On spiders, purpose and God.I recently came across an essay that captured in two sentences the capacity of natural science to let us observe without requiring that we actually see. The work in question was originally published in a U.S. literary magazine, and reprinted in the 1996 edition of the Best American Essays series. Its topic is black widow spiders black widow spider
poisonous spider; consumes her mate after mating. [Zoology: NCE, 308]
See : Deadliness .
With a perceptive naturalist's eye, and an elegant writer's touch, essayist Gordon Grice details the existence of these skin-crawling creatures, debunks myths about them, and satisfies our wonder at his life-long fascination with them.
Then, alas, Grice comes to his conclusion. He contends that because the quantity and toxicity of venom in the black widow's tiny body far exceeds anything biology requires, belief in a loving creator God is impossible.
"No idea of the cosmos of elegant design accounts for the widow," he writes. "No idea of a benevolent God is comfortable in a world with the widow."
There lies the executive summary of the materialist dogma that has driven most science, and much popular culture, for two centuries. It replaces the primitive habit of worshipping gods in volcanoes with the modern superstition of venerating ven·er·ate
tr.v. ven·er·at·ed, ven·er·at·ing, ven·er·ates
To regard with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference. See Synonyms at revere1. nature as a perfect balance sheet. When the debits and credits fail to add up, the inexplicable error is always deducted from God.
A simple act of substitution shows the blind folly of such belief. If a surplus of arachnid arachnid (ərăk`nĭd), mainly terrestrial arthropod of the class Arachnida, including the spider, scorpion, mite and tick, harvestman (daddy longlegs), and a few minor groups. poison prevents the possibility of God in nature, then so must a surplus of positive things in human nature. Millennia of "surplus" poetry, music, painting, beauty, faith, hope and charity
v. t. 1. To argue against; to cast doubt on; - used in reference to facts which tend to disprove a hypothesis; as, the absence of a correlation of budget deficits with inflation militates against any causal relation us being "comfortable" with the idea of a benevolent God.
We need only observe a mother's natural superabundance su·per·a·bun·dant
Abundant to excess.
super·a·bundance n. of love for her children to debunk de·bunk
tr.v. de·bunked, de·bunk·ing, de·bunks
To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of: debunk a supposed miracle drug. such an idea. For when we note how the mother has far more love available than each child requires for basic existence, we do not deduce that her limitless devotion makes God impossible. No. We are much more likely to agree that such superabundance of the natural is a visible sign of a supernatural source.
Concrete proof of this can be found in the world-wide reaction not to a black widow spider, but to a white-sari-clad nun who was called Mother by millions. When Mother Teresa died in September, those with eyes clearly saw the hand of God in her life.
Only the handful of cranks infesting Canada's self-proclaimed national newspaper and the CBC (1) (Cell Broadcast Center) See cell broadcast.
(2) (Cipher Block Chaining) In cryptography, a mode of operation that combines the ciphertext of one block with the plaintext of the next block. held to their blind ideological denials of the truth she proclaimed. Normal souls happily accepted that the unlimited love in her tiny, frail, body could come purely from a loving, merciful mer·ci·ful
Full of mercy; compassionate: sought merciful treatment for the captives. See Synonyms at humane.
mer , creating God.
I was fortunate to be sent to Calcutta by my newspaper for Mother Teresa's funeral. The experience provided impressions that will last a lifetime. Among the most powerful was observing first-hand the way Mother's love was recompensed regardless of religious, social, ethnic, or linguistic differences. I saw people of all persuasions lined up for three, four, five hours in 35 degree steam-bath humidity just for the chance to file past her body. The elegant and destitute des·ti·tute
1. Utterly lacking; devoid: Young recruits destitute of any experience.
2. Lacking resources or the means of subsistence; completely impoverished. See Synonyms at poor. , the old and young all came to bid her God-speed.
In one very moving moment, I witnessed four Muslim gentlemen approach her and, as one, turn their palms upward in a gesture of profound, God-given, admiration and love. In purely naturalistic terms, of course, this gesture was excessive. It far exceeded any requirement of mere existence. Biological life would have run on without it.
No natural account
Indeed, Mother Teresa's own life would have followed its natural physical course had she remained a high school teacher in 1946, and ignored God's call for her to bring His love to the slums of Calcutta. At that time, anyone who noticed the little Albanian nun as she received her "call within a call" would have observed no biological necessity for her ensuing response. No one could have provided a natural account for the unlimited love with which Mother Teresa relieved the human suffering of those she worked among; with which she neutralized neu·tral·ize
tr.v. neu·tral·ized, neu·tral·iz·ing, neu·tral·iz·es
1. To make neutral.
2. To counterbalance or counteract the effect of; render ineffective.
3. the poisons of poverty and misery for each child of God she encountered.
Yet in bringing her Mother's love to the poorest of the poor, she showed the world the blindness of believing that because human eyes cannot always see God's purpose, neither purpose nor God exist.