February 19, 2009

The Earth Does Not Orbit the Sun [Oh, yeah!?]

In this blog I have said quite a bit about my experience, from 6:30PM to 6:30AM, at Union Gospel Mission. My evaluation of what the mission takes me through is mixed. I truly am grateful that this very conservative, literalist Christian ministry keeps me alive and that there I come in contact with sterling people that pass through its gates as guests [the sixty homeless men, inc. me, who use the dorm and are beneficiaries of other services]; as other users of the mission's services [men and women who stay just for the sermon and evening meal]; as members of The Rehab Program [residents of the mission who are enrolled in a nine-month Christianity intensive for men recovering from drug or alcohol problems]; and staff.

Woe to Buddhism in America which fails to create programs and services to attend to the neediest among us. Woe and for shame that Buddhism offers no such thing as a Union Sangha Mission! [Note: The closest equivalent to "Union Gospel Mission," for a Buddhist enterprise, would be "Union Dharma Mission," but we Buddhists are non-proselytizing and non-dogmatic, so any enterprise to aid the homeless would come as a fount of compassion and community, not in an effort to, in some way, spiritually save or convert people.]

At the same time that I am grateful for the Union Gospel Mission, I am also critical. There are many, many preachers there who deliver sermons that are loony tunes, by my estimation -- and perhaps, as well, by the estimation of the psychiatric community.

Last night, the preacher from Foothill Bible Church spent his time making the case that the sun orbits the earth, and not vice versa as we are taught in third grade.

Here, as best I recall it, was the pathway of the preacher's presentation:

He began with a long-winded tangential discussion of the idea of what would happen if an object was dropped in a tunnel that was drilled through the diameter of the earth. Would the object pass through the earth to the other side? Would it stop in the middle of the earth? or Would it move back and forth, up and down the long tunnel, much like a pendulum?

The preacher never offered an answer to the concept, because determining what might happen was not really his point. His point was that such an idea cannot be tested in real life. There is no way to drill a tunnel through the diameter of the earth, because we don't have tools to complete such a massive endeavor and because water [and magma, which he didn't mention] would quickly fill the tunnel long before its completion.

Thus, said the preacher, the outcome of such a project is unknowable -- except in conception as a "thought experiment."

Much of what science engages in are thought experiments, said the preacher. Until such flights of whimsy are proved in real life, we should be skeptical of results that take place wholly in one man's mind.

From here, the preacher explained that science is an effort to explain phenomena in terms of mathematical formulae that seem to work. If a scientist's equation doesn't contradict what is observed, then it is accepted as valid.

But, the preacher warned, many experiments are funded by organizations seeking certain results, so we must be leery of scientific research.

He also made the case that something was skanky about science based on his claim that human remains have been found with many of the dinosaurs that have been unearthed, and other creatures that science tells us are hundreds of thousands of years old.

He also said that the dating of soil and fossils is corrupted by "circular reasoning." Fossils are dated based on a supposed age of the soil it is found in, and soil is dated by a supposed age of the fossils.

And this brings us to the earth/sun orbit problem: According to the preacher, the idea that the earth orbits the sun is based on scientists' thought experiments -- not on anything observed in reality. The mathematics 'works' under the assumption that the earth circles the sun, so scientists are fixated on this wholly false idea.

The Bible tells us that the sun circles the earth, so the preacher said he is in possession of the truth of the situation. He cited Joshua 10:12, which in the King James translation reads "Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." Proof positive that the sun circles the earth.


We learn after third grade that, in truth, the earth and sun move around each other. But, since the sun is 320,000 times the earth's mass, effectively it is the sun that is the center of our solar system and all the planets and objects orbit about it.

We know this, not because we are fooled from the impossibly lucky happenstance of some mathematical equations, but from rigorous investigation over centuries. And, the circumstance is confirmed by satellites that have been sent all over the solar system, including orbits around and into the sun. How the solar system "works" has very much been "tested" and there is not a bit of doubt that the sun is relatively stationary with the planets orbiting around it.


Troubling to me [and my friend James] was that conversation at dinner after the sermon informed us that many of our dorm brothers bought the crappola nonsense the preacher spewed that evening. One man said the preacher must surely be a college professor who made "fifteen or twenty dollars an hour." Others were impressed by the preacher's verbosity and command of 'facts.'

The men at dinner did not agree with my assessment that the preacher was an idiot. "He has a job and a family; that's more than you can say," said a man seated across from me. Yep, but he's still an idiot.


Michaelann Bewsee said...

Truly pathetic. I've seen this in so many places. Wish I could find the exact quote by Einstein-- why, or why didn't i bookmark it?-- that talks about how when he was young, he was very religious, struck with awe at the beauty of the world, and that as he grew older, it was exactly the same sentiment that took him to science and physics.

When ministers preach to the homeless, and the homeless having to listen is more or less obligatory , I have to think it is because they care more for themselves and their salvation than they do for homeless people.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Great post, Tom. Indeed, people making 15-20 bucks an hour with families and so much more can be and often are idiots. :) I'm sorry to hear that they are winning adherents amongst your comrades. If it makes you feel any better a good friend of mine recently started religiously watching Bill O'Reilly (and liking him).

Perhaps the world really is going to crap.

Mumon said...

With all due respect, Buddhist charities are few and far between right now because Buddhists are few & far between.

That said, there's been a traditional, cultural lag of Buddhism and charity even in Asia to a certain extent.

The Tzu Chi foundation is the best Buddhist charity I know; but obviously they don't go near touching the need.

There is a tremendous ...geez, I hate to use the word, ...opportunity for anyone to make a charity right. Not much comfort I know, & I'm sorry about that, but all that aside, how do you get out of where you are? What is, as Collin Powell said, your "exit strategy?"

BTW, an object dropped through a hole in the center of the earth would, assuming the hole were devoid of air at least, oscillate.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Yes, as Mumon states, without air, the object would oscillate (I was thinking of this before but decided not to address it :). But given air and the friction it would create, the object would slowly fall (or rise) less and less each turn, eventually settling at the center.

Now if the space was filled with the special 'hot air' that currently occupies the craniums (or crania) of many evangelicals...

Tom said...

Michaelann, Thanks for your comments. I am at a loss to understand many of the preachers who come to the mission. Many have very very strange paranoid ideas that come from a hate-based point of view. They cherry-pick the Bible to expound on narrow themes and distort [or, don't understand?] the points of view of their perceived enemies.

Justin [Buddhist_philosopher], Many of my comrades are truly very smart, but sometimes shockingly unworldly. In my near-year of homelessness I have learned a lot that scholars now know about the Bible and its considerable problems. Perhaps, a literalist interpretation of the Bible [with all its parables and metaphors!] is in its death throes. Dunno.

Mumon, Right now, Bleak House -- as I call my legal struggle -- continues. There *may* be a preliminary hearing on the 27th. A month or so thereafter, a trial with respect to the window-breaking incident. Until there is some light at the end of that tunnel, I'm limited in what I can do.

I am disappointed that Christian charities are so totally in the fore with respect to helping the needy. I would wish that Buddhist charities were a bit more in on all of this.

chalip said...

Hello Tom...

I don't have much to add here (it has all been said)... I'm just finally finding my way back to the blogosphere and reconnecting with old friends. It took a little clicking and google-searching, but I'm glad I found your new blog home(s). I hope you are well, and I hope you'll let me know if there is anything I can do.


Tom said...

Thanks, enormously, chalip. ALWAYS nice to hear from you, just as it is always nice when you are blogging frequently.