horton meets stein

by Zach Kincaid
An animated elephant and a foil named Ben Stein. One finds a spec, the other play on hype. Both get ridiculed but only one holds a truth worth dying for and that’s Horton... who hears a Who.

I’ll get to Horton after we weed out the intelligently designed garden that Stein advocates.

According to Stein, the universe is ordered and purposed, aka a creator made it. But there’s a problem. A standing army of white intelligentsia has sent this idea and its carefully boxed god over the cliff to rot with Gadarene pigs. What to do... what to do. I’ve got it! Let’s demonstrate the flaws in their stalemate hypotheses about the origin of life and the makeup of the universe. What better way than a documentary film that proves the scientific world can be unjust to naysayers even with the “greats” saying things like this (from Einstein) - "The harmony of natural law... reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

You go Einstein... and since you’re not around, we’ll listen to Stein. Expelled tries to support god-in-code-language in a realm that outthought him (God, that is) years ago. Why? Because what’s the point? Science and religion aren’t after the same ends. One seeks to develop a vocabulary and premise that keeps the heavens where they currently sit - the upper atmosphere of the earth and beyond, held there by mutual gravitation. The other holds that the heavens have dropped down and continue to stoop in order to give us a story, not a set of facts. The former will never invite the latter to supper and the latter should not prove its saltiness by identifying salt as a crystalline compound, sodium chloride, NaCl, for example. The proofs fall by the waysides of faith. Salt is a non sequitur with light as much as God is to any proofs fashioned by warrants. So, in the end, Stein’s hunt is lost because it’s never found and hardly founded.

In contrast, Horton Hears a Who tells the story of a civilization in peril that needs rescuing. Horton, a crazed elephant, happens upon this small world which he discovers on a spec when he hears faint voices. Despite the ridicule, Horton is convinced of this silly conclusion, and he is compelled to believe and protect the spec from the dangers all around it... dangers that only Horton knows completely. Rejected in his newfound belief and subsequent mission, Horton could easily stomp out the world and be done with the humiliation, but a person’s a person no matter how small, you see? That’s the whisper of the work. Finally with the chant, “We are here, we are here” performed by every Who down in Whoville (even the “Smallest of all”), there is a breakthrough. The kangaroos and monkeys believe. “‘How true! Yes, how true,’ said the big kangaroo. ‘From now on, I’m going to protect them with you.’”

Intentionally putting aside political interpretations of the 1954 story for the wider frame of the 2008 film adaptation, it’s interesting what we can glean from Horton. We have a world that exists yet it’s origins are unknown. One day the mayor of Whoville hears Horton through a broken drainpipe. He learns about the insignificant size of his world, the cause for several disastrous tremors, and what might be a dreadful end if Horton is unsuccessful. What can the mayor do? Without only inferences, he must convince the Whos to look into the sky and sing. He must tell them about his conversations with an elephant, about the minuscule size of everything they hold familiar. In the end, it is only hearing the voice of Horton in the drainpipe that motivates the town to action.

Here’s what we believe. God is the Almighty maker of heaven and earth. Jesus, the only begotten, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin Mary. He became man and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day. Now he sits on God’s right hand. We believe in the Holy Spirit and one holy catholic church, and one baptism for remission of our sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and life in the age to come.

Guess what? We believe that belief makes us who we are. We didn’t make it but it’s making and remaking us. Ask about conclusions built from evidences and you achieve a faith harnessed by validation and not scandal. Try proving the world was crafted by an intelligent designer and you shrink that designer to an artificial need of a post-Enlightenment age that wants facts and ration, not faith and miracle.

God is the grand magician and one of his tricks is to hide. Set the Sabbath and make a check list, think to know the mysteries of why the skies are wired shut and the ground can't seem to jump, search under every watered-down hole in your soul and you will never get out of the shallow end. Science can’t assess the who, only the what. It is imagination that establishes curiosity and curiosity faith. If we start with the hypothesis that God can be found we will be looking wrongheadedly. However, if we give up the hunt and reconcile God mysterious who completes all earthly myths through his son, we will not need reason as a guide but rather a support in our efforts to evaluate the visible and invisible, the spec in hand and the galaxies above.

(May 2008)