Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | January 9, 2009

On Denial, Descent, Darwin and The Remoteness of Being

The following material attached itself to an earlier post whose quoted saint objected and asked for a separate re-posting.  Now rightly miffed… he keeps putting my intercession request calls on “HOLD”  or  his receptionist keeps pushing the “FAST BUSY” button – I’m not sure which. But heck… it’s not as if I blame the guy. On the other hand, I wish he’d take my calls… but come to think of it… I’m pretty impressed with how fast he’s latched on to the technology… being dead and all these hundreds of years. Maybe if I  leave an iPhone on his icon? Nah. Anyway… looking things over… I thought as long as we’re payin’ for this anyway, we might as well post it… so here’s another looney tune I found. See what you think.

Doggone it if Darwin hasn’t been showing up in my mind more than he should. For what it’s worth, I think our problems with the guy don’t have much to do with science or religion… but more to do with having a doggone good dust-up…kind of like Ali vs. Frazier, Wolfman vs. Dracula, Godzilla vs. King Kong, Ultraman vs. Mothra….  I mean, we haven’t actually observed fish turn into dinosaurs or monkeys into men, but that doesn’t stop one group anymore than the other group will leave off the contention that Adam and the T-Rex used to drive over to the local Greasy Spoon together on Friday nights for ribs.

So why do folks care so much about these things? Beats me. Perhaps it’s just good clean fun for some to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to others – the fire marshals among us – it just looks foolish. I don’t know why… but since everyone goes there eventually… and the theater’s almost empty… let’s give it a holler.

One of the things I found myself thankful for this past holiday season was the discovery of the Thickheaded modification to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. This isn’t so much a modification to the Theory… as it is a modification to the discussion of it.  I mean… I’m not going to get drawn into wading where you think I’m going…’cause I may be Thickheaded… but I’m also not smart. No, the Thickheaded modification suggests that I have really no idea about how we keep getting into this mess and seem to stay here almost 100 years after they made “Inherit the Wind”… but the discussion of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution still seems no closer to sanity now then it was then.  Substitute Global Climate Change or one of its variants… and you can the see the same craziness in alternate form… on both sides.

So what’s a couple billion people to do? Well… it starts with re-examining how the whole thing started. Y’know… the first dust-up. The fact is.. I think people just “forgot” what really happened. I mean.. y’know… a glass or two or more of champagne after picking up a Nobel prize, a casual off-the-cuff remark like “drinks on the house” , and the first thing you know… the fog machine’s in overdrive… and you wind-up with a much, much better story.

No… see what I think really happened with this theory is that it had nothing to do with “observing” Finches…. and more to do with TV Remotes. I mean it was “the playoffs” and there you are with this honking new SatTV set you just got for Christmas – widescreen HD and all – to help pass those long, “lonely” days on Gallapogos in the middle of stinkin’ nowhere… and you can’t get the doggone thing to work…. much less figure out which remote goes with the sound box, the DVD, the BluRay, and whether to switch to AV-2 or HDMI-3.

The adventure of course began with a search for the all-in-one-remote… y’know the REAL Holy Grail of Techworld… but there you are. And just to make matters worse… you’re a scientist… a virtual real-life Geek , you STILL can’t get these things to work, people have expectations… and you’re feeling the heat of not meeting them. Adding to the pressure… your neighbors… the folks “invited” over for dinner and the game…  they’re beginning to look like they might be island cannibals. Uh huh. Might not be… but they are well-armed… and blowing a gasket in the ol’ noggin’  could go badly… best case you’re a disabled geek; worst case “in the soup”.  And if that’s not enough… your only instructions are written by people who don’t actually hook these things up for a living or speak the language… so where’s a teenager when you need him? I mean what’s with this new fangled “double-the-double wire” connector, cutting out the usual recognizable plugs, and leaving you stranded in the “T-T-T-erminal Zone”?

The “guests” are already halfway through the pretzels, they’re guzzling all the brew, and seriously grousing about who’s gonna do the run back to blarney for more… or “Y’know… we could just … y’know…  eat the host?”.  But they really don’t look Orthodox. .. so maybe they mean something else. Darwin’s just sittin’ there… using some choice language his grandmother didn’t know he knew and wondering out loud whose idea it was to leave the kids in merry old… ” an’ just when you finally figure out a use for them “she” pops them in boarding school… so here we are about to get eaten ’cause there’s nothin’ on the telly…”. And just when all seems lost, in flies this Finch, lands on the “>” button, whacks the HD controller on  to “HDMI-1”, pecks out “666” on the Cable controller and flies off.

Now this is all very, very significant to all the oh-so literal Bible geeks and we’ll cover that in the next chapter of Science vs. Religion Rock’em Sock’em Robots… but for now, it’s enough to know that ol’ Darwin himself said, “Bloomin’ handy that Finch was… I mean the game comes on, the guests are happy, and I’m y’know a “genius” (makes quote marks with his fingers and laughs)”.

But what’s he do next? ‘Course he ups and jumps in the golf cart with his new main squeeze (officially in letters home to the wife she a “Kimodo Dragon” but locals always called her Hot Sally),  takes a couple of “whu-hoo” victory laps around the island…  belting out the ever-polular frat-boy anthem of “When you are King you are King” in full Yul Brenneresque… But you can bet that’s not what he wrote in his “formal oh-so-stuffy” journal.

Nope. Not a trace of the remotes, the game, the party, the hot chick, the cannibals… the whole nine meters (it was the UK after all)… and he makes up this whole bit about himself as some sort of proto-Marlin Perkins kind-of-a-dude hiding out in a game shelter like a homeless guy in some National Geographic flick and he’s a “naturalist” rather than a football hooligan… but there you go. Don’t believe it if you must,  but we got it straight from Dwinster his-own-self… y’know … “him-who-used-to-be-monkey”  (makes quote marks with fingers again)… news you can trust… cocktails at ten, police tape at eleven. “

But instead… all we get ten minutes later behind a keyboard, is this bling… I mean buh-bing… and we’re all backwater developments stuck in some evolutionary dead-end off a chain with Finches at the top. Then… just to make matters worse, he can’t spell so we’re stuck here generations later in biology classes we don’t even like and calling species “genus” when what he meant wasfor us to call him “genius”… ’cause he’s it, and we’re not.

No, I’m still not sure how the monkeys get into it – ’cause there weren’t even on the stinkin’ island – unless it’s like another of those Hollywood sets where they land Apollo on “the moon”. So I guess you’re just going to have to ask the journalists who weren’t there to explain how they messed up another one of those “guy-runs-into-tree-with-golf cart” stories and made it sound like some sort of scientific discovery mission… but don’t expect much. I mean… it’s already in print… so like, it’s true, right?

But at last we understand that the whole of this mess really had more to do with “fairness” in terms of “getting even” with the guy who “poached the last chips’n’dip and started grousing about the game on TV ’cause he didn’t want to stand by the pool and talk about last night’s Bridezilla make-over fashion-cooking-horror show…  and so pressured this poor Darwin guy to hurry it up and “do some science … turn on the game… or just do something… anything … even a card trick… ” And even though the D-man had no real intention in the first place… and thought he was just on the island to test out some new camping gear for L.L. Bean or something… another similarly challenged guy asks if you’ll forgive me, “What would Darwin do?” and the rest is mystery.

Ah… but you ask… what is the Thickheaded Corrollary to the modification of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? Seems I kind of skipped over that.  Simple: Evolution has to go down a few blind alleys and it’s just my luck to be stuck in one…. with a couple of remotes to spare…. batteries not included… and instructions that don’t make sense:

“Call me a Lemur, but no, it wasn’t exactly a choice. I guess I’d pictured going for something with a little more edge to it… more like… Fighting Chipmunk or Smokin’ Squirrel… but this is all they had… so here I am.”

On the other hand… bad as things get sometimes… I’m not exactly sure I want to be caught in an alley with actual functioning eyeballs either. Yep… to me it sounds more like a Stephen King idea and a bad one at that. Gives me the creeps…. but maybe it beats the proverbial dead-end. Only this leaves me with the thought… just what  exactly is it that makes a dead-end Proverbial? Maybe it’s something to do with a convention somewhere…. like one filled with uncapitalized atheists… but a convention that nevertheless seems to sound better than Psalmodic. I mean when things are going badly… isn’t the last thing you need a couple of BeeGees doing the Psalms? One positively shudders at the thought… two cringe  on their knees… and three… well…

So let’s sum up if we can: Darwin’s Theory of Evolution still pains us so much today because at heart, we know the secret…  and a hundred plus years later we still can’t figure out the remotes any better than he could… only he had a Finch and we don’t. Moreover….necessity is the mother of not getting eaten by cannibals. So the record shows he got it precisely backwards… more like Devolution…. and so as a result, we sense a remoteness in our being, a remoteness from order, and a remoteness from God…. as if He takes instruction like some sort of short order cook charged with fashioning a world to our liking… one where we can not only NOT find the remotes, but can’t make them work either. But He doesn’t do that, we’re left confused… and it must be that Darwin guy messed things up.

Well… I don’t know about you, but my set of remotes is no Garden of Eden … and I’m wondering just what it would have looked like if the chips had indeed run out before the Finch flew on to the scene… the cannibals had found the just-so-tasty saute for a dude… and the game never came on….. Would life have stayed the same… or would we be clicking out on chalkboards instead of computer keys? We’ll never know.. but hey… I’m glad it worked out for the D-man .


Responses

  1. Well… that was worth the wade through your stream of conciousness. 🙂
    I’m convinced the hard core materialists are working with a thin sweater against their cold universe. But how do you get them to come in out of the cold…

  2. Sorry ’bout the stream, but thanks for wading through it. 🙂 and thanks for visiting.

    I like the Orthodox view… that God will speak to them. If they want to hear, they will. Often… folks seem to be on the cold road… because they haven’t found the way in… yet. But they’re often much more serious about their looking than others who seem much more outwardly friendly to the faith.

    I think it can be the callous disregard of the consequences to others of their (often) disparaging remarks and sneers while they remain skeptics that does the damage to others.

    “Yeah… the deluded simpletons. What I wouldn’t give to be one.” I think that’s a thought that runs through many heads… and the key realization that happiness doesn’t lie in paralysis by analysis… but that somehow giving up the conceit to the highest developed species… this is the hard thing to do. I mean… for all their pretense to the randomness of development… they surely don’t accept that their own appearance on the top of the chain is an accident…. random or otherwise, hmmmm ? No… I think that was the lone moment of divine intention in their eyes… it is somehow “right”… even if when it is random, it can’t be valued as “right”…. but it could be termed “good”. And maybe that’s a transition in-between. Because I think sometimes their root objection is that the wonder of creation… conflicts with what they’ve been taught of the Fall, evilness and depravity thing and all that…. rather than the Orthodox faith. Ah… but forgive me for that.

    I’m with Archbishop Lazar Puhalo (OCA) who strongly advocates that modern science and Orthodxy have no conflict. We cannot allow ourselves to be sucked in to someone else’s battles.

    And scientist’s I”ve known tended to be devout for the most part… I mean… they’re doing the Genesis thing of giving name to God’s creation. It’s the use of science by others without the temprament (even some scientists conform to this)… where the problems lie. And because they use data and have degrees… it dresses up well… but sometimes it fails to employ the methodology in proper fashion… and gets sloppy in its conclusions. I’m comfortable when the form is followed… and nervous when it’s not.
    Usually it’s not when it comes to using theoretical, appealing models we want to believe in… but about which we would be better to maintain a healthy skepticism… this is where the problems seem to originate… and the extrapolation of composition. Somethings that hold at the subatomic level do not at the macro level and vice versa.

    But the power of ideas… that’s another story.

    So its simpler for me to suggest that real life doesn’t happen this way, and imagine my own view of how these things came to be. I mean… it’s how it would happen in my household.

  3. Oh… another thought. I wonder that these folks can be so certain that it’s all random… when what they mean is that it “appears” random… but may simply be unexplained by the knowledge or methodologies and technologies we have at present. Reminiscent of radium in the late 19th century when “everything knowable was thought to be already known”.

    Neither scientists nor believers have the comfort of certainties. Which is more comfortable with and drawn in by mystery? I don’t know… but I do know we are fundamentally about different endeavors.

    But… I really, really hear you about the cold view of the world. They say the atheists who dies as atheists have a certain “look” in their later years that conveys much.

  4. I’ve been ruminating a lot lately about “mystery” and the latest “Illumined Heart” interview on AFR with Fr. Hans Jacobse is really good. I plan to do a podcast about the idea soon. Certainties unravel when we apply reality to them both for Christians and atheists. NOTHING is “certain”, in fact it is the uncertainty of “God’s love and power” that atheists fire over our bow, and it is the uncertainty of randomness that we fire back. Mystery is indeed the bottom line for both, and if we both entered it perhaps we’d find a common ground instead of trying to be wizards of Oz. I like someone’s saying:
    “I ultimately found the world to be a magical place, I then decided there must be a magician.”

  5. Listened to that one, too. Agreed.

    Like your idea… the uncertainties. I like the story of Moses going from following a cloud of light… to going into a cloud of darkness… the closer he got to the Promised Land. That’s really the way it is in those things we’re good at: the closer you get to getting it right… the more you realize how far away you are… and the more your knowledge is subsumed by what you don’t know. It’s a shift of awareness.

    My daughter just finished a course on “religion and politics” in college. She asked me to read a couple of sections of the texts… which were better than supposed. Taught by a Methodist rec. Both were good… and I was impressed she’d learned a lot actually. But I was intrigued by one RC author’s citing Augustine (!) and asserting the uncertainties on which faith is founded(and I thought he was the beginning of rationalizing it all to squeeze these out!). So… that curious attribution (to an Orthodox) aside.. and reading on, he called it doubt… I call it mystery.. or uncertainty. And like the question of whether God has a sense of humor (he does) many won’t understand, will be puzzled and start piling up wood at my feet and throwing matches. But I see it as respecting the Holy of Holies… honoring the veil in the temple… reverencing the image of God in the personhood of someone before us… all of this.

    Fr. Meletios Webber speaks of how our desire for certainty is in effect a sickness… a sickness that leads to killing the love we treasure. I think that’s on the mark whether its God or a spouse/fiance or someone else close to us… we have to respect their freedom.

    Suggest reading Kevin Allen’s bio piece on his website. Rough story. I led a sheltered life by comparison but read many of the same books as a “yeut”… but didn’t become Buddhist ’cause I didn’t think a Western person could manage more than pop-Buddhism… and I’d already found God. Yes we had folks trying to levitate in my high school… and the days of the Bagwans in Seattle weren’t long past… but though very intrigued I guess I knew I wasn’t that nuts. Surely I was something of a syncretist at the time… but when you’ve gone down that road… you really know you’ve stepped over the line… and don’t kid yourself.

    Magicians… I think I’ve heard that line somewhere… can’t remember where. There are those who suggest God speaks to us in coincidences… but I like best the line about his speaking to us in silence. Many sugges He speaks to us in dreams. St. Silhouan suggests God speaks to us in the first words he gives us in conversation. Fr. Meletios Webber that He speaks to us in the moment before the next… when we are focused and the union of mind and body are engaged… for the briefest of moments.

    Monastics… they’re so tough on us… but so insightful and useful. I’m going to have to sneak off to a monastery for a weekend sometime. But that’s a time that’s clouded in mystery. LOL

    Thanks for the notes.


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