Idolatry: Blurring the limits

Although it can be said that the legal application of the Seven Commandments do not cover beliefs, it is also true that much can be learned from thinking about the deeper elements of these commandments, the philosophy of the Seven Commandments.

What is a characteristic of idolatry? It is where an individual takes a limited entity and then believes that the limits of that entity no longer apply and can be exceeded, even though, in reality, the limits have never been removed. Based on this belief, the individual gives that entity unwarranted praise and forms unrealistic expectations about that limited entity.

Examples of this characteristic of idolatry can sometimes be obvious. Take, for example, mainstream christianity and its obsession about Jesus. At root, Jesus was just a man. But the christian devotion to this man then makes so much out of his physical existence and the stories about his suffering and execution that he becomes a means of salvation from sin and weakness, understanding and consolation in times of despair, hope for tomorrow. He becomes so glorified that he becomes the light of the world, the centre of a person’s joy. Christians put Jesus in the centre of their worldview. Jesus has the most important place in their lives; he is the main lens used to view the world; and he is the main focus of their day to day lives. He is not seen simply as the principle used to create the worlds, like wisdom is figuratively depicted in the Jewish Bible, but he is accepted as the very Creator of the world and the universe. He is prayed to and becomes the object of worship. And worship isn’t simply done through him but also to him. To simplify, they’ve put a man as the highest point in their lives. A man becomes a god, something idolised, and, in this particular case, equated with God Himself. And although many christians are taught the divinity of Jesus from the beginning, historically speaking, what is related to have happened is that it started with someone, a human, who appeared on the scene. And that human is touted as being more than human, divine.

Of course, they won’t describe it as this. They’ll use justifications like “well, he said he was God!” (Not the strongest argument, I know!) Or they’ll claim that the Jewish Bible talks of a man being God (even though God says at least three times that he is not a man and he doesn’t change and he can’t be compared to anything, and his characteristics are mainly totally opposite of and beyond humanity). They’ll justify it one way or another. But the fact is that at the core of their existence, they’ve placed devotion to a man right there.

So that’s an example of people taking a limited entity, believing that this entity has exceeded its limits and thus unwarranted adulation is placed on that entity.

But there are other ways that limited entities are given more credence and praise than they are truly worth.

Because of my recent articles, someone approached me declaring that the age for the universe given by scientists, about 15 billion years, was a physical reality. In his mind therefore, either the world is 15 billion years old, or it was an illusion that the universe looked 15 billion years old.

Now let’s take a step back for a moment and look at two things: the nature of humanity (yes, even scientists are still part of humanity), and the nature of the result “15 billion years.”

OK, so here are some things about humans that I think we all kinda know. In comparison with what is believed to be the size of the universe, our planetary system is nothing, our planet is much less than nothing, and the human mind is … well, it escapes language to actually state how purely insignificant the human mind is in comparison to the size and extent of the universe. Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that the result “15 billion years” has some truth to it. I’m only pretending! Now if humans have been around for thousands of years, compared to 15 billion, then the period of our existence is worth less than the saliva someone spat near a gutter which the rain will soon wash away. Oh yeah, and how long have humans been practicing what is known as “modern science?” Shall we say 500 years at most? So, 500 years compared to 15 billion …

Now just think to yourself exactly what exactly could be done in this speck of time. So let’s imagine that all of this 500 years was spent totally dedicated to studying science and doing experiments and getting observations. This can only be imagination because it is not true. So humanity ends up collecting 500 years worth of observed data. Now remember, time travel in jumps backwards or forwards isn’t possible for humans, so no matter what conclusions are made about the past, the data itself only exists in the present, trapped with us here and now. What is 500 compared to 15 billion?

[I keep picturing this graph, a big graph, where the x-axis (the line that goes from left to right) measures time, and the y-axis (the line that goes from low to high, vertically) measures some effect that experimenters are testing. The x-axis measures the supposed billions of years. So all the results gotten in the 500 years of pretended totally dedicated science work would make something equivalent to a speck, maybe a slight dot, far to the right of the axis. And then someone says, “ok, based on the speck, tell me what happens in the middle of the graph! Or the left side of the graph! Or anything in between!” To me, even trying to draw any line or make any guess based on such a miniscule sample is foolishness. But hey, this is based on the pretense of “billions.”]

So the known data exists within the 500 years. How far outside of known limits do these scientists have to extrapolate to get to 15 billion, almost the totality of which is outside of human experience (science operates best within human experience)? Or even 65 million? Is someone saying that humans have such a perfect knowledge of today’s universe that we can track back its history outside of the period humans have experienced? [Kinda funny considering humans haven’t even explored the entirety of our own earth yet!] To miss out or be mistaken in even a small factor can throw calculations and hypotheses off in such a grand way. Not even that, but people can only postulate plausible scenarios of what could have happened if assumptions are accepted, i.e., imagined scenarios, not the actual true events. And I have to say again, I am talking about a world, a universe, that humans haven’t begun and cannot even begin to explore, that being the universe and earth via billions of years of history and the universe that is out of direct reach in the here and now. (Thinking about how much humans don’t know from experience, these stories of earth, planetary system and universal history seem more and more like utter fiction.) We have too small a sample to get a fair assessment of the observations, and we’ve too small a sample to even get a fair assessment of the universe we’re in now.

Now this human mind has been doing modern science for a few hundred years. I won’t even touch upon the history of that science and the fact that every so often something is touted as being the true truth for the nature of life even in our insignificant part of the universe and then it is shown to be false. I won’t even touch that. But just think, how complete (or incomplete) is our knowledge of our existence? In fact, how many opinions are there about our existence? In fact, how many assumptions (statements we just have to take on faith without really knowing if they are true) do humans use to do modern science? To live day to day? The fact that our limited minds do not have complete information means that a lot of the results we get have to come from guesses and local observations made in our spatial and temporal vicinity and limited range of perception. And that is great for the local manipulation of resources to further ourselves and our quality of life (well, it’s supposed to, but seeing the state of some of the world, I’ve gotta question even that). But when it comes to dictating that the whole entire universe must bow to the assumptions, beliefs and stories of the meaningless specks called scientists, I’m sorry, but that is utter BS! In case you don’t know, BS means the excrement of a bull. It’s another way of talking about the offensively valueless nature of something, in this case, the empty babblings of the worshipped ignorant (i.e., the humans called scientists).

You see, the tool, science, is great for investigating our local environment, within the reach of our senses, to subdue and control it for our welfare or benefit. But when people attempt to use it to start dictating what must have happened outside of our experience and perception, … well … *toilet flush* … It may as well be a myth, a fable, because it has just about the same quality with regards to truth.

So let me get back to the number, 15 billion years, and the claim that it is physical reality, that either the universe is so old or it looks that old. The number “15 billion years” is not blazing in the sky in intelligible words like a label on the universe. It hasn’t been written by the hand of God or nature in the rocks in intelligible words. You can not talk to a tree and ask “how old is the universe?” and get a response in human language. The universe itself does not shout that age or any age. It’s not as if there is a human sitting outside the universe, able to see its true size, shape and extent, and sending messages from that position to us. I know the pictures of the galaxy and the universe that is in text books and presented in the media. After years of being indoctrinated with such images, it is almost second nature for humans who have never escaped our planetary system or planet to take flights of fancy in the mind and imagine us on the outside looking in. It’s not easy to accept things as they are: stuck on earth, looking out as far as we can, but observing things from a terrestrial platform, with no intelligible voice from matter or energy to tell one age from another.

Where did the number “15 billion years” come from? Like so many results generated from other scientific theories, it came from someone writing out a mathematical formula and getting a result. I know people may add that there was some observation about the universe – an observation which was not a date – that was involved. But what happens is that this observation gets filtered through certain untestable assumptions, through a speculative theoretical framework in someone’s mind, which prompts the person to select a certain equation that fits a belief system, and, when the maths is finished, the result of approximately 15 billion years is reached.

This is not physical reality. This is not the universe or the earth declaring its age in an objective fashion. It’s the figment of a human mind. Yet many people, even people you would expect to know better, raise it high as if someone had thrown gold into a fire and, wow, a golden calf just falls out of the fire all on its own. And that golden result is exalted and raised as if it’s no longer the result of a subjectively chosen mathematical equation, but as if it is “THE TRUTH!” … well at least for now.

A characteristic of idolatry is where an individual takes a limited entity and then believes that the limits of that entity no longer apply and can be exceeded, even though, in reality, the limits have never been removed.

Maybe you don’t see the similarity.

But it happens so often in the science industry, a claim that can never be verified by experience, a story the events of which, if true, are stuck in a past that no human has seen or of which no human had received intelligible record, yet it becomes the commonly accepted story of human origin or development, it becomes “physical reality.” Yet what is normally at the base of such stories? Someone with letters behind their name or one of their underlings, or a laboratory finds a bone in the dirt. That bone goes through their untestable assumptions, theoretical frameworks, previously held beliefs about other stories not based on human experience, and out pops a golden answer. Guess what happens to that golden answer! Notice, the date and the story are not on the bone. Humans just decide to arrange it according to presuppositions and preferences, not due to some objective truth. So when someone comes and says, “hey, this fossil is so many millions of years old” or that humans have been around for 50,000 years, if there are no written records to go with those findings, records contemporary to those bones that clearly communicate a date, then the stories and numbers may make a nice plausible picture, but that picture is only a figment of the mind and not actual reality.

You see, a characteristic of idolatry is where an individual takes a limited entity and then believes that the limits of that entity no longer apply and can be exceeded, even though, in reality, the limits have never been removed.

You see, science is only as good and as bad as the user. If the user is limited, the science will bear that weakness. Take for example, humans can’t detect absolute motion. We can only measure the motion of one thing in relation to another. Imagine it! You wake up and everything is dark. You can’t feel anything. And then you notice a distant spot of light apparently moving from left to right. If you can’t feel anything, then the question is what really moves? The spot of light or you? The only thing that can be said for sure is that one is moving relative to another. Now if there is a load more distant spots of light, all moving, and you couldn’t feel anything, then there would still be no way of knowing if in truth you are still or moving, only that things are moving relative to one another. To make things easier for yourself, if there was some regularity to the movement around you, you could pretend that one thing was the centre of movement to help predict the movement of other lights, but this centre is only one of convenience not truth. You would need special in-depth knowledge (I mean knowledge, not speculation) of everything around you to know what is actually moving and what is not. Or you need to go outside of all movement to know for sure. But once you’re stuck inside all the movement without special omniscience or outside knowledge, you’re a partaker, not a bystander, and all you have is maths for convenience and the motion of one thing or a number of things in relation to another. That’s the difference between relative motion (partaker observation) and absolute motion (bystander or outsider knowledge).

A respected colleague of mine was describing the movement of the earth to me and how cameras in space, or satellites, or the frequency at which the earth gets meteorites can show us the fact that the earth absolutely moves around the sun. It was only some time afterwards that it dawned on me what has happened: he had taken me on a journey of the mind, where I imagined this globe absolutely moving through comet trails, almost like those luscious graphics on a computer screen. But what had I done? I had imagined myself in a place that no human whatsoever has ever been: having outsider knowledge, as if I had been outside the universe and seen it all in detail, or as if I had gained omniscience to know what moves absolutely. But we’re all restricted to being partakers of the movement. And although it would make humans feel knowledgeable to have a true diagram of all planetary movements with pretty little oval lines outlining the true and absolute movements of everything, it’s all about convenience, not truth. Since science is just as limited as its user, don’t expect any help from its practitioners!

Yes, it would really be nice for humans who have never traveled outside of our planetary system to reach the unreachable distances (distances that can only be found scribbled on pieces of paper or recorded on computers after calculations that are still very much affected by presuppositions and frameworks), to find that secret place where all true truth is found. It would be nice for someone to travel outside our galaxy and look back and take a photograph to verify those lovely pictures that adorn universities and science fiction books and movies (would it be wrong for me to include some of the content of science textbooks amongst those pieces of fiction?). But you see, we humans do have our limits, and a characteristic of idolatry is where an individual takes a limited entity and then believes that the limits of that entity no longer apply and can be exceeded, even though, in reality, the limits have never been removed. And remember, even those scientists that are respected and revered for describing those things that experience and perception cannot verify, those scientists are still part of the human race.

A number of things may happen due to what I’ve written. Those who feel personally about the pomp of their “idol” getting attacked will insult what I’ve said. Those who are concerned about the pace of the spread of Seven Law adherence may worry that sentiments like mine will dissuade people who revere science to whatever extent or who are considered intellectual from seriously considering the importance of a lifestyle based on the Seven Commandments. My personal views may be seen as representative of the views of those that embrace the Seven Laws, even though it’s just on my personal blog and is written by only me with no approvals from anyone else. Some will undoubtedly think that I have rejected science completely and that my mind resembles that of a primitive caveman, shaking his fist at those magic men who know how to make fire and have strange knowledge about the zodiac, as if saying science and its practitioners are limited makes me therefore one who just throws it all in the bin.

Some may notice my repeated references to idolatry and wonder if I’m labelling all those with an excessive adoration or reverence to the stories of those people labelled scientists as idolators. This would include Jews and Gentiles who know, study and keep their respective Torah laws, yet use the tentative statements of those people labelled scientists to reinterpret the narrative sections of Torah. My answer would be that based on the legal application of Torah, I’m not calling such people “idolators.” But there is a similarity, a characteristic shared, that I am highlighting: the exaggeration of a limited thing above and beyond its innate limits. It may sound offensive, I know. But I conclude exactly the same about those who revere government too much. And yes, there are people who respect Torah who give way too much reverence to a bunch of people who innately cause the undermining of the Seven Commandments and do acts are essentially violent in nature. And as offensive as it may sound, I see the similarity between idolatry and those people too. I couldn’t call those people idolators in the legal (halakhic) Seven Law sense … maybe aiders and abetters to immorality and injustice, but not idolators. At least those who see the stories of ignorant humans as truthful enough to chop and change the narrative of Torah based on such faith based hypotheses don’t hurt others in their deeds.

I can’t expect all who come to this page to take it in a balanced way, to understand that I respect science for what it can do in the hands of those who use it. And it has done a lot in practical terms. The theories and discoveries can be amazing when they’re in the realm of human experience. But when it is given such status as if all other knowledge must accord with the stories of its practitioners and anything that doesn’t fit into the confines of what its doctors, professionals and specialists say is nonsense or shown heavy skepticism, then it just becomes another flavour of worship of the human intellect. When they talk about subjects outside of human experience as if they have spoken of what actually happened as the true truth, or their acolytes take their findings and use it in that manner, then it is equivalent to deception and delusion. When people who embrace Torah take the words of scientists about the past as if they are so true that Torah must be interpreted in light of their stories and interpretations, then they have made it clear what really dictates truth … and it doesn’t seem to be the Torah!

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12 Comments

  1. DP

    This site really needs more blogs about what may be defined as modern idolatry. Among Jews, the likes of Emil Fackenheim, David Hartman, and Walter Levy have gone beyond the more common discussions on paganism.

    • I don’t understand what you mean by “this site”. Are you saying that my blog needs more blogs?

    • DP – None of what he described in this article (other than Xtianity) could be halakhically defined as idolatry. Don’t make that mistake. He made that pretty clear in the last paragraph.

  2. “I had imagined myself in a place that no human whatsoever has ever been: having outsider knowledge, as if I had been outside the universe and seen it all in detail, or as if I had gained omniscience to know what moves absolutely.”

    No. Rather, you had observed it (albeit in your mind) from an “inertial frame of reference” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inertial_frame_of_reference). And, we’ve actually done those exact types of observation – see this video, for example, which was filmed from a space probe which we have in a geostationary orbit between the earth/moon and sun: http://www.space.com/30168-moon-crosses-earth-face-nasa-video.html

    By way of example – imagine you and I are standing in a field (I’m to the east of you), and I throw a ball at you, which hits you in the head. 😉 Did the ball move towards your head? Did your head move towards the ball? Did both the ball and your head careen off in a super-complicated spiral pattern and then impact with each other? The answers are “yes”, “yes”, and “yes”, respectively.

    Why? Consider…

    Did the ball move towards your head? Yes. Considering the most simply observable intertial frame of reference – you and I standing still in a field – I caused the ball to move from my hand to your head, by throwing it.

    Of course, this is a gross over-simplification, since we know this isn’t an “absolute” inertial frame of reference. So…

    Did your head move towards the ball? Yes. Since you were standing east of me on a large rotating orb(-ishly shaped planet), when I threw the ball you were also moving towards it from east to west. Or, so it appears from the inertial frame of reference of the earth.

    But, again, this is another gross over-simplification, since we know earth doesn’t exist all alone in the universe. So…

    Did both the ball and your head careen off in a super-complicated spiral pattern and then impact with each other? Yes. From the inertial frame of reference of our solar system, or the galaxy, or our galactic super-cluster (etc), the two of us standing still in a field is actually us moving in a spiral around a star, which is moving around the center of the milky way, which is moving around the central axis of our galactic cluster – so, observed from outside, we’re moving in a crazy spiral-esque pattern – and so were the ball and your head, until they collided.

    Just like when we look up and see the eccentric movement of the planets in our solar system, while standing “still” here on earth.

    http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/102856/relative-motion-and-orbiting-planets

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that I think you’re both right and wrong. It just depends on your frame of reference. 😉

    • PS – There is no “absolute” inertial frame of reference. They are all relative. Everything in our universe is constantly in motion, including the very fabric of space-time itself!

      So, all inertial frames of reference are really just convenient simplifications. That’s why we talk about “throwing a ball back and forth”, even though that’s really a lie. It’s simpler, mathematically and conceptually.

      • In my words, there is no absolute point of view for partakers of the motion. Humans can’t tell what is absolute with regards to motion. But I conclude the universe is finite. The term “space-time” has no meaning to me. Everything that is part of the universe knows no absolute motion or rest. But I do believe there is a Being that knows. If there are many points of view, then there is no lie. It’s just how someone sees things.

        Again, thanks for the contribution

      • Ok. I checked. Space-time is just a mental construct (mathematical model that includes the dimensions of space and includes time). Humans experience space and humans experience the passage of time and someone said “let’s pretend we can stick them together.”

    • Hi there. Just to say, as I respond, I’ll only use terms I have a grasp of. The term “inertial frame of reference” has no meaning to me. If I happen to stumble across what it means, it’s purely accidental.

      In my mind, I wasn’t moving and the earth moved absolutely. There was no concept of “it’s just my point of view.” But I know there’s little point in debating over what was in my mind. No one else was there except me.

      “We’ve actually done those exact types of observation …” I wasn’t involved in this endeavour, so I know the “we” doesn’t include me. That would include the fact that I don’t have any satellites up there.

      I can’t comment on the stories about where we are in the universe. I have no reason to trust the story tellers. All I see are over-reachers. If it just depends on my point of view … I read an article that I agree with … there is no right or wrong. There is just different points of views, and that’s it.

      Thanks for sharing.

      • Wait… you didn’t get the satellite I sent you? 😉

      • Rotfl

  3. If anything, the last hundred years of science has shown that all findings inch toward or are now jumping towards seeing its Torah that’s true.

    But one point you could have made early on: That science beholds what it sees as a product of so many years in itself means little in terms of actual chronology because God creates that which appears just like that, now, every moment; Just as He created Adam in his 30’s.

    • I don’t believe that ALL findings are leading to a conclusion that the Torah is true. But a good amount do agree with the Torah.
      If this article was called “Bereshis: God created a “mature” creation” then I would add your point. But my article is not about the text of Bereshis but rather a critique on how people have exalted the tentative opinions of men about things outside human experience into absolute truth statements that the plain meaning of the Torah must bow down to. Because your point, though useful, relates to a subject other than that of my article, there isn’t much to say about it.

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