The Sulking God and the Beauty of Nature

Orthodoxy has no doubt, no uncertainty, no question for the world, only demands.

The knowledge of science is temporary and uncertain. It can dissolve with the next experiment, to nothing.

That a theory can fail the world, demonstrates however the resistancy (Widerständigkeit) of the world. Reality is, if you stop believing in it, and it still persists. But although reality can be pitilessly hard, she is also slippery, like a mossy rock in the rain. Massive, but inapprehensible, slipping from your grip.

Philosopher Paul Feyerabend, when I [that is, John Horgan] interviewed him in 1992, was even more adamant that scientists aren’t figuring out reality. "This to me seems so crazy!" Feyerabend exclaimed. "It cannot possibly be true! What they figured out is one particular response to their actions, and this response gives this universe, and the reality that is behind this is laughing! 'Ha ha! They think they have found me out!'"1

May be, that reality is laughing at us as Paul says. To me it rather seems that it is sulking. If there would be a god, I would imagine him (yes, this one would be a he) as suffering from his own imperfection, weary of his own creation. Reality eludes us, because it is sulking. And at the same time the rain-wet moss is still beautiful, with a luminous deep green, soft and filigree.

Sometimes, though, god would have a tantrum, which would go off in an access of rage. The Noachian flood. Sodom and Gomorrah. He would begrudge us humans our small pleasures, because he could thoroughly surveye the pitilessness of his own creation, which he would take to be a failure.

Conspiracy theories are in some ways a lot of more attractive than a reality in which nature does try to kill us all the time. Right. So. Would you rather live in a comforting reality where things are happening because people caused them or would you rather live in a reality where there are random events in an uncaring universe that can just, you know, delete us in an accidental swipe.2

In what Vincent says here, having a surprisingly lucid moment, substitute "conspiracy theories are" with "religion is" and "people caused" with "the creator caused", and you get orthodoxy. Orthodoxy replaces unpredictable nature by a reliable creator. It doesn't help against the creator's rages, but at least believers can be content that it all has a purpose, even if it skirts them. And if they get lucky (they think of it as deserving), they might actually be spared.

Orthodoxy doesn't react to what is actually present to us, it reacts reversely instead to what is lacking in certainty from this present. It transforms a precarious presence to a definite eternity. One would assume that this eternal rigidity is isolating off the fluid current, from which a spark of ingenuity could fly. — But why than can orthodoxy inspire the creation of something like a Gothic cathedral?

A Gothic cathedral is a hybrid, born from the beautiful high stems of a beech forest, half-lit by the sun, beautiful nature itself, and born also by the urge of humans for order and symmetry of the world and to recreate it and reshape it if necessary by themselves. A Gothic cathedral is a hybrid, but not a bastard, a well proportioned hybrid, with hardly a fault. And that may be because it's twofold inheritance, beauty of nature and human ingenuity, comes from the same source, a source not easily disconnected and isolated off. Humans are as much a part of nature as a beech forest is.

They can't help it.


p. s. Hey, and don't call me out on Feuerbach. ;)


A reader, who calls himself a humanist3, wrote:

"Religion dient (u.a.) der Kontingenzbewältigung. Stimmt.

Aber was folgt daraus? Dass intellektueller Selbstbetrug um des psychischen Kurzzeitnutzens willen erlaubt ist? -- Nein!" [...]

"Wenn die Erhabenheit der gotischen Kathedrale dazu dient, wider besseres Wissen die gesellschaftlichen Präsenz der orthodoxen Inhalte aufrechtzuerhalten, dann nenne ich das intellektuellen Selbstbetrug - und, da der psychische Nutzen zwar hie und da noch vorhanden ist, aber sich im Säurebad der Aufklärung auflösen wird, "Kurzzeitnutzen". (Wenn die Kathedrale dagegen als bloßes Kunstwerk zum interesselosen Wohlgefallen betrachtet werden soll, also von ihrer überkommenen weltanschaulichen Aussage gelöst werden soll, dann hättest du das schreiben müssen - denn das wäre kulturell ein schwieriger Transformationsprozess, der keineswegs selbstverständlich ist und kaum von selbst in Gang kommt). -- Was ist falsch daran?"

Dein fehlender Sinn für aesthetisches Empfinden und Ausdrücken.

Du sagtest zuvor an anderer Stelle, wenn ich das richtig in Erinnerung habe, dass du Dir auch mehr musischen Ausdruck bei Neuen Humanisten wünschen würdest. Es war ein Lüge, richtig? Du kannst das gar nicht empfinden. Du hast mich jetzt definitv davon überzeugt, dass der Mangel an eurer Weltanschauung liegt.

Hast du applaudiert, als die Taliban Buddha-Statuen zerstört haben? Denn dann brauchst du dich ja um deren "psychischen Nutzen" schonmal nicht mehr kümmern und kannst das "Säurebad der Aufklärung" woanders einsetzen. Und der Brand von Notre-Dame kam dir auch recht gelegen? Du hast eine Petition unterschrieben, man solle das Geld für die Renovierung besser in die "kulturelle Transformation" der katholischen Rest-Bevölkerung Frankreichs investieren? Stellst du dich mit einem Pappschild vor die Uffizien in Florenz (Boticellis Geburt der Venus, der olle Kirchenkünstler) oder das Konzerthaus in Berlin (Vivaldis L'estro armonico, der katholische Priester, du weisst schon)? Und auf dem Pappschild steht: "INTERESSELOSES WOHLGEFALLEN ONLY!"

[Figure 1: Sandro Botticelli: La nascita di Venere, tempera on canvas, ca. 1485, at Wikimedia]

[Audio 1: Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico, 12 concertos, Op. 3, violin Frederico Guglielmo, ensemble L'Arte Dell'Arco, released 2002, at yewtu.be]


Counterstatement by said reader:

Deine Defizit- und Denkmalzerstörungsunterstellungen weise ich zurück, die sind nun wirklich abwegig.


  1. John Horgan: The Weirdness of Weirdness. Scientific American. Cross-Check Blog. January 3, 2018. URL: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/the-weirdness-of-weirdness 

  2. Vincent Racaniello: SARS-CoV-2 origins with Robert Garry. TWiV podcast episode 762, hosted by Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, Rich Condit and Brianne Barker, May 30 2021. URL: https://www.microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-762 

  3. Wikipedia contributors: Humanism. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, last update Dec 1 2021. URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanist