There are some religious and quasi-religious claims that one can always dismiss as bullshit without even bothering to go to the trouble of investigating the evidence that believers wish to put forward to support them.
For example, any claim based on the use of a piece of astronomy software to map the night sky a couple of thousand years ago is automatically going to be a complete load of bollocks – they always are.
The same is also true of any claim based on a numerological or crypotographic code that has allegedly been found in the Bible, Koran or any other book of scripture. Leaving aside the fact that the sheer size of the Bible, in terms of words and characters, means that if you look hard enough you’ll find patterns for just about everything from the Maxwell equations to the winner of next week’s 2:30 race at Kempton Park, more often than not these codes are allegedly found only in particular translations/versions of the Bible and if we ignore the usual guff about divine inspiration then we’ve no reason whatsoever to suppose that the unnamed authors of the KJV knew something that the author(s) of the New International Version didn’t.
One of the more bizarre episodes at the recent World Atheist Conference in Dublin was the unsolicited appearance of bunch of Muslim proselytisers who shipped up at the event to regale visitors and speakers alike with a bunch of bullshit claims about scientific truths supposedly contained in the text of the Koran.
There were Muslims lurking about here at the Dublin conference, and I spent a few minutes talking to them and grabbing some of their literature. I can tell you this: don’t bother. They were boring and utterly unoriginal — everything they said was the same old crap, patently cribbed from the Christian creationists, with the new stuff (what little there was) being incoherent and inane…
There’s more. They trot out fine-tuning, the Big Bang, the first cause argument, la de da, the same old stuff we’ve heard a thousand times from Christian ignoramuses. It’s nice to know we don’t face any real challenge here, but dismaying that we’re going to be stuck hammering away at the same stupid arguments for the next 20 years. These people are impenetrably dense.
Christian creationists, as PZ notes, have been pulling this kind of post-hoc-torturing-the-text- of-the-holy-book crap for quite a while. Muslims have now, obviously, joined the party and – sadly – even one or two Jews are starting to get in on the act:
Astronomy and the space age have irrevocably changed our perspective of our place in the universe. A thousand years ago, many people believed that we lived on a flat Earth in a small, geocentric universe. Since then, we have found that the Earth is a tiny speck in a huge cosmos containing wondrous phenomena and structures.
In addition, scientists have probed the structure of the atom, discovering the surreal properties of subatomic particles and transforming our understanding of the nature of physical reality itself.
Is there a place for this cutting-edge science within Judaism?
No – not in the sense of suggesting that Judaism somehow manages to anticipate quantum mechanics or Einstein’s mass-energy equation in any of its scriptures, even if that’s precisely where Rabbi David Lister is going…
Since God is omniscient – the ultimate Scientist – we should not consider modern discoveries as alien to His Torah. Facts that would only be discovered by humans thirty or forty centuries later were known to God when He spoke through the prophets, and it would be reasonable to suppose that these insights formed part of His message.
The Gaon of Vilna wrote in a similar vein, “Everything that was, is and will be is included in the Torah… even the details of every animal, plant and inanimate object, with all their features.”
Really? Every animal, plant and inanimate object?
So where’s the section that deals with dinosaurs?
What about Kangaroos and Koalas – are they in there, and if so, can someone point me to the relevant passage?
And as the Torah is supposed to contain details of every inanimate object, can someone show me the reference to the iPhone?
No, don’t tell… let’s me guess – its in the bit about the Ten Commandments which God sent to Moses’ Blackberry in a text message.
This notion has far-reaching implications.
How far does ‘you’re full of shit’ reach?
When God uttered metaphors referring to light, He knew that light bends in a strong gravitational field and that certain kinds of light can blast through solid rock. When He spoke of the heavens, He knew of the dark matter which permeates them.
Funny that he never thought to mention any of these things directly, isn’t it. You’d think, what with him being omniscient and all that, he might just have dropped out a bit of useful information along the way without wrapping it up in metaphor?
Something along the lines of ‘Hey Moses – don’t forget that everything’s made of atoms’ or even something as basic as…
Babies? Well, yes – you know that white stuff that comes out of the end of your dick when you have sex? Yes, the stuff you’re not supposed to spill on the ground, that’s right. Well, there are tiny little things in there called sperm and…”
FFS, its not as we’re asking for anything complicated here, like the Dirac equation or a definition of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
A bit of basic human biology would have done perfectly well, or maybe just a few pointers in the general direction of Newtonian mechanics. If nothing else, God might have told us how Noah managed to get rid of all the shit!
This premise enables us to revisit primordial Torah ideas and attempt to reconstitute them as they may have been understood by those who had deeper insight into them.
Or to put it another way, this premise allows us to put up a bunch of bullshit post-hoc argument to cover our embarrassment at all the thing that science has discovered of which there’s absolutely no mention whatsoever in any of our holy texts.