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Professor Dawkins is not just a Christian atheist. He is a Protestant atheist. And he is not just a Protestant atheist. He is a Calvinist atheist. And he is not just a Calvinist atheist. He is an Anglo-Calvinist atheist. In other words, he can be also described as a Puritan atheist, a Dissenter atheist, a Nonconformist atheist, an Evangelical atheist, etc, etc.

where there is no light, one cannot see; and when one cannot see, his imagination starts to run wild.

Not everyone was happy with the rise of the snapshot. Professional photographers were repelled by the weird, ungainly, often out-of-focus shots that amateurs produced. “Photography as a fad is well nigh on its last legs,” prayed the art photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Other pundits bemoaned “Kodak fiends,” camera obsessives who carried their device everywhere and were apparently so constantly taking pictures that they would space out and miss their trains.

an anonymous tipster wrote to me and turned me onto this cheeky bit of naughtiness in Dawkins’ bestseller, The God Delusion. In Chapter 5 the professor muses upon the ‘cargo cult’ phenomenon, which was so crucial in the life and work of Erich Von Daniken:

"In The Life of Brian, one of the many things the Monty Python team got right was the extreme rapidity with which a new religious cult can get started. It can spring up almost overnight and then become incorporated into a culture, where it plays a disquietingly dominant role. The ‘cargo cults’ of Pacific Melanesia and New Guinea provide the most famous real life example."

After recounting how these cults arose out of tribal peoples’ contact with advanced technology they had no exposure to, Dawkins starts to get quite cheeky indeed:

"The entire history of some of these cults, from initiation to expiry, is wrapped up within living memory. Unlike the cult of Jesus, the origins of which are not reliably attested, we can see the whole course of events laid out before our eyes (and even here, as we shall see, some details are now lost). It is fascinating to guess that the cult of Christianity almost certainly began in very much the same way, and spread initially at the same high speed."

Now, it all undoubtedly slid past his readers, but Dawkins is saying here that Christianity “began the same way” as the cargo cults. Which, as he exhaustively explains in this chapter, arose from native peoples’ exposure to superior alien technology (the aliens being Europeans in this context). As he says here:

"It seems that in every case the islanders were bowled over by the wondrous possessions of the white immigrants to their islands, including administrators, soldiers and missionaries. They were perhaps the victims of (Arthur C.) Clarke’s Third Law, which I quoted in Chapter 2: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’"

Now isn’t that a fascinating little juxtaposition? Quoting the author of the the world’s most acclaimed Ancient-Astronaut narrative (2001: A Space Odyssey, for those new to all of this) shortly after claiming that the cult of the god-man Jesus “began the same way” as the cargo cults! As Eric Idle once said, “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more, say no more.” And just in case you missed Richard’s inference the first time, he repeats it:

"Fourth, the cargo cults are similar, not just to each other but to older religions. Christianity and other ancient religions that have spread worldwide presumably began as local cults like that of John Frum."

The cargo cults which- and I’ll state this until the cows come home- began when a primitive people encountered a technologically superior civilization. After making quite a bit of the cargo cults, Dawkins then writes:

"I don’t want to make too much of the cargo cults of the South Pacific. But they do provide a fascinating contemporary model for the way religions spring up from almost nothing."

Which, as Richard goes to great pains to explain, were the result of contact with a technologically-superior alien civilization.

Outer-site Art

 

Tokyo-based artist Makoto Azuma doesn’t appear to believe in doing things by halves. His latest installation looks at the universe, beyond Earth, as a site for appreciating beauty and art. Two pieces, a Japanese white pine bonsai known as the “Shiki 1”, and an untitled arrangement of orchids, hydrangeas, lilies and irises, were launched into the stratosphere last week in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. This is part of project Exobotanica – Botanical Space Flight (see more pictures here), where Azuma heads a 10 person team, coupled with Sacramento-based JP Aerospace — “America’s Other Space Program”, a volunteer-based organization that constructs and sends vessels into orbit.

 

Azuma is interested in the beauty of organic movement in plants, and how this beauty would be suspended in space as a weightless environment. The objects themselves – the bonsai plant and the flower arrangement, have an almost uneasy juxtaposition in their nature. On the one hand, they are organic, Earth-bound items that send instant connotations to the viewer about the beauty of our natural world, yet both represent a natural world moulded by human hands – the miniaturised tree and the specifically arranged flowers. In the end, they can almost be seen less as art and more as specific examples of Earthly design; an amalgamation of human and mother nature’s architecture, broadcast to the universe beyond.

But equally as stunning is the documentary imagery itself, taken from orbit and brought back to Earth. Oh to see what those blossoms have seen!

- Alinta Krauth 

I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.

Amazon is using George Orwell’s name in vain: It quotes Orwell out of context as supporting a campaign to suppress paperbacks, to give specious authority to its campaign against publishers over e-book pricing; and having gotten as much capital as it can out of waving around Orwell’s name, Amazon then dismisses what was an ironic comment without engaging with Orwell’s own detailed arguments, which eloquently contradict Amazon’s. This is about as close as one can get to the Ministry of Truth and its doublespeak: turning the facts inside out to get a piece of propaganda across.

Bill Hamilton in The War of Words Over Amazon (2014)

(via p-dpa)