Destroyed in One’s Imagination

It is easier to assume—
When one finds it beneficial—
That what we see now is all there ever was.

And thus, by that simple trick in the mind,
Are destroyed in one’s imagination
The possibility of any of a number of
Things previously reported—
To wit, God and Jesus and the angels,
(Holy and otherwise)
And heaven and the underworld
And the giants and the spirits
And the flood and the other miracles.

And that, as they say, is that.

—Except for the Big Bang, of course,
For most are pretty sure that happened—
That causeless cause of everything—
Improbable only to idiots.

And we, having attained to our present brilliance,
Are beyond any need to see it for ourselves
Because isn’t it obvious?

Let us wax grateful, then,
That we have evolved to such a point
That we are now wise enough to know
What to imagine into the past
And what to imagine out of it—
Having been graciously delivered
By astronomical time and chance
From the earlier ages of doltish uncertainty!

Or alternately, who knows whether
There might be hope for us still—
That we might one day evolve into the notion
That the existence of an unseen Creator is no less likely
Than the causeless explosion of a causeless mass,
Played out predictably by the causeless rules of Physics?

NOTE: For the record, I do not believe that Genesis 1 necessitates a young Planet Earth. Nor am a Gap Theory proponent. Nor do I believe in the Day-Age hypothesis, or that this planet must necessarily be of great age. The fact of the matter is that I do not believe that Genesis 1 is a cosmology of any sort at all. I believe instead that it makes figurative use of cosmological language to describe the order of things that God set up on this planet, as it regards angels, humans, animals, and plants. I find that this view tends to dissipate some of the controversies, even if it raises some other puzzles.

And one more thing before I go: I do wonder whether the idea of a God would be more palatable for some had they been told that his existence were also the result of the Big Bang. Or would it simply be too fantastic—the thought that something like a God could come about without a cause? That is, that we can believe in a causeless Universe, but not also in a causeless God? That we can believe in a process that created evolving humans, but not in one that would have created a divine being? I’m not suggesting that this is what happened, mind you; it’s a thought experiment aimed at testing whatever are the rules behind what we are willing, and not willing, to believe.

By the way, the third line in this poem (“That what we see now is all there ever was.”) is an adaptation of Kahneman and Tversky’s WYSIATI bias, which stands for “What You See Is All There Is“. Elsewhere, I have adapted it to refer to a similar bias about the past: WYSIATEW: What You See Is All There Ever Was. I think that people commonly run such a bias in assuming the present onto the past, and in all manner of ways. For example, I have met more than one person who will admit to assuming in their imagination about the First Century assemblies that they had pews and stained glass. And there’s room for yet another variation of this. I might call it something like WYRATISH: What You Read About Then Is Still Happening. For example, someone might read the promise in James about the elders healing their sicknesses of the congregants, and might assume (against common experience today) that it must still be happening.

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