Guy?

Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?

Easy there, grandpa. No need to get personal. We all know you're very, very old.

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

A link to weather.com is right on my desktop. So... yeah, I guess we got that covered.

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

Here's NASA's infrared map of the entire visible universe.

Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?

This is a link to the Weather Modification Association.

Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?

NPR has a pretty decent map of the US electric grid.

Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?

Current map of the precipitation of the entire world.

Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat...

Okay, there's a lot of stuff about different kinds of animals and their habitats, mating behavior and such. I don't want to go into too much detail here. None of this seems impressive. Discovery Channel craps out a new pile of shows on this stuff every season. I'm going to move on.

Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?

I don't want to be mean, but it's adorable that you believe in unicorns. Do you have posters?

Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

Peacocks and ostriches. We have petting zoos, yes.

Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.

Okay, okay... There are a lot of items in here that are only going to be impressive to a Bronze Age nomad. We're cloning shit now, and we've got footprints on the moon. I'm going to skim ahead to see if there are any parts where you start using words like "pulsar" or "genome."

...Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly...

That doesn't even exist.

Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?

Neither does that. Unless you're playing Dungeons and Dragons, in which case his alignment is Neutral, and he has 32 Hit Dice.

Look, God. This does not of course completely destroy the case for your existence, or your justice. But it is worth pointing out that we answered most of your questions some time ago - to the extent that they weren't rhetorical or ridiculous, which many, many of them were.

And also, what kind of statement is this, really? You had some of the smartest people in world history explaining the problem of evil as the nonbeing that defines existence, as the necessary result of freewill, as a temporary flaw which becomes more perfect than perfect over time. But these were just people, explaining your words after the fact. I have different problems with their explanations. But you take the opportunity to speak directly on the subject, and out comes this, this garbage... This elaborate and petty rant about how much bigger and smarter you are. It's not an argument at all. It's a boast. A threat. And over the millennia we've sort of chipped it away.

Truly, I'm not trying to be a jerk, because I really want an answer, and I am heartsick, I am lonely and afraid, terrors are turned upon me, and I am a brother to dragons and a companion to owls, like absolutely everybody on this tumbling, horrifying and beautiful rock, so please reply if you can in a way that is not absolutely absurd...
Honestly, God:

What else you got?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Stop Sending Us Messages," By The Universe

Crab Nebula, here. I just wanted to tell you you can stop wasting time pestering me and the rest of the universe. Stop sending us messages. Stop "just putting something out there." Quit it with the "positive energy." Do not transmit, leave, or communicate anything to us ever again. Whatever it is, is just getting lost. I would say it's cluttering up the place, but we've got so much room it sort of doesn't matter.

This is the universe we're talking about, okay? We don't care if you find someone who loves you, or get a new job, or keep your current job, or whatever chump-change projects you've got going on. We're like Mr. Spock, the island of Manhattan, honey badger, and 15 of your coldest exes lumped together and multiplied by 93 billion. We do not care.

I could understand if you wanted to conceptualize some kind of anthropomorphic deity and then hassle it with your problems - I mean, you'd have to grapple with the burden of evidence, the vaguaries of revelation, and the problem of evil, but at least you'd be going somewhere. But to just sort of blurt out some whiny plea to what you admit is a massive, inanimate object full of gas and dust... Well, that is pathetic. It's philosophically incoherent. It's theologically lazy. I could go on, but my outer ring is expanding at half the speed of light, and at my core is a neutron star rotating 30 times a second and beaming huge jets of intense energy. I have stuff to do, you know?

The universe has no answer, no specific message for you. It is impossibly ancient and dark and beautiful and washed clean of mercy. The stars of the night sky form no symbols in any language. And they are moving away from you, gathering speed. Long after you and everyone you know are dead they will turn off, one by one, and everything will be completely black and cold forever. Whether you lose twenty pounds honestly doesn't matter to us.

(Public domain photo by NASA, ESA, and J. Hester and A. Loll of Arizona State University. Take a moment to click on the hyperlink above and see more of the photos. They are amazing.)
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