The Set Up — Or Why I’ve Gone Off on a Rant Today…
A friend of mine on Facebook actually posted the gravity waves from two black holes swallowing each other up some billion years ago were translated into sound as C major was proof of the Christian god and also proof of intelligent design. I almost made some sort of snide comment such as “Odin did an okay job, but if he really wanted to get our attention it should’ve belted out Beethoven’s 5th…” But I didn’t, mainly because I still value the friendship enough to not be my normally snide self. But I probably dinged the relationship a bit by calling bullshit. Yeah, that just happens if you know me.
Proof of Intelligent Design? Seriously?
Uh, does anyone really think that gravity waves making a “sound” is proof of a god, let alone the Christian god? I guess being an engineer too long has jaded me to the thought that there is some intelligent design going on here.
Apart from the great scientific discovery of gravity waves that were theorized by Albert Einstein, which lends credence to a whole bunch of scientific theories, it doesn’t do anything to prove or disprove a god. You and I could argue the case of who created the cosmos and what portion at what time, but the simple translation of gravity waves to sound waves isn’t really much proof. It proves that some electrical engineer, rightly or wrongly, when they hooked their machines up to the detector and decided to have it make a noise, came up with a scale for it to blip at. C major was just the note it was programmed to chirp. If it came up with a D or an A major, would it have been any less than a miracle?
This is what happens when you throw an engineer to look at what actually happened. I don’t pretend to be a physics geek (I have plenty of friends who are), but I do know that gravity waves and sound waves are different animals. And you can’t hear sound in space because it’s a vacuum. At some point, somebody has to map what the gravity wave means in a way that people can understand them. That would be like having a human look at the sun and call it “sun,” and then claim because the word “sun” means the bright thing up in the sky it means that a god created it. Yes, you can believe Sunna is the sun, but to state that something humans used to define it means that there is a god is ludicrous at best. Incidentally, my friend changed her post when I called her on it.
Faith Isn’t Facts
Sorry, kids, but just because you believe something that someone wrote down some umpty-ump years ago doesn’t make it fact. If we had long ago figured out that our sun was actually a star, we might have named her Stella. But the name is a human construct. Sunna, Sol, or Stella or whatever you want to call our closest star doesn’t matter–because it’s a human construct designed for us to have a reference for that big bright thing up in the sky that causes it to be daytime here. We needed a name so that we didn’t keep calling it “that big bright thing up in the sky that causes it to be daytime here.” Now, if you actually had a meeting with Sunna (and didn’t get burnt to a crisp) and had a UPG, assuming I didn’t think you’re psychotic, chances are you might actually have something that might be worth believing. But it still isn’t facts. You can choose to accept that the sun is a goddess (lots of people worship her, so why not?), but that’s faith and not science. Don’t expect me to take your word for it.
Odin Creating the World
So what about the Norse creation stories? I personally believe that these are metaphors for how our ancestors explained the world. Some people might quibble that our creation stories are more accurate than bible stories. Okay, they might be. They might not be. But I doubt seriously there was a gigantic cow licking the brine off a giant. I doubt Odin and his brothers slew Ymir and created the world with Ymir’s body. But I can kind of look at how things get recycled over time and wonder if there’s a metaphor there. We know our sun is at least a second or third generation star because of the heavier elements within it. We also know that the earth coalesced from debris that got pulled in due to the sun’s gravity but didn’t go into making the sun. So, is this Ymir’s “bones?” Yeah, it has to leave you wondering. More likely, we’re looking at these stories with the knowledge we have now and we’re trying to fit them all in the paradigm science created. Still, if you’re going to believe ancient writings, the Norse creation myths are certainly much more fun.
Did Odin create the Universe as we know it? We already know that in myth the constructs of the universe, the backbone, if you care to use that term, was already in existence, called the World Tree. While our own home may have been created by Odin, there’s a big question mark when it comes to nine worlds. Then, there’s the issue of the Norns and the Wyrd. We know according to myth that there is a very cold, cloudy realm and a fire realm, from which Odin and his bros created the world. Who created that? Why was it always in existence? Where did the cow come from?
So What Exactly IS the Rational Heathen?
So, now the fun part: trying to explain my beliefs and how the gods fit in. I’ve already explained I think that the gods are more metaphors than physical beings. That they are constructs we use to wrap our brains around what the universe is doing. They are part of the universe as much as we are. I suspect Odin encompasses creative energy, whether it’s the formation of the solar system and the earth, or whether it’s a book you just finished. He’s good and bad creative energy. Tyr is laws, whether it is physical laws or laws created by humans. Thor is the god of thunder, but also the protector of humans. He is the one who keeps the frost giants in check. Freyr and Freyja are more “personal” yet, with life, growth, and yes, sexuality. Frigga is the goddess of the home. Skadi and Ullr, the goddess and god of winter and the hunt. The frost giants are the embodiment of those things that harm humans. Loki is the god of chaos, including creative chaos. I look at him as a god that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but often causes trouble, whether intended or not.
My point is that it’s okay to believe in the gods as long as you have a firm understanding what science
is, and that science doesn’t prove faith. Science proves facts. Faith is a belief in something which often cannot be proven. Science cannot prove a negative, although it can point out the probability of the thing not happening. That’s why many scientists are at least agnostic, if not atheists. It’s hard to believe in a god or gods when you just can’t measure them or use the scientific method to study them. That’s why I often call myself an agnostic heathen, or even a heathen deist, although I’m pretty sure that Tyr and a number of the other gods do indeed exist. But their forms often aren’t forms we normally consider gods, but everyday things. How often have you looked and saw ravens and thought about Odin? How often have you seen lightning and thought about Thor? These are how the gods relate to us day-to-day. And that, my friends, is the magic.
So, when we look at scientific discoveries, no matter what faith we are, it’s great to marvel at the universe and even think about the god or gods that made it happen. But don’t point at the natural phenomena as proof your god exists. Or my gods exist. That’s just silly, and you need to step back and think about what you believe and whether you’re comfortable with your belief, even if you have no scientific proof that your belief is fact.