Vanity thought #982. Cosmos E7

Another episode of Cosmos rolled out a few days ago. The show is past its half way mark, they already covered big topics like evolution, origin of the universe, atoms etc and they have probably saved a couple of hard hitting topics for the finale, so now it’s just fluff to fill the spacetime.

This entire episode was about fight against lead contamination in consumer products. Wow, Space Time Odyssey indeed. Graphics were still superb, cartoons carried the rest, and there were a few stunning vistas, Grand Canyon included. What does Grand Canyon has got to do with lead poisoning? Quite a lot, actually, but nothing direct.

There were two converging themes to this episode and there was one man at the center of both – Clair Patterson. He lead scientific query into determining the age of the Earth and in the process discovered that we have too much lead in our environment. As if to make sure that this episode was not about origins of Earth, it was called “Clean Room” in reference to Patterson’s discovery of lead contamination in everyday objects.

Striving to build a cleanest possible lab was not going to catch many people imagination. Neither was using geology as the main science behind this episode. I’m referring to snobby attitude towards geology in communities practicing “real” science. Geology to science is like dentistry to medicine, or so the common wisdom goes.

Anyway, lets start at the beginning – on the edges of the Grand Canyon. With a little bit of help from the CGI department Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the presenter, managed to lift layers of sediments to demonstrate how they were formed over time. He picked out a couple of layers and explained how old they were and what kind of life was available on Earth when they were formed. This was a clear shoutout to Ken Ham from Nye-Ham debate earlier this year.

NDGT was a bit more generous than Bill Nye, though – he admitted that layers of sediment grow at wildly differing rates and sometimes a foot thick layer could take a thousand years to form and sometimes only a few days. He even mentioned floods – a clear tip of the hat to Young Earth Creationists.

OTOH, he also dismissed using Bible for Earth chronology but I don’t remember exactly why. He mentioned a Christian scientist who first calculated ages of Biblical dynasties and “begats” and traced them back from a real historical person but somehow it didn’t satisfy NDGT. That kind of scientific approach to history satisfied Isaac Newton but that’s not kind of history they mention on this show, which pretends that no scientist ever believed in Bible.

Instead, NDGT proposed an isotope based dating and the show explained the process very well – some radioactive elements found in nature are, well, radioactive, means they emit some rays and energy and as a result their molecular composition changes. In this case he talked about uranium and explained how it goes through a couple of such changes until it turns into lead, a stable element that does not decay anymore.

He then said that by knowing the rate of decay and the ratio of yet undecayed uranium to already decayed lead we can determine how long the process took. Then, by calculating the age of meteorites, we can guess how old is the cosmic matter that was used in forming the Earth itself.

This works only if their underlying theory of how Solar system was formed is correct, mind you. No one was able to demonstrate how exactly all those objects rotating around the Sun snowballed into planets. They say gravity did it but that’s not really an explanation until we can build some sort of a model demonstrating that it could actually be possible.

So, meteorite remains were taken from a crater in Arisona and given to that Claire Paterson to find how much lead was formed there already. Another guy was calculating the amount of uranium at the same time. His results were always consistent but Patterson’s were all over the place. That’s when he discovered that his lab must have been contaminated by lead from outside and he became a cleanliness freak, probably developed and OCD, too. In the cartoon he was shown walking around town and seeing lead contamination everywhere as if it was hallucination.

He build a clean lab, determined the age of the Earth, and continued to study lead levels in our environment. At the time lead was thought to be good for you and harmless, even though it was also developed into a chemical weapon and parts of the manufacturing for leaded petrol were handled under almost military rules.

Big oil and car companies employed their own scientists to prove that there’s nothing wrong with lead and that current levels were absolutely natural. Patterson didn’t believe that and studied lead levels in deep oceans and Antarctic ice. There was a bit of politics involved but in the end he could conclusively prove that lead epidemic was man made and therefore unnatural and dangerous. NDGT then showed a diagram of how ban on lead in consumer products affected lead levels in people.

He stopped there but there are theories now that this sudden ban on lead was responsible for crime wave of the eighties, as if lead addicts went cold turkey and couldn’t control themselves. Interesting.

That’s basically it for this episode. Nothing too controversial, no major wrongs, no obvious lies, nothing to dispute, really. We can say that uranium dating is unreliable and that we can’t know for sure that uranium’s rate of decay didn’t change over billions of years but, in principle, that is not a very strong argument. YEC people claim that dating of the same Grand Canyon using different isotopes gives its age anywhere between 500 million and 1.5 billion years but I’m too lazy to investigate if there are similar discrepancies with dating of meteorites.

Personally, my most memorable moment was when NDGT said “Earth was built”. I know he didn’t mean that but this phrasing clearly implies a creator. All his arguments cannot alter even his own basic understanding of what has happened, he just refuses to acknowledge it.

Another thing that I took from this episode is this – sometimes science looks solid and its findings indisputable, and yet they go against śāstra. What can we say then? Usually we look for errors in scientific judgment, we know they are there because conditioned life without errors is impossible, but what if we don’t find any? Should we believe science over Vedas then?

This could become a tough call for many but one thing we should remember – we live under the illusion that is meant to be believable. Actually, we can’t see past this illusion, if it wants to convince us that something is real it will always win and we will always lose. Beings far greater than us tested it and found themselves totally bewildered, so if it happens to us we shouldn’t panic. It is supposed to look this way – as solid, reliable, correct, unassailable truth.

As far as our bodies and minds go – that’s exactly what we should see in this world, and we do, every time we put our hopes into happiness derived from our senses.

So, if we remember this fact then we should rather cherish the moments when we see something clearly wrong and Vedas being clearly right, and we should not be surprised that at other times this vision goes away and illusion looks real.

Kṛṣṇa will never look as “real” as the illusion, holy name will never sound as “good” as Katy Perry and our Bhāgavatam classes will never be as well researched as modern science, that’s not what we should be going for. When we actually perceive Kṛṣṇa on the pages of Bhāgavatam He will look far more real than anything we see in this world but in a completely different way. He will appear as having a parallel existence, never quite crossing into this world but never really separated either, as per our philosophy.

What I am saying is that we shouldn’t expect to see the Lord with our material eyes and understand Him with our material brains, and so we shouldn’t expect our faith to be backed up by empirical observations either. I hope that makes sense.

Ultimately, it’s not either science or religion – both can be simultaneously true, one as part of an illusion, the other as a superior energy and a superior state of existence. We should not think that if science is winning than Kṛṣṇa is losing, they are not related that way, it’s only the materialists who think so but why should we believe them?

Their reasoning is useless for us and they won’t take us closer to Kṛṣṇa. So what if THEY like to think that way? Good for them, we have our own views and values.

Vanity thought #915. Atheist studies

In continuation of yesterday’s post I must admit my train of thought has already sailed, only actual examples I wanted to talk about remain and so that’s what I will do today.

IIRC, yesterday I surmised that we should try to beat atheists at their own game, on the premise that what they appreciate in their quest is but a reflection of Kṛṣṇa – logic, honesty, rationality etc. We know that their method is limited and unsuitable for understanding the Absolute Truth but since that’s all they know and Kṛṣṇa’s greatness is unrivaled even in their limited fields it’s not an impossible task but rather a sensible and necessary approach until the moment they are ready to talk about God Himself.

I base this on a simple and brilliant corollary to the ontological argument – if you fully understand what God is, you must accept His existence (more about ontological argument here). The argument itself gives atheists creeps, once they realize how difficult it is to defeat it, and so this corollary is definitely not something they would agree with from the start, yet it is a natural evolution of thought and logic.

Their initial reaction is being dismissive, if you ask for a refutation of it in a public forum nine out of ten would just rant or propose half-baked answers that can’t stand scrutiny. One out of ten would agree that the problem is complex and propose a long-winded explanation meant more to confuse rather then clarify. This, btw, is one of their go to responses to any difficult question – they’ll send you on a wild goose chase with the promise that once you complete your education, learn all there’s to know about philosophy, physics, or biology, you’ll understand why they are right and you are wrong.

No one will accept existence of God simply on the strength of logic, as per ontological argument, which is what is expected by us because we know their opposition to God doesn’t come from knowledge or any other of the professed features of scientific method but from envy present in the heard of every conditioned soul. We can’t cure that by arguments but we can demonstrate their fallacy to them and let them decide what they want to do about God next.

Normally, we should avoid the atheists and preach to those who are favorably inclined towards God but these days atheism catches quite a few souls which otherwise should be “ours” and we need to reclaim them from māyā.

Anyway, examples. Bill Nye is on the post debate tour and on Saturday he appeared on Bill Maher show. Bill Maher is an avowed atheist himself who made a documentary called Religulous a few years ago where he made as much fun about religion as he possibly could. He is also one of those atheists who just can’t shut up about God, which is a trait that needs to be discussed separately.

So, Bill Nye made a guest appearance and he said that he developed a certain amount of respect for Ken Ham (posts about the debate itself here), which surprised Maher quite a lot. Maher said he has respect for Ham’s bladder, in a sense that he respects his right to use a human bathroom, but not for his brain, convictions, intelligence etc. They had an earlier encounter that wasn’t very pleasant, I understand. Nye, however, was very impressed by Ham’s dedication to to creationism. He thought that Ham was just a quack feeding on people’s ignorance but instead he saw an intelligent man who honestly believes in what he is saying and who is trying to make honest to god arguments in defense of his views. That’s progress on Nye the “science guy” part.

Well, not much of a progress overall but it shows that even die hard atheists have the ability to appreciate logic and reason instead of just boasting about it. Let me explain – Nye, with all his credentials, argues on the level of a third grader. He really appears to be mentally deficient, sticking to a couple of well rehearsed points and unable to comprehend any opposing arguments.

In this short dialogue between him and Maher, for example, he again mentioned that there are trees more than six thousand years old and that’s why Young Earth Creationism is wrong. “How do you know that these trees are that old”, asked Maher, and Nye animatedly explained that scientists drill the trunk with increment borers that can extract tree tissue where you can count the number of rings. That’s what we did in third grade, it’s not “science”, and Nye should have learned that YEC proponents have easy answers for this already. This particular third grader hasn’t done his homework, again. Perhaps there’s nothing more to his scientific presentation than his trademark bow tie after all.

First of all, they don’t bore six thousand year old trees. The tree Nye mentioned in the debate and, I believe, showed a slide of, has a trunk that is only a few hundred years old, it doesn’t have anything like six thousand rings. When they say that this tree is nine thousand years old they talk about its root system, not its trunk. Age of the root system was determined by carbon-dating.

Did Nye learn anything about this tree at all? What kind of science is that? He seems to be woefully ignorant for the “scientist” of his reputation and it’s Nye, not Ham who preys on people’s ignorance here.

Afaik, there aren’t any trees with ring count that is greater than YEC age of the Earth and this method isn’t exact as sometimes more than one ring and grow in a year, as YEC people say.

Now, this kind of logic is not going to convince atheists on the first try but but it will sow seeds of doubt. Is it fair – to bank on doubts rather then on straight up logic? Not really, but we have to remember that people’s fascination with atheism isn’t based so much on logic but on emotional attachment in the first place. Despite all their talk about reason and rationality it’s forceful presentation that attracts them most, and that’s why they respond to irrefutable arguments with cheap shots and empty declarations.

This you can try yourself – many of the atheists are incapable of maintaining a civil discussion and only a few will actually try and find proper, “scientific” answers to our questions. Among those only very few will be able to look at their answers critically, and among those there might be some who would admit that their answers can actually be totally wrong. Defeating these rare people might be impossible for us, with out limited knowledge of science, but we shouldn’t worry about such “failures” and instead think of people whose faith in “science” will be shaken along the way.

Ultimately, it’s impossible to prove existence of God, He is beyond the reach of our senses or our logic. The ceiling for this kind of inquiry into Absolute Truth is impersonal Brahman, we should remember this limitation and don’t overshoot. There’s also the fact that knowledge ultimately comes from the Supersoul and if someone doesn’t want to know God in any shape or form and wants to refute His existence no matter what the Supersoul will provide him with necessary arguments. If this is the case – who are we to go against Paramātma?

I have another example in mind but this post is getting long, it’s too late to start anything new, so I’ll stop here.

Vanity thought #908. Debate result – Nyether won

Hopefully drawing this to a conclusion (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4).

After the debate Ken Ham’s website published several articles on the response. In one they claim that total viewership might have reached 5 million people. In another they claimed that debate produced mixed reactions. Not entirely true. First claim is based on the assumption that people watched the broadcast in groups, which is hard to believe because that’s not how people watch videos on the internet. Second is also way off mark, even poll on Christian Today gives 92% to Bill Nye, though we don’t know whether it should be trusted. Everywhere else I looked myself the response was overwhelmingly against Ham and Your Earth Creationism.

Personally, I also voted for Bill Nye on that site because for all the good points Ham raised there’s too much to overcome. 6,000 years for the age of the universe, the flood story, it’s just too much to take in. This outcome was predictable and on the merits of the debate topic, validity of YEC, this should be the fair judgment but in a bigger picture Nye and evolutionists have been hurt a lot more than they will dare to admit.

Ham’s rebuttals to Nye’s facts are posted here, btw. They make for an interesting reading but are not entirely convincing. They are good arguments against evolution but not so much pro-YEC.

Before the debate atheists were concerned that it would give creationism free publicity which it doesn’t deserve, following Dawkins’ “it would look better on your resume than on mine” logic, but that is not what has hurt them in the end, it’s their own deficiencies that were exposed for all to see.

Science never looked so vulnerable in public and Nye did absolutely nothing to address Ham’s legitimate questions. People can and will disagree with creationism but that doesn’t stop them from asking the same questions to the science and seeing it shirking away and beating around the bush without addressing actual concerns.

To start with, Ham showed that creationists can do science and, in a broader sense, religion is not an obstacle to practicing science. Nye insisted, without showing any proof, that if we keep believing in God science will stop. He mentioned how scientists invented many things because they were unconstrained by the Bible and gave an example of Lois Pasteur. What he didn’t say is that Pasteur was a Christian and if not outright religious he was at least what is now called a “spiritual” person.

Ham, in response, showed the inventor of MRI machine who is a creationist. Nye didn’t even acknowledge that and people noticed. This went on for a while and Nye’s lack of recognition of the question became all too obvious. Religious people can’t practice science? The Big Bang Theory was the work of an ordained priest!

So Nye became the “Science Guy” who lives in denial.

Another obvious flaw in Nye’s performance was politicization of his argument. Not once but over and over again he called on people to accept science to assure that US place in the modern world remains unchallenged. People noticed. This argument might have some basis on the phalena paricīyate, judge the process by the results principle and the US is indisputable world leader and the sole superpower but there are inherent weaknesses in taking the debate into that area.

First of all, US as it is today wasn’t build exclusively by atheists, one might even argue that its core strengths are based on religious, specifically protestant values.

Secondly, Nye has compromised his entire method by tying it up to worldly success. We have to accept “science” not because its right but because of its might. What will he say when Chinese overtake the Americans?

What about other countries that might look at the world around them and decide that their interests are best served by strengthening Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism? What if they see strong, common religion as a guarantor of social cohesion and subsequent economic performance? Look at Japan, for example, they are not secular people and they understand that the strength of their nation comes from gods down through their emperor. What about Chinese? They might not have God per se and so look ostensibly secular but at the same time they are so deeply superstitious it’s silly to think of them as atheists.

Another point where Nye exposed himself as rather ignorant was his continuous labeling of the Bible as unreliable source because it’s in American English and it went through so many translations that it resembles the game Nye played as child called “broken telephone”, iirc.

This is a stupid accusation to make. Among all western literature the Bible is the best researched and the best documented book ever. He implied that no one has ever read the Bible in the original language or that no one has ever looked at how the original language was preserved trough the ages but he is just plain wrong. Oldest extant manuscripts are from two hundreds years before Christ and the books themselves are dated, by “scientists”, almost a thousand years BCE and those scientists CAN read them and compare with the modern, American English version.

Maybe Nye, as a “science guy”, can go back and revise his arguments but shouldn’t he have come prepared and researched his own attack points? Did no one ever looked at his debate notes and told him he was way off mark there? People can forgive such sloppiness in creationists because no one expects them to be logical and reasonable but Ham didn’t make such silly mistakes at all, Nye did.

Another point that Nye didn’t or couldn’t address was the accusation of hijacking the term science and his refusal to admit the difference between “observational” and “historical” science. This distinction itself might be somewhat artificial but Nye’s alternative was plain wrong – he completely purged “interpretation” from scientific process. He might not have said so directly but all “science” proponents after this debate confuse scientific theories with natural laws. They insist only on one correct answer to every question and refuse to admit differences of opinions and existence in differences of interpretations.

Ham talked about it a lot, scientists completely ignored it and took an extremely opposite position, which is untenable and obviously wrong in the eyes of any honest observer.

These are some of the points that undermined Nye’s side of the story but we, as devotees, should give a lot of praise to Ken Ham, too, who scored some major points on his own.

He openly stated that the scripture should be taken as a superior pramāna because it was recored by people who were there, notably God Himself. I don’t think it was taken seriously and I don’t think the full weight of this argument sank in but it’s a huge step forward in challenging scientific materialism.

To the joy of all Christians worldwide Ham presented Gospel truth on four occasions (they were counting). They see it as worth all the defeats in polls, as should we when we evaluate results of our preaching. Hearing the name of Kṛṣṇa is more important than making arguments because it liberates the soul, not just clarifies material minds.

When it was question and answer time Ham answered many of them with “We have a book”, a brilliant response that people on the other side didn’t appreciate at all but which goes at the heart of the scientific inquiry – the knowledge is already there, in God, we just have to accept it into our hearts and minds.

To be fair to Nye, he very convincingly explained joy and excitement that comes from scientific discoveries. It’s undeniable, we all know how it feels, but what he didn’t notice, again, is that our discoveries of Lord’s greatness are no less inspiring. He, again, hijacked the term.

From our point of view scientists discover wonders of the external energy of the Lord and so their wonderment is legitimate even if they don’t admit connection with God. We don’t mind, we just know that there’s more to discovery of Lord’s nature than that. On top of things being wonderful, which we can feel no less intense than materialists, we can also have goosebumps when we realize that those wonders are caused by Kṛṣṇa.

After all, there’s nothing in this world that is not part of the Absolute Truth, which is the correct, paramahaṃsa vision of the reality we should all attain sooner or later.

And with this I hope to put this debate to rest and never mention it again. Enough is enough.

Vanity thought #907. Veggie lions and Ham

There was one interesting idea presented by Ken Ham in this debate I’ve been writing about (1,2,3) and it was about vegetarianism. Usually, it’s one of our main issues with Christians – for all their talk about unparalleled love they can’t include animals into their circle. When it’s time to eat love transforms into rare, medium, or well-done. I don’t know if Ken himself is a vegetarian and I don’t think he promoted vegetarian lifestyle but his point was important nevertheless.

He insisted that in the Kingdom of God all animals were vegetarian.

That immediately jolted Bill Nye into action and his fans haven’t stopped since. I won’t be surprised that there’s a vegetarian lion meme out there already.

On the surface, argument Bill Nye gave was simple – look at lion’s teeth, they are not meant for munching on grass, they are teeth of a carnivore. Ken Ham wasn’t rattled in the least and went into a counterattack. He gave example of bears whose teeth are similar to those of lions but their primary diet is vegetarian. He also mentioned Australian fruit bat which looks like one scary vampire monster but eats only fruit:

vampire

He capitalized on the assumption that sharp teeth indicate meat eaters and that it is only an assumption, and that it again boils down to the question of interpretation. Data is the same, observations are the same, logic is the same, instruments are the same, only our interpretations are different. Very Krishna conscious argument, IMO.

Sadly, it didn’t register and critics still make fun of these veggie lions. Ken insists that according to the Bible there was no killing in Eden and there was no killing for food before flood either. All animals and humans lived in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, after the flood there was a specific permission given to consume meat and nothing can stop Christians since then.

Whatever, I like the idea of vegetarian lions on Vaikuṇṭha even though I suspect it might not be actually so. Does Lord Rāmacandra hunt in the spiritual world? I won’t be surprised if He does even if He can’t possibly be exiled into the forest there. As a kṣatriya He must have outlets to display His prowess and so there must be some fighting and probably some killing, too.

This makes me think – what if some devotees serve the Lord in the mood of His “enemies”, as playmates who are very happy to lose in the mock up battles? It’s not as outrageous as it appears at first – Krishna Himself likes to play with his friends and there are winners and losers in their games. They are only children, of course, but why should we rule out that adult forms of the Lord engage in a pretty serious combat and there are devotees who are more than happy to “die” at His hands?

Without material attachments to their bodies there’s no sense of death there and there’s no death because their spiritual bodies cannot be killed but the mood is there, the mood of surrendering to the superior power of the Lord. Why not? If that what makes the Lord happy – why can’t we “die” for Him?

If we accept such possibility then from here there’s only one step to dying at the hands of Lord’s devotees while they prepare to battle with the Lord Himself. It’s reasonable to expect that Lord’s opponents in the battles get their training the usual way – by practicing combat and hunting. If that’s what they need to master their fighting skills then why shouldn’t there be servants who help them by losing them in training? One could say – oh, it’s just training, but real training requires real challenges and so it’s possible that there are servants of the servants of the servants there who are eager to die if that ultimately leads to Lord’s pleasure.

Okay, this might account for hunting and combat, not for carnivorous animals, but who says that animals in the spiritual world can’t challenge the Lord to combat, too? I think it’s quite possible that the Lord has to kill lions with His bare hands as some kind of passage into adulthood ceremony like they did in Sparta. Lions need practice fighting and killing, too, so they might practice catching spiritual zebras.

Thinking of it this way, I don’t see the necessity for vegetarianism in the spiritual world. No one really dies there anyway, it’s just one possible mood of service – giving your life for the pleasure of the Lord.

Maybe Kṛṣṇa doesn’t engage in such pastimes but other forms of the Lord might. After all, if it exists here it must exist there, too, albeit in a pure spiritual form that is not contaminated by attachments or desire for self-defense. I mean the spiritual world wouldn’t be perfect if we had something here that they don’t have over there, especially moods of service.

Or maybe if the Lord desires to engage in combat He simply comes down here and tears apart Hiraṇyakaśipu or any designated demon. Six Gosvāmīs didn’t write about these particular rasas and, in fact, devotional service by definition is favorable, not inimical to the Lord. Yet what if the Lord is a kṣatriya?

Well, these speculations can be endless, and so, apparently, my coverage of this darned debate. What did I learn today? That there could be full representation of the entire animal kingdom in the spiritual world but these animals don’t need to kill each other to survive, yet if killing serves the pleasure of the Lord then it could be possible. Same goes for human devotees there, too, and it all stems from non-attachment to one’s body and impossibility of being actually killed.

I’ve also reminded myself that spiritual world must be better than material universe in each and every aspect so whatever we have here must be present there, too, but not in the form of things, in the form of moods of service. Not bad for one day, I think, and I still haven’t finished with this debate.

Vanity thought #906. Ham’s circle

This could be the last post on Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate that I have been preoccupied with this week (links to: part 1 and part 2). My memory of the details is fading, I can’t stand their voices anymore to watch replays and I think I said almost all I had to say anyway.

There was one part of Ken Ham’s presentation that made me appreciate the overall Bible story more than ever. Of course it won’t make me into a Christian and most of it is just silly – God created the universe with all life in it in six days, the snake and the apple, original sin, Christ as the only savior and resurrection of the dead bodies is just too much to swallow or even take seriously. Ham, however, takes it all rather literally, the story of the flood, the building of the Ark, and 6,000 year old universe, all of it.

Bill Nye repeatedly told him that there are millions of Christians out there who do not believe in YEC, Young Earth Creation, but it didn’t stop Ham even for a second. He wasn’t afraid to bring it out in the open – they might call themselves Christians but if they don’t believe the word of the Bible it’s a question of their faith, not of his theory. I quite like his honesty here. Instead of defending fellow believers he defended the word of God.

Anyway, this the story of creation as presented by Ken Ham:

circleOfLifeExplained

This might be too “complete” to comprehend, with a typical mnemonic “Seven Cs” title that is supposed to make it easier to remember and big arrows showing correlations that might be fascinating to Christians but of not much importance to us. Here’s the simpler version:

circleOfLife

Let’s walk through it as it might overlay Vedic explanation of what has really happened.

Creation in that picture is our Vaikuṇṭha – life was perfect, there was no suffering, and even animals were vegetarians (big point, will address later).

Corruption is biting an apple in their version and we don’t have an exact equivalent of it because in our “origin of jīva” issue exact circumstances still remain a mystery, not to mention that some believe there was no falldown at all.

Catastrophe is their flood, some kind of punishment for whatever reasons that doesn’t really make sense. We have periodical destructions between yugas and mahā yugas so that flood is probably a real thing without any particular significance and we wouldn’t have put it on our version of this chart.

Confusion is their pre-Christ period when slowly but steadily humanity degraded and lost the way. For us it’s probably Kali Yuga and the time when India was overrun by Buddhists and Vedas lost their position as the only source of spiritual knowledge. Even impersonalists followers of Śańkara didn’t add much clarity.

Christ is Christ, the only opportunity of redemption and salvation. We have Lord Caitanya but really any guru in the proper paramparā is your personal Christ, besides, we don’t need a single point of salvation, our spiritual progress is spread over millions and millions of lifetimes, we are not tied to one particular point in history, we just get placed wherever we are supposed to be.

Cross is redemption itself, conveniently carried out by Son of God on behalf of the entire humanity for thousands years to come. That’s just initiation and surrender, ahaḿ tvāḿ sarva-pāpebhyo moment. Important but, again, not a singular point for everyone for all times. Maybe we can compare it to the appearance of Lord Caitanya but Holy Name was as no less powerful before Him either, Kṛṣṇa has never left a single conditioned soul without means of attaining Him, even if with slower methods like performing our varṇāśrama duties.

Human birth as a follower of Lord Caitanya is extremely beneficial but that doesn’t mean everyone else before Him went to hell forever and ever, that’s just absurdity of Christian world view that will always puzzle us. Bill Nye pointed it out, too – what of people who lived their lives, were religious according to their traditions, but died without ever hearing about Jesus? Why do they have to go to hell for all eternity? Why don’t they get a chance of salvation?

Consummation is our return to the spiritual world, happens after we die, though we can achieve liberation and direct service to Kṛṣṇa even while in our present bodies, no need to explain a lot here.

Now, I titled this article “Ham’s circle” – it isn’t a circle, it’s a semi-circle, a one time deviation forced on all human beings and poor animals, too, for the crime committed by Adam and Eve, the original sin. Even arrows in the complete version of the same diagram go in one direction. It isn’t a circle in our model either, we reach the abode from where we do not have to return, yad gatvā na nivartante (BG 15.6), so why circle?

Because our independence is eternal and so potential for turning away from the Lord and seeking independent enjoyment is always there. We did it once, we might do it again. We don’t have to, we will not be forced to – a point that followers of “no falldown” theory can’t seem to comprehend. Considering eternity of our souls we should make innumerable number of trips down here, get saved by the Lord, say sorry, and then do it again, quite a familiar pattern of behavior in this world as it is.

So, their map of history is not that far from ours and this suggests that we all receive the same spiritual knowledge from the same source but details are slightly different. It wouldn’t be very difficult to straighten up Christianity and bring it in total agreement with the Vedas if we wanted to. Śrila Prabhupāda explained how we are not that different and gave us pointers how our views can be reconciled but Christians are not that interested in reconciliation. Their loss, we tried, they aren’t forgotten by the Lord anyway, they’ll get more births and get saved in the end if that’s what they want, or they might get stuck here forever trying to find a perfect equilibrium between sense enjoyment and religiosity like what happens with the demigods.

The driving force, or rather driving forces, and general vectors of our spiritual progress are perfectly compatible, something I didn’t think too much of before but thanks to Ken Ham I see Christians in a more favorable way now.

Well, I thought it would be the last post on this debate but there are some interesting points still left on my list and I’ll have to address them later. This will do for today.

Vanity thought #905. Slaughtered Ham

Yesterday’s post on Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate is here. The background, the debate format and the format in which I write about it are all discussed in that yesterday’s post.

So, in his five minute initial presentation Ken Ham talked about hijacking of the term science, which is an argument we can subscribe to, too. Modern science came to mean “naturalism”, meaning excluding all supernatural phenomena from consideration as bogus, meaning that God does not exist and cannot exist as an axiom. I wish Ham explored that aspect a bit further but he didn’t, it wasn’t the topic of the debate anyway.

What Ham focused on instead is difference between “observational” science and “historical” science. In Nye’s opening statement he denied that there’s such distinction in science but when Ham took the microphone again he presented a quote from a school textbook describing exactly that in exact same terms. Black eye for Nye, right?

Not really, the distinction Ham based all his presentation on is somewhat artificial. As Nye pointed out, all science is historical because all we can observe are clues left from the past, sometimes very close to us and sometimes removed millions of years away. We always interpret something we can’t see anymore, we are always external to the processes we study and we always have some intermediaries between us and the objects of our studies – instruments, senses, recording devices etc.

The difference Ham perceives between historical and observational science is the difference of confidence, difference of the amount of evidence, and only in the last place the fact that we weren’t there when things happened. No one was inside Hadron Collider when Higgs boson was caught, no was was anywhere near atomic explosions either. Are those examples of historical or observational science? This distinction doesn’t always make sense.

The rest of the presentation was on the points I discussed yesterday – there’s no difference between evolutionists and creationists, they all use the same methods, the same data, they just interpret it differently. Nye ignored that completely, even specific questions directed to him that were illustrated with slides.

Additionally, Ham presented predictions based on creationism, for some reason it also went straight past Nye. He could have challenged those predictions as trivial but instead, later in the debate, he kept asking for examples of such predictions, again and again even though they were listed on a screen by Ham.

Maybe the reason was that Ham made Bible based predictions about things that have already happened, like life coming from life or development of species form “kinds”. By the time Bible was recorded all kinds of dog breeds were already there, life had already came from life, intelligence already came from intelligence so they weren’t predictions in a true sense.

We can easily agree with Ham’s ideas some of which are almost word for word what he heard from Śrila Prabhupāda, and evolutionary orchard instead of evolutionary tree is a very interesting proposition that can help us understand how the entire universe is populated by only eight million plus species as said in the Vedas when there are tens of millions of species documented only on Earth.

Then there was Bill Nye’s turn to give a thirty minute presentation on validity of Young Earth Creationism and he just blew it away, predictably. At one point Bill exclaimed that there are trees which are older than Ham’s universe. 6,000 years, seriously? For all the claims against modern science there are limits to how much of it you can deny.

Even in Kṛṣṇa consciousness we can’t deny that pratyakṣa, direct experiences or nyāya, logic have a place in uncovering the truth, even Absolute Truth. Kṛṣṇa can easily override laws of nature but we can usually trust Him that laws of nature will stay in place and that our perception does reflect reality even if it’s actually illusion. Even if living under illusion we are still told to use our material nature to help in our spiritual progress.

Nye gave a couple of examples that are simply impossible for Ham to explain from YEC point of view. 680,000 seasonal layers in Antarctic ice, for example, could not have formed in four thousand years since flood. Not even four thousand years because we’ve been collecting observations about Earth for some two thousands of years already. We’ve never had 170 seasons a year that are needed to produce all the ice layers. It just doesn’t compute.

How did kangaroos hop over from Mt Ararat where Noah parked his ark to Australia without leaving any trace of their journey? How could they hop over the sea that separated Australia from Eurasia? Land bridge? If it was there only four thousand years ago – where did it disappear? No trace either.

Even Ham’s orchard theory of developing species from “kinds” created by God and saved on Noah’s ark doesn’t compute in his time frame. I don’t want to search the video for exact numbers but it was something like eleven new species need to appear EVERY day on average. Of course it doesn’t happen on average and we haven’t seen new species developed in the past two-three thousand years of recorded history so they all had to develop in a very very short period of time, and not by God by through regular mating and through evolution as accepted by YEC. Simply not possible.

There were some blunders in Nye’s presentation, too. He claimed that Noah’s ark couldn’t have been built because wooden ships of that size do not behave well at sea, that they twist in all possible ways and that they leak. It has been tried, he said, and he showed a slide with biggest ships in the world including the biggest wooden ship that sank shorty after being put to sea. Turned out that there are techniques that deal with this problem and that they have been tried and that in the very museum the debate took place there’s a model of Ark that demonstrates this very solution. Oops.

Still it was a massive ark and Noah built it all by himself, helped maybe by his wife and family, seven people altogether. That still doesn’t compute.

Having said that, no one seriously expected Ban Ham to prove that the Earth and the universe are indeed only six thousand years old. Maybe his fellow creationists did but as for everyone else – it’s a non-starter. What they can learn, and what we, as devotees, can look for in this debate, are questions about the limitations of the science itself. We know what they are but scientists refuse to admit them and it was a great opportunity to expose them to the general public.

Then there’s the idea of revelation that we and the creationists both agree on but it’s a no-no for scientists. Śrila Prabhupāda made it the central point of learning about the nature of the Absolute Truth and the only way to discover the nature of the Absolute Truth but it’s still a tall order for us. Ken Ham wasn’t afraid to push it publicly, though, and this could be the topic for the next part in my coverage of this debate.

Vanity thought #904. Nye-Ham debate

Last night interwebs were swamped with news about this historical debate between “science guy” Bill Nye and a leader of Young Earth Creationism movement Ken Ham. There’s probably a lot more to be said about these men as an introduction but this will do for our purposes. I’m not a big debate watcher but this one was hard to dismiss the way it was promoted. I don’t know if it was a debate of the century but it was easily the debate of the year, given it’s only beginning of February.

What made this debate so important is that big “scientists” don’t debate “creationists” anymore. They publicly sworn off it and Bill Nye was warned that it was probably not a good idea. Their reason is that debating creationists would only elevate their status as that of equal to science at least in some respects, so everyone’s eyes were on how it would go. At one point there were 750,000 people watching it online and total audience could reach a million in the future. It’s almost three hours long but the first fifteen minutes can be safely skipped, there’s nothing there at all.

Being so long, there is a lot of information to process and it’s just beyond my abilities to summarize it properly in this post. I don’t think it is worth it anyway, I’m not writing a book or a comprehensive critique, as devotees we are more interested in specific points more than in overall view on either creationism or science. I’ll just go through it “play by play” as I listen to it again in the background.

Format of the debate wasn’t actually conducive to debating – there were five minute opening statements followed by detailed half an hour presentations, then two rebuttals, and then questions from the audience. There were no questions between debaters themselves so while they *were* on the same stage they didn’t talk to each other but rather replied to faceless people from the crowd.

Let’s start.

Opening statements were pre-recorded, so to speak, both debaters simply read them from the memory as they went through the slides to illustrate their points. This was unfair to Bill Nye The Science Guy because he went second but had to repeat points that Ken Ham had already identified as Nye’s weaknesses. That went on for a while, though, and Bill Nye never acknowledged that he was simply ignoring his opponents’ very reasonable argument. In fact, ignoring each other became the motif for the whole evening.

The thing that Ham tried to drill through right from the start and that went straight past Nye is that creationists can do science, too. There were videos of creationist scientists presenting themselves, there were lists of their accomplishments, they were repeated over and over again, yet nothing registered and Nye kept insisting that without “real scientists” there’d be no medicine, no cellphones and even no food on our tables. One point that Ham didn’t use here is that up until about a hundred years ago practically ALL scientists were creationists and for hundreds if not thousands of years religion and science were inseparable.

Another point Ham made in his opening statement that the word science has been hijacked by “naturalists” and Nye only confirmed it by dismissing presence of any reason or logic or scientific method in the work of his opponents. At one point Ham stressed that creationists observe the same data and use the same analytical and experimental methods but only come up with different interpretations. He looked at the same pictures of the Grand Canyon and said he totally agreed with geologists’ description of all the strata of various rock layers and formations but he has different ideas about how to date them. This has led to a big debate over “historical” vs “observational” science that I don’t want to touch today.

Another less than appealing trait of Nye’s behavior in the debate was that he kept referring to Ham’s theory and Ham’s creationism. Ham has addressed it once, saying that he represents a big group of scientists and researchers, not to mention the Bible itself, but it didn’t stop Nye from continuing with this practice.

Thing is, Nye agreed to a debate with a *representative* of creationist point of view, he chose Ham because he was the best representative of that view, so when he started addressing Ham personally he went against debate’s premise that it should be science vs creationism, not science against Ham and not “Ham is a weirdo”. Minor point but I saw some people pick up on that so I thought I should mention it, too.

Ham, on the other hand, is a Young Earth Creationist. He might be “our” guy in terms of being a religious person but we disagree with Earth being only 6,000 years old. This is just silly, we have nothing against Bible per se and, on a closer look Genesis would make for a nice metaphorical story that we can find parallels with in the Vedas but 6,000 years for the age of the universe? He is interpreting it wrong. We can’t support his arguments in defense of that.

It was sad to see him slaughtered during Nye’s detailed presentation but there’s nothing we can do here.

Ham had other interesting points besides “historical” vs “observational” science and trying to disprove scientific evidence for billions and billions of years for our Earth but they were lost and drowned in defense of the indefensible and I can understand why Nye skipped them completely, too. Addressing those points what would have made this debate particularly interesting to us as devotees but it didn’t happen.

As devotees we would like to hear answers to questions about bias and censorship in science, we’d like to hear about alternative explanations, we’d like to hear about inconvenient facts, we’d like to hear about validity and limitations of the scientific method, we’d like to hear about origin of life and origin of consciousness, we’d like to hear about empirical methods and about searching for proof of the words in scriptures.

Why, for example, trying to find proof of evolution is better than trying to find proof that all species were created instead? At what point developing a theory morphs into proving it? Is it the point where two approaches, scientific and religious, become indistinguishable in their bias and in their methods?

None of that was addressed yesterday, unfortunately. As someone else pointed out – scientific method was given to us by philosophy so the debate here isn’t about science per se but about different philosophical approaches. None of the speakers was prepared to discuss it even though Ham touched on it briefly and Nye made it the cornerstone of his arguments.

This is something that worries me, too. Science isn’t so much about non-existence of God, as they often say now, science is a method, if God would fit better in their theories they’d accept Him, they aren’t atheists anymore, they are not against God as a matter of principle, they just don’t see God in the creation, or accept the notion of creation itself.

Last question from the audience was “What would make you change your mind” and Nye’s response was “evidence” while Ham’s was “nothing”. This is a lot more profound than it appears on the surface and it’s not so easy to address. Not today anyway, this article is getting way too long. I’ll continue tomorrow.