Finding God at the Plantation Gardens
August 11, 2008
When you're done gawking at Ithaca weidos, (see post)should that be your inclination, then you must scoot over to the Cornell Plantations and take in the gardens. There really is something for everyone in Ithaca.
Stroll around and you‘ll think you‘re in one of those trademark new system paradise pictures straight from the Watchtower magazine. You half expect to see incompatible animals…..a moose, a lion, and so forth, with a young child somewhere cuddling one of them. Readers of Witness publications know exactly such pictures. They are paradise pictures, envisioning the earth as it will benefit by Kingdom rule, when those original Eden boundaries have been pushed globally, and the planet becomes what God meant it to be.
It’s not just the park-like setting of Cornell Plantations (under the umbrella of Cornell University). It’s the carefully tended variety, with every mix of color, form, and texture. Specialty gardens of every plant you can think of. Diverse and beautiful terrain with wetlands, gorges, glens, meadows, bogs, old-growth forests. And waterfalls. No Watchtower paradise picture is complete without a waterfall.
And you might, just might, in such a setting of tranquil beauty, come to wonder at contemporary wisdom which holds that it all sprang up on its own, through accident upon accident upon accident…each against million to one odds, and culled through natural selection. Orangutan armies banging forever at those typewriters.If there’s any chance we may see through such educated nonsense, it will happen while strolling the Cornell Plantations.
Okay, okay, you don’t even have to hold to the Witness view that God created each “according to its kind”….an unspecific word….allowing for “animal husbandry” variations within each kind, but always the boundaries between kinds intact. For purposes of this post only, you can, if you insist, take the milquetoast view that evolution is the tool God built into the first organism. (I mean, if you’re going to acknowledge that God did it, then why not acknowledge he did it the way he said he did?) Still, the milquetoast view does put God as the designer, and that will do for this post.
To think life all sprang into being on its own, however, with no intelligence behind it, no design…..well, maybe in such soothingly beautiful natural surroundings, you just won’t think it. You might easily think it at the mall, or the office, or while watching TV, but at the plantation gardens maybe you won’t think it. Instead, you may be struck by the seemingly obvious logic of Hebrews 3:4
Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God. Heb 3:4
I batted around with Moristotleonce the notion that atheism, so common today, must have been extremely rare in olden times. My noble sparring partner didn’t agree, of course, and threw a boatload of ancient Greek atheists at me, but upon inspection, only two appeared to be genuine atheists, and one of those two was such a sicko that he was subsequently withdrawn from consideration, or should have been. All the rest were more likely agnostics, and agnostics, then as now, are a dime a dozen.
For the thinking reflected in Heb 3:4 above is so self-evident that it must have taken much time to construct the mental gymnastics so as to get around it. Not merely to disagree with it, but to come to think of it as a foolish and naïve sentiment unfit for the modern sophisticated mind. Disbelief in God or gods is not really possible until you get around the seemingly self-evident notion that things showing evidence of design must have a designer. Of course, I’m aware that modern thinkers have learned to do it handily, but it is a relatively recent accomplishment. At the vanguard of scientific thought 300 years ago was Isaac Newton. He was not able to do it. Newton wrote more about religion than math and science combined. Far from seeing any contradiction between those fields, he pursued his scientific discoveries with the aim of explaining how God operates….discovering exactly how he designed this or that. To greater or lesser extent, scientists of that era had, if not a personal god like Newton, at least a "creator" or "first cause" mentality.
As another example, when Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motions (they move in ellipses, not circles) and published his discoveries, he suddenly let loose with a paean to God, smack dab in the middle of his treatise. If you didn't know better, you'd think it was one of the Bible psalms. Would any scientist be caught dead doing such a thing today?
"The wisdom of the Lord is infinite; so also are His glory and His power. Ye heavens, sing His praises! Sun, moon, and planets glorify Him in your ineffable language! Celestial harmonies, all ye who comprehend His marvelous works, praise Him. And thou, my soul, praise thy Creator! It is by Him and in Him that all exists. that which we know best is comprised in Him, as well as in our vain science. To Him be praise, honor, and glory throughout eternity."
Does Kepler's praise not agree with Rev 4:11, and enable all to see where his heart and head were?
"You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created." Rev 4:11
The wise ones of the past might go so far as agnosticism, but no further, since they were not able to reconcile “design in nature” with “no designer.” Fed up with the hypocrisy of religion, many throughout the years worked toward the goal of explaining life in a manner that diminished God's role. Darwin was by no means the first person ever to propose evolution. His contribution was to suggest a plausible mechanism (natural selection) by which evolution could take place. Finally, a rationally explainable way to pull the rug out from under those abusive, self-righteous sellers of religion, who had for so long self-assumed first place in humanity’s hierarchy!
Yet even Darwin didn't pretend to solve the "first cause" issue. His book is "Origin of the Species," not "Origin of Life." That is, he deals with life’s organization, not its appearing in the first place, and did I not already grant permission to hold his evolution view (this post only) and still qualify for a “God designer” badge? It’s been thinkers subsequent to Darwin that have finally accomplished the atheistic nirvana of shutting God completely out of the picture.
I'm grateful that the religious outlooks of Newton, Galileo, Kepler and so forth are well documented. Were they not, I've no doubt today’s atheists would endeavor to count them all as blood brothers. They'd like us to believe that all scientists through the years have leaned atheistic, and it isn't so. Until relatively recently, outright atheism (in contrast with agnosticism) seems to have been an aberration.
Go down there to the Plantation Gardens, stroll the grounds, and it will all become clear.
**************************** The bookstore
I posted a quick response, if you have time to check it out.
Look forward to hearing from you,
Posted by: Ragoth | August 12, 2008 at 01:30 AM
Hey, Tom, good to return to Sheep and Goats and find it still functioning. I don't read blogs much, but I know where to go when I need an injection of something reliably different from almost anything I believe.
Paradise pictures tend to be religious kitsch, don't they? I commented on religious kitsch a few months back, in my post "Jesus Kitsch," at http://moristotle.blogspot.com/2008/02/jesus-kitsch.html .
Is your depiction of evolution as life forms "spr[inging] up on [their] own, through accident upon accident upon accident…each against million to one odds, and culled through natural selection" compatible with your allowing ("for this post only") that it might have been set in motion by God? Why is it laughable in the first mention, but palatable in the second?
From my own, admittedly limited (but growing) reading of evolutionary biology, I understand that the role of chance in "the origin of species" is not quite as you describe it. That is, it is nowhere near as much a matter of chance as you seem to think. I only wish I understood it better myself, so that I could explain it to you. Fortunately, I derive a sense of wonder from such reading that is similar to the wonder I derive from visiting lavish gardens, which means that my reading will continue to amaze and inform me...so long as I am able to read and be amazed, but I can see the handwriting on the wall that says I don't have many years (if even years) left for such enjoyment and learning.
Of course, our divergent responses to gardens (as to evolution and to the Bible) afford yet another example of the principle I stated in a reply comment to you on another post on my blog ("Treat all living creatures humanely," at http://moristotle.blogspot.com/2008/08/treat-all-living-creatures-humanely.html ): "[P]eople's fundamental belief or world view rules and determines what they will entertain as possible."
Good on you, Tom! May your possibles continue to enrich your life.
Posted by: Moristotle | August 14, 2008 at 01:15 PM
Tom, good morning. I think my point about "not so much a matter of chance" might be explained by my adding this: the changes that evolve over time are caused, and survival selects the ones that carry on to replicate again. Your difficulty may be in looking at the result (which is indeed truly marvelous) and trying to imagine the extremely long line of causes that led to it (over many, many, many years). From that perspective, the result does tend to look very improbable. But that is true of anything you can name, if you'll stop to think about it a moment. Every triviality of the present moment was arrived at through a line of causation going back, what?, twenty billion years?
By the way, one of Richard Dawkins's books is titled "Climbing Mount Improbable," which specifically addresses this point. (I haven't read it yet.) Wikipedia has an entry on the book (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climbing_Mount_Improbable ).
But you may not accept causation as necessary, of course. I sort of get the impression that you want things to be the way they are because of a free act of divinity. In any case, I don't suppose that you'd be interested in Dawkins's views on this any more than you'd be interested in any other of his views, except insofar as you might find points here and there at which you might take pot shots (and of course score points favoring your basic belief and world view). But that's fair, of course, according to the principle that rules us both.
Anyway, that's two more cents worth of consideration from the anti-Bible belt [smile].
Good on you.
Posted by: Moristotle | August 15, 2008 at 11:32 AM
Yes, I suppose paraise pictures could be seen as a little kitschsy. Though I'm not sure where such pictures occur other than our own publications. The idea of humans living forever on the earth made paradise is, as far as I know, unique to Jehovah's Witnesses.
As for, "why is it laughable in the first mention, but palatable in the second?"....it's actually laughable in the second, also. I mean, who am I to grant authority as to what any readers may believe?
But as for the mechanism of change driving evolution, did you really say "I only wish I understood it better myself, so that I could explain it to you."? Isn't that the state of mind you often attribute to religious people?
You did clarify that remark in your subsequent comment, but I don't think it cleared things up very much. "...the changes that evolve over time are caused," you pointed out. They are? Caused HOW or BY WHAT becomes the obvious question.
Frankly, it's news to me, and I don't quite trust it. I suspect it's Dawkins working diligently toward his desired end.
Errors is gene replication is the driving force of change, is the way it has always been explained. And "Typically, mistakes are made at a rate of only 1 in every ten billion bases incorporated," states the textbook (My wife is taking some courses in nursing) Microbiology. (Tortora, Funke, Case, 2004, pg 217) So such errors are not only extraordinarily unusual, but also only a similar infinitesimally tiny proportion of such errors are beneficial....that is, useful for evolution.
Get someone to work out the probabilities of that. It absolutely astounds me that people can nonetheless swallow it. Not only swallow it, but declare that failure to swallow it makes one a superstitious ignoramus.
I'm not really opposed to reading Dawkins, as I think I've said before. It's more a matter of being motivated enough to fit his lengthy material into the finite time available to me. And if I read some of his material, and still disagreed, I fear you would not let me rest until I'd read every word he's ever penned :) But I may get to some of it in time, and yes....I would probably come across points to take pot shots at.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | August 16, 2008 at 10:02 PM
Tom, it's late and I drank a bit more wine than I usually do when I drink wine at all (we had our new next-door neighbors over for dinner), and I just learned that Gary was taken off life support last night, so I will only say now that my not being up to the task of explaining something to you (while I was writing my first comment) is not a "state of mind," but simply a fact about my own limitations (at the time; I was able to think of that other thing later--though you seem to be in need of yet more explanation [grin]).
I really don't get your reference to "the state of mind [I] often attribute to religious people." At the moment anyway, I can't connect it with anything at all I've said, let alone often. Honestly, I'm at a loss to know what you're trying to say. Tell me more about this "state of mind" thing, if you would.
Sorry I can't continue this tonight.
Good on you, Tom.
Posted by: Moristotle | August 16, 2008 at 11:06 PM
Usually the state of mind attributed to religious people is that they believe something [God]citly although the are not able to explain it, or even understand it. "Superstition" is the charge generally made.
Very sorry to hear about your friend, Moristotle.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | August 17, 2008 at 07:56 AM
Thanks, Tom, for your condolences.
Ah, I see, you were saying that I can't explain or understand evolution, so I seem to be no less religous than "religious people" in believing it is true. Very nice! You are good, Tom, and more good on you.
I'm not ready yet to say anything. Being only a freshman, or novice student of evolution, I need to review my notes, so to speak.
Of course, if you really are looking for an explanation (and not just debating), you'd serve yourself better by engaging with a professional expert in the field rather than idling away your time with this poor amateur.
But is the door actually open to the possibility that an expert could provide an explanation capable of ending your Bible belief and synchronizing you with modern understanding?
And am I open to being persuaded by a confrontation with divinity that it exists and has me in mind?
Posted by: Moristotle | August 17, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Yet another thing Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness share, a tendency towards kitschy art. http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images?p=book+of+mormon+art&ei=UTF-8&fr=slv8-hptb&fr2=tab-web&xargs=0&pstart=1&b=19&ni=18
Posted by: NateDredge | September 04, 2008 at 09:47 PM
Yes, very fine, Nate. Worthy entries, all of them. However for sheer kids-petting-animals pictures, we have you guys beat on any day of the week.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | September 05, 2008 at 11:15 AM