Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Prove It!"

We used to say that as kids.  Somebody blurts some preposterous assertion – like they can hold fifty pieces of Double Bubble in the mouth at the same time – and another kid immediately goes,

Prove it!” 

The demand for proof is not exclusively a kid’s thing, although it less often involves gum.

When I was in Third Grade at the Toronto Hebrew Day School, we studied Moses delivering of the Ten Commandments to the Children of Israel in Bible class.  Most memorably – at least to Yours Truly – we were told that when the commandments were being announced, suddenly, everyone present who was deaf and blind – you did not have to be both; it was apparently an and/or situation – those people could now miraculously see and/or hear.

I immediately scoffed.  It is not a pretty sight, a nine year-old hooting derisively out of their nose.  Nor at that particular venue, was it an acceptable sight.  I recall receiving a threatening glare from “Mar” (Mister)… whatever “Mar” it was who happened to be teaching Third Grade Bible class.  When it came to contrarial students, all the “Mars” were equally vindictive.  

I just did not buy it.  That’s a lot of people standing around Mount Sinai – the mountain, not the hospital – listening to Moses rattling off the newly minted Decalogue.  And they wanted me to take on faith that substantial chunks of humanity in that vast assemblage who couldn’t see and/or hear suddenly could? 

What if, as is likely, they were not into it, the deaf bored to tears because they had no idea what the guy was saying, the blind babbling incessantly, “Who’s talking?” 

I mean, imagine that what they claimed actually happened, the formerly afflicted suddenly… I mean, do you think they would just stand there, thinking quietly, “Oh, look at that.” 

They’d scream their heads off.  “I can see!!!”  “I can hear!!!”  I can do both, and before I could do neither!!!!!!”

Wouldn’t that be terribly disruptive?  The scattered blurtings of exultation, the multitudes around them shushing,

“Quiet!  He’s telling us what we can’t do!” 

Honoring the sanctity of the moment, and listening closely hoping the “Ten Shalt Not's" exclude some private personal pleasure.

“Good.  I can still eat with my hands.”

My point, before it becomes buried in naarishkeit  (puerile foolishness) is that there are elements the Bible that, for some people, young and old, have serious difficulty passing the ”Credulity Test.”

“Religion is like spinach,” I once pronounced as a thirteen year-old before I knew I liked spinach.  “It may be good for you, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.”  (What a pompous youngster I was.  Wildean aphorisms?  Are you kidding me?)

True Believers have no problem acceding to Biblical pronouncements.  The hard-to-believe stuff is accepted as “God’s will”, and if God’s behavior “passeth all understanding” it’s supposed to because we’re not God.

For them, it’s simple.  You say, “Prove it”? 

They say, “It’s in ‘The Book’.”

And then science comes along.

Handling issues in an entirely different manner, a way, they claim – via the “Scientific Method” – that has the potential to prove everything.

Science assaults Biblical infallibility – starting with “the sun revolving around the earth”, which was correct about the revolving part, they just got the thing backwards.  Religion was understandable annoyed with science.  It was making them look fallible.

The thing is, however…

I watch these shows on TV where some accredited scientist holding a rock says,

“This rock is seventy million years old.”

And I feel myself reacting the same way I reacted when I heard that the deaf could see and the blind could hear.  Sorry.  You can straighten that out, can’t you?

For some reason, for me at least, “doubting derision” resides exclusively in my nose.  I hear something that’s, like.. “Really?” and a blast of skepticism explodes reflexively out of my nasal passages.   

“Seventy million years old, huh?  Are you sure it’s not sixty-eight?”

As with religion, science too has its “ways”, though they are not quite as mysterious.  “Scientific validity” involves experimentation, calibration and, when there’s a massive breakthrough, celebration.  (Like dancing around with the Torah, but with lab animals.)

Sometimes, to my confusion and its buffeted credibility, science replaces an established fact with a newer one.  Like it’s an AOL upgrade. 

Nutritional “facts”, for example.  (Call it “Food Science.”  They probably do.)


Egg yolks. 

Red wine.


At one time:  “Terrible.”

Today:  “Not so fast.”

And tomorrow? 

Will, as Woody Allen proclaimed in Sleeper, will pastrami be somebody considered a health food?

Possibly not. 

But those guys on TV, whether “Food Scientists” or age-daters of rocks…

Science if designed to be self-correcting, but its current “certain” pronouncements now feel as questionable as “The sun revolves around the earth.”

Perhaps I am simply generically skeptical by nature.  Dubious that everything can be definitively proven, or, more importantly, needs to be.  Maybe, instead of devoting our lives trying to explain how everything works….



Eschewing gaseous bloviation, let’s go out instead with a song, which – “ Full Disclosure” – was the instigating impetus for the foregoing ramblings.

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting,

Offering a third approach, perhaps...

Iris DeMent.



Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ah, that's my favorite song of Iris DeMent's.

I would guess that the scientist would *rather* say something like, "We are confident within confidence interval to percentage of probability that this rock is approximately 70 million years old." Media *hate* that. They like definitive pronouncements, and so scientists are pushed to make them, and they don't really give you time to give the reasons why you believe what you say to be true (the rock was found in the middle of a stratum that has been carbon-dated multiple times; the fossils in the rock indicate...and so on).

Your story about Moses, however, reminds me of accounts of the shrine at Lourdes, where it is said (I haven't been there personally) that the walls are covered with crutches and other such things that pilgrims have left behind after being cured...I think it was George Bernard Shaw who noted that you don't see prosthetic legs or glass eyes being left there, though.


Jes said...

I believe the discrepancy is that we are composed of God's particles, and of God. Depending on science alone limits the available possibilities. Miracles do indeed exist, can they be explained by science, perhaps in time. But God operates outside of time, no man made school of measurement can ever match God's glory.