The Ultimate Battle Between Good and Medieval

Guess I’m not going gently into that sweet cocoon.

I ran across this quote in a book review today:

“The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but someday the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”

That pretty much sums up my own theory as to what’s behind the current “spirituality” fad.

We’ve seen what the universe looks like, and it scares the shit out of us.

Faced with a cosmos comprised of amoral, vibrating strings, a universe utterly indifferent to human concepts of right and wrong — utterly indifferent to *humans*, for that matter — we lunge for simplicity, for the certainty of black and white, the comprehensibility of fundamental (and fundamentalist) dualities. Good and evil. God and Satan. Us and them.

We have to believe.

We have to proclaim belief, to reassure ourselves.

And everyone else must believe, too, and proclaim their belief. And if they don’t, we must disparage them for their spiritual deficiency or their pessimism or their secular humanist delusions — because if we don’t marginalize the doubters, we admit into consciousness the possibility that *we* might be wrong.

And this, kids, is how dark ages get started.

7 Responses to “The Ultimate Battle Between Good and Medieval”

  1. Richard Beland Says:

    Being an atheist and astronomy buff, I’ve never felt uncomfortable with advancements in science and technology. But I shudder at the thought of a new Dark Age in which anti-intellectualism and obscurantism reign, and the religious rulers have their finger on The Button.

  2. Spence Says:

    What a great post. Don’t spend too much time in that cocoon.

  3. Alistair Says:

    “Man’s inhumanity to man” about sums it up for me.

    I’d rather a universe utterly indifferent to me. But man being part of the universe scuppers that one, unfortunately.

    Still, there’re are compensations…

  4. haven o'terrorism Says:

    Annoying how prescient late nineteenth/early twentieth century were! Why can’t we be more like that?

    I don’t think it’s so much the revelation of an indifferent universe that sends people careening off into new-age-ism, as it is the revelation that our Authoritative Version of the world, the one we all made up together, is itself becoming indifferent to us. Surely, even if the universe doesn’t care about us, our own story of it should? But it doesn’t. At least not the real parts of it. And bit by bit all the unreal parts are being systematically disproven by their realer counterparts. So what’s the answer? Only to remove all those pesky realistic bits that our Story used to be stitched together with, and replace them with anything that will allow the unrealistic bits to continue being supported. So the stitching becomes incredibly bad at doing its job, and the story gets incoherent, but as bad as the new stitching is it has one thing in its favour that the old stitching didn’t: it’s permissive. It rejects nothing, and it’ll tie any old claptrap together (albeit poorly) because if it rejects anything, then it has to reject everything.

    My two cents, I guess.

  5. Brent Wilcox Says:

    It’s not the indifference of the universe, it’s the damnable complexity!

    Who has time to even begin to think about string theory when your brain is stuffed full of this week’s “Celebrity Trial of the Century” and the latest Republican “Talking Points”? Or real concerns like rent and insurance bills?

    If information is in fact doubling every 1-3 years (depending on which source Google coughs up), there’s just too damn much stuff to keep track of!

    Our brains hurt! So we strive to keep thing simple again. I’ve met a lot of people who simply don’t want to know more than they already do, right or wrong.

    I never saw this in the papers when I lived in California, but in Alaska creationists are always writing to the editor to discredit evolution. They usually think they understand Evolutionary Biology because they’ve looked up “Evolution” in the dictionary (and a mighty abridged dictionary at that). Maybe it’s a symptom of Biblical fundamentalism that’s bleeding over to Wester’s…

    Voluntary Intellectual simplicity.

  6. Steve Gerber Says:

    Yes, it’s the complexity, too — which explains American electoral politics and foreign policy in a nutshell.

  7. Ryan Speck Says:

    Very nice. My compliments to the chef on the sentiment.