Why you need to read more Michael Flynn

Why you need to read more Michael Flynn November 7, 2015

I was going to post just a quote, but then I thought, “Nah, I’ll steal the whole vignette and then send youse guys over to his blog to see all the other great stuff:

Bad News for God, or Someone

Flashing point shows relative position of Earth 2.0

Meanwhile, in other news, a marine biologist who blogs at something called the Huffington Post announces that the discovery of Kepler 452b is “bad news for God.” The author is evidently a theologian, for he declares with certainty that “The discovery of just one such world is good evidence for many more” and “we come ever closer to the idea that life is common in the universe.” Not that we have found any such life, mind you, but it’s just gotta be out there, somewhere, because numbers. We note too that Mars is also within the habitable zone, but is no so far was we know actually inhabited.

(IOW: “in habitable zone” ≠ “supports life” ≠ “rational beings.” It is from this string of inequalities that the author deduces the downfall of religion, which apparently amounts to bad news for God.)

The reason this is bad news for God and not for, say, the author of the article, is that “the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of god, and all life was created in six days.” So we see that the author is a fallen-away fundamentalist, or possibly that his mother was frightened by a fundamentalist when he was in utero. He gets his disbeliefs from the Bible.

However, if Augustine of Hippo and Thomas of Aquino could consider that the six days were metaphorical or even allegorical, any non-fundy type — like the Catholic and Orthodox churches — could likewise consider it. Besides, one needn’t discover a planet a mere 60% larger than earth (est.) to deduce that the six days just might not be literally fact. Both Gus and Tom reserved judgement on the six days because they didn’t have the data to support a firm nay or yea, a stance that TOF whimsically hopes marine biologists who blog on issues astrophysic might one day take to heart.  

The author seems to suppose that the Earth being, in the old models, at the bottom of the world is in some sort of exalted place, whereas the medievals supposed the place ignoble, the bilges of the World, as far from the heavens as one could (get other than Hell). Besides, there is no privileged frame of reference, so it may as well be here as somewhere from which we cannot as yet make meaningful observations.  

impala, lower case
Impala, capitalized

Then there is the curious announcement that “onlyhumans were made in the image of god.” Now, it is actually in the image of God, not god. (The capital carries semantic load. An impala is not the same kind of thing as an Impala, after all.) But the image refers to man’s nature as a rational being, not to his physical body. Augustine said that sciopods, blemyae, pygmies, and other then-fanciful beings would be human provided only they possessed reason. And nowhere, save perhaps to fundies like the author, does doctrine say that “only” humans were so endowed. After all, the Church has always taught of angels, whom we may dub “extraterrestrial energy beings” in order to remain orthodox to modernity. 

St. Christopher the doghead

The author declares that if extraterrestrial life is ever discovered (and we might take passing note that it has not yet been) that “religion” (whatever that means) will “contort” itself to accommodate it. He seems unaware that it already has been accommodated and that no contortions were necessary. Once medieval legend had it that a doghead had not only been baptized but had become a saint. So it’s not as if anyone had problems imagining intelligent aliens or incorporating them into their world-view.

If you’ve not read his science fiction, you really should:

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  • wlinden

    The “bad news for God” was lost on Swedenborg, who was writing over 250 years ago that the universe is full of inhabited “earths”. But of course we are disgusting heretics.
    Also note how “religion” is assumed to be monolithic and homogeneous.

    • Varenius

      Why do you *always* feel the need to point out that most consider your church heterodox? It’s a serious question.

      • wlinden

        Pre-emptive strike.

  • Finding life all over the cosmos would glorify God.

    Nor does Genesis ever say anything about the rest of the cosmos. It only refers to *ha-aretz*.

    Atheists often assume that all Christians are biblical literalists. It’s an atheist superstition.

  • Amaryllis

    I don’t know, I Ioved Eifelheim, but I got bogged down pretty quickly with Firestar and never tried anything else of his.

    So what do you recommend as a re-entry point?

    • Varenius

      Try his The January Dancer instead, it’s the first of a very good four-volume series.

      • Amaryllis


    • Dante Alighieri

      Also, I recommend his classic tragedy, “The Wreck of the River of Stars.” It is probably one of the beautifully wrought science fiction I’ve ever read.

      • Amaryllis

        Thank you. (because if Dante doesn’t know from literary quality, who does?)

      • Dan Berger

        I can’t endorse this heartily enough to do the novel justice, because if I did your screen would explode.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      You might try the story collection “Captive Dreams”