Thursday, April 02, 2009

Rising from the dead

In 1984 when I worked at JPL I was given an "Otrona Attache." The Multimission Image Processing Lab (MIPL) building had just been wired with coax for a "network" (that wasn't completed by the time I left).

I'm sure by now that the coax has either been ripped from the walls, or is unused. The Otrona Attache will never "come back from the dead." But that's only a metaphor, as the device itself was never "alive" to begin with, its "life" only being measured in motion and utility, a mere metaphor. When it ceases to move, to have any usefulness, it's metaphoric "life" is over. Dustbin time.

It strikes me how much this parallels the view of human life as being nothing more than a biological machine, a machine without a soul; a machine that is dead when it doesn't move, and a machine that can be considered dead when it has no more utility. a machine that can be destroyed under myriad circumstances; but once gone, is gone.

Our vast array of junked machines do not turn themselves back on and work as good as new after being destroyed. While I would love to see my old 1967 Austin Healey back in the driveway with 0 miles on the odometer, pristine and new, the machines just don't do that and we don't pretend that they do.

Likewise, "reason" and experience indicates the same understanding of the biological machine, a thought that has gained the ascendency in the popular imagination; a machine that is used and is gone for good. They don't come back from the grave. So if it is reported to have happened, even once, it is dismissed as false, not because the evidence is lacking, but because since it is believed a priori that it cannot happen, it didn't because it is outside the realm of possibilities the modern mind will accept.

This is the corner the materialist has painted himself into. To be a materialist, contrary to popular miss-use of the term, is to believe only in the material, to deny the existence of the immaterial, first among which are God and the immortal soul. The materialist and skeptic have always been around, refusing to believe without a "proof" attainable to the senses, and refusing to believe even when it is provided. Jesus has certainly told us of them:

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." He said to them in reply, "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Mt 12:38-40

The modern skeptic usually fails to consider that in a court of law, the testimony of reliable witnesses is the “proof” which is enough to prove a material fact beyond a reasonable doubt. The modern skeptic demands proof beyond an unreasonable doubt because he has made up his mind already and no amount of evidence will persuade him to change it. In a courtroom, the defense, prosecution, and judge will dismiss him from jury duty because he is hopelessly prejudiced; one cannot sit in judgment of what they do not know when they think they already know what they do not know.

There is only one sign for our skeptic; it is a narrow doorway to life, to the fundamental thing that the heart of man desires, and never attains with satisfaction; Love. As St. Augustine put it, "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You."

Those who stand outside, please examine the testimony. Contrast it to the testimony of what you already believe. Perhaps you believe that life exists on other planets and that faster than light space travel is possible and even is going on somewhere in the universe; what does this represent but hope, rather than a belief based on testimony? The testimony of reliable witnesses regarding spaceflight (the discipline of physics), in fact, indicates the opposite. Perhaps you believe that Reiki does channel energies that can 'cure' your health problems. You have accepted the testimony of the Reiki boosters, and dismissed the testimony of the "scientists" who demand objective and verifiable facts, and do not find them.

My point is, that we become a maze of contradictory beliefs, all cobbled together on the most shaky of evidence, rather than selected because evidence indicates truth, but that what is offered somehow appeals to us and we "like it." Yet, when it comes to the case of the Christian Thing, all of a sudden, rules are applied which are not applied elsewhere. "But this is too important!" it is objected, not to apply a more stringent rule. Ah, that is indeed an intelligent thing to do when the stakes are high, but to then fail to do so, to dismiss out of hand the evidence, is not intelligent at all. This is too important for that.

The thing I find odd, is of all the goofy things that we as goofy people are prone to believe, the idea that an all-powerful God could and did raise a dead man from the grave, seems, well, not that big a deal. Perhaps it's because to enter the narrow door means new life; and that means change. The platitude “change is good,” it is often parroted, but it always comes with the implied caveat “you first.”


  1. Good stuff, Mark, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, despite the late hour. It is true what you say that we don't believe because we imagine we 'know' what we don't really know, despite convincing evidence to the contrary.

    My Google word for the day is that 'if there were no God there would be no atheists'.