Pinheads All the Way Down

Forget about dark matter; Bill O’Reilly has placed his finger on the true weak point in the so-called theories of modern astrophysics: the tidal effects of the moon’s gravity. Usually, when people try to demonstrate the uses of faith by recourse to regressive questioning and the “God of the gaps,” they get a few questions in before they let ignorance create an impasse. Like some kind of Zen bully, though, O’Reilly cuts the pinheads short: even one question down, and you’re on the road to perdition—and likely socialized medicine to boot.

There’s a well-documented theological problem with giving God dominion over the gaps in our knowledge: those gaps exhibit a strong tendency to shrink. The anti-Nazi theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer exhorted believers to “find God in what we know, not what we don’t know”; O’Reilly seems to be saying that we can keep a big God, a wonder-working God, simply by resolutely defending our ignorance against all comers. Of course, that means rewinding the clock of modern thought past Einstein, past Hubble, past Newton and Galileo.

But here we are, in the only world we get. It’s questions all the way down—slow, recalcitrant questions, well-defended beneath their shells. Don’t like it? Richard Feynman has some advice for you:

Nobody’s pinhead, Feynman relished the regress. In an interview with Christopher Sykes, Feynman demonstrates what it’s like to approach nature with the kind of humility and doubt that makes science work:

Wouldn’t it have been fun to see Bill O’Reilly tangle with Richard Feynman? —via Discover’s Bad Astronomy

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