June 15, 2010

And As The Plane Crashed Down, He Thought Well Isn't This Nice

You know, I have to feel sorry for the church whose famous six-story statue of Jesus arising from a reflecting pool was struck by lightning and burned to its metal skeleton yesterday. No, really, I do. It was an expensive and dramatic piece of art, hopefully it was insured, and it meant a lot to the parishioners of the southwestern Ohio church who had it built.

So it is with great sobriety, then, that I ask how could such an ironic thing have happened? Hypotheses that come immediately to mind after discussions with religious folk about other unfortunate incidents include:
  1. God struck down a graven image, which is forbidden by (some translations of) the Ten Commandments, even (or especially) when the image is of God Himself.
  2. Allah struck down a false image of Himself as a signal that Islam is the true religion and there is no God but Allah leading to the ultimate conclusion that we should all become Muslims.
  3. Satan, like God, can control lightning and used his evil power to strike at a symbol of his adversary so as to tempt and lead astray those who might otherwise be faithful.
  4. God is testing our faith to see if we will still believe in Jesus despite what superficially appears to be an Act of God that symbolically destroys Jesus.
  5. God does not care about religious symbology like statutes of Jesus one way or the other, and is therefore content to allow things like this to happen without involving Himself.
  6. This event is merely one part of a very amazingly subtle, complex, and intricately detailed plan for the salvation of all humanity, the exact nature and mechanisms of which are quite beyond human comprehension.
  7. This was a random natural occurrence in which God was not involved in any manner.

How might we test these various hypotheses?

Well, we probably need more data, to start. One thing that experience tells us that churches, statues, art, people, and indeed anything else that is the subject of human invocation of the divine in an effort to gain protection from the random forces of nature do no better statistically than people or things which are not the subject of such intercession. It matters not which God is invoked, nor how intensely or in what fashion. No statistical difference at all.

Which of the available hypotheses do you suppose that evidence supports? The answer is pretty obvious to me, but there are those who, even when confronted by glaringly obvious evidence like this, will go through intense intellectual gyrations to avoid the unpleasant but completely simple and fully explanatory explanation.


His Lordship The Gun-Toting Atheist said...

I would propose option 8: This was a statistically predictable discharge of static electricity through a six-story tall metallic structure during a storm; it was not random, it happened according to the laws of physics.

Or option 9: Zeus got pissed off.

Libertarian Advocate said...

I believe its No. 6

A Teacher said...

I agree that you should have set it up as a poll. I would like to vote for #6 as well.

The fact that some people can't understand it simply underscores how none of us have a chance to understand His workings. :)

My family drove to Flordia every year for nearly 20 years down I-75 before the statue was put up and we saw it for the first time 3 years ago on a trip to Atlanta. I gotta admit it was kind disturbing to see and did not make me feel at all pious. Heck, it reminded me a bit of the Pharisees, praying loudly and publically despite Christ's admonisments to go to a private chamber, lock the door, and pray quietly.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

There was no poll because the point of the exercise is not to gather disparate opinions -- it is to compare them.

LA and Teacher, why do you favor hypothesis #6 over, for instance His Lordship's hypothesis #9? Do you have any tangible evidence you can point to that suggests hypothesis #6 is more likely that my #7 or His Lordship's (rather better-phrased) hypothesis #8? Or will you concede that #6 is, by its very nature, an untestable, unprovable proposition, which is practically indistinguishable from #7?

A Teacher said...

Well, I admit that #7 is also a very good posibility but I put out #6 because sometimes I am left to wonder.

Lightning is one of those things that sciece is still working to wrap it's head around. 200 years after Franklin's kite experiement and we're still making heads and tails of it. I admit that #8 as His Lordshikp has proposed is a very very very solid explanation, however prediction of lightning strikes is still so many shades of questionable. Heck, I've used 4 different physics text books and every single one explained lightning in a different way, and gave different "rules" for predition. I use quotes mostly because lightning is fundamentally different then say uniform circular motion where an object in orbit of a heavenly body is going to be going V speed at Altitude h with a rotational momentum of P.

So all that said, I kind of ~like~ the 'it happened for some reason we peons cannot understand so let's not overthink it'. It works with my spirituality.

Now before you think I evangelize to my students, I'd never for a moment put out such an explanation to a class. I'd leave it at "We have a hard time understanding the why here so it's up to you to fill in the gaps science leaves you." I also firmly believe that we have the minds we do because we're supposed to use them to understand as much about our world as we can. Where some zealots see scientific explanation as the destruction of God and His Wonder, I see it as the opposite, a celebration of Us, Mankind, as marvelous and intelligent beings, just as He wants us to be.

But that's me and I apologize for pontificating.

Short form: I just like the sound of it, though I conceed that #8 is likely.

As for tangible evidence? Nope, kinda short on that which I conceed.