Friday, 27 February 2015

pious fiction or brother's keeper

This thoughtful essay from Æon magazine, which hangs the chief friction between faith and science on the transition of God from being a dissembler and a Noble-Liar for our own good to one incapable of deception, reminded me very much of a thin but engrossing book by Portuguese writer José Saramago called Cain that I read recently. Unflinching to the last, the author tries to answer that same paradoxical quandary that’s plagued philosophers and theologians (a subset of theodicy) since the beginning: why did a perfect and all-powerful God need to mislead or test his creations?  Cain, an ostensible victim of one of those trials (others including the expulsion of his parents from Eden, Sodom and Gomorrah, Job’s suffering, Noah’s deluge, etc., etc.) condemned to wander the Earth for the act of killing his brother—which arguably was not unprovoked, confronts God directly over this and other injustices perpetrated seemingly by a petty deity who was far from omnipotent, and doesn’t relent.
Neither side can afford to give in, nor really—kind of tenderly, is either willing to accept the argument that that business was all Old Testament or that God’s ways are mysterious and inscrutable, and the standoff echoes through the ages. In seeking to reconcile these founding inconsistencies, God, who was and is ever present, was made a bit mute and aloof and it was argued that was ever the case. In hardly something to pin one’s faith to but illustrative, Descartes posits that the feeling of being forsaken or deceived is akin to one suffering from dropsy (funky cold œdema), where one is retaining too much water but is nonetheless constantly thirsty. Our faculties are generally configured to drink when parched and one person’s unfortunate condition isn’t universal, invoking Ockham. A little strangely, Descartes also supposes that in the heavenly-sphere that God were to erase a star but still perpetuate the sign of it, it’s similarly a self-delusion that we ought not to project—though looking to the skies, we are looking to the past, which is a quandary that the philosopher could not have known, scientifically at least. What do you think? Has God stepped back after setting things in motion (as the re-discovered writings of the Greek classics that led to the Renaissance and Enlightenment revealed), have we gone deaf or is it something else that the troubled old folks have failed to question? I’d like an answer—and would even wrestle an angel for one.