Tuesday, April 08, 2014

croah's ark

Tricky times for Christian fundamentalists at the moment: what to make of the new Biblical epic Noah? You might naïvely think that it would be cause for celebratory glee, after all this is a core bit of the Christian religion being served up to a worldwide audience in a blizzard of CGI special effects and with some pretty heavy names on board - director Darren Aronofsky (a "self-professed atheist", apparently), star Russell Crowe and supporting cast including Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson and Ray Fackin' Winstone.

But it's not as simple as that, apparently. While a lot of the more hand-wavey moderates have got behind it, or at least managed to rationalise some of the more noticeable liberties it takes with scriptural orthodoxy, most of the usual suspects have queued up to decry the movie for a variety of barely-comprehensible reasons. Scary Amish-bearded loon and noted ark enthusiast Ken Ham was far from impressed, and banana fiend Ray Comfort even went as far as making his own Noah movie for release (though not quite as widely, I would imagine) at the same time as the big-budget one. Meanwhile, Glenn Beck and Rick Warren blast the movie for perceived "inaccuracies".

The thing is, though, it's a bit rich to criticise the film for some fairly minor crimes against biblical orthodoxy - as far as I can gather these mainly revolve around the film suggesting that humanity's crime was the despoilment of the environment rather than (as the Bible says) general ill-defined wickedness, which I take to probably mean unauthorised sexy sexy times and general ignoring of God. There also seems to be a problem with the film's portrayal of the Creator who wants Noah to help him out - firstly he is a bit vaguely defined, and referred to throughout as "the Creator" rather than "God" as the literalists would prefer, and secondly Noah's attitude towards him is a bit bolshy and insufficiently forelock-tuggingly deferent and servile. Then again it's Russell Crowe, so I'm not sure what they were expecting.

The reason it's a bit rich is that it ignores the elephant in the room, which is that those criticising the film still implicitly support the idea that this guy, God - supposedly omniscient and omnipotent, let's not forget - having had his initial attempts at giving his creations free will blow up in his face in a farcical series of apple-based shenanigans, did not then magically and painlessly discorporate the handful of people who existed at that point and start again, but instead let everyone rampage around the surface of the planet for a few generations, breeding uncontrollably, until he eventually got so pissed off that he thought: fuck this shit, I'm going to drown everyone's ass, since that seems like literally the best course of action at this point, what with me being some sort of vengeful psychopath and all. To put it another way, I think basically if we reboot the human race with a tiny number of cripplingly inbred, traumatised, seasick, animal-dung-encrusted people, that'll probably improve the situation. Not only is that shockingly incompetent by any standards, it's also breathtakingly evil by any standards except the kind of standard that says: well, he's God, he can do what he wants and it is by definition good and right. Some call this the Euthyphro dilemma: I like to call it the Nixon defence.

The only reason to care about how accurately the film matches the source material is if you believe the source material to be literally true. Needless to say this introduces some problems, particularly if you also adhere to the Ussher chronology which would also have you believe that the earth is around 6000 years old, rather then the accepted scientific figure of 4.5 billion years. You will be far from surprised to hear that there is a whole branch of creationist apologetics devoted to shoehorning a whole swathe of inconvenient geological evidence into the 6000-year narrative, including some fantastic stuff about where all the water came from. As most of its adherents are American, they tend to focus on stuff like the Grand Canyon, since it's an obvious landmark that's not all foreign and suspicious. As I understand it from this version of the theory, the original flood laid down a load of sediments, in the process conveniently jumbling up a load of drowned animal carcasses into the fossil record we see today, and then a subsequent catastrophic outflow from some leftover ponded-up floodwaters carved the canyon in a matter of days.

Now obviously this is so stupid as not to really need refutation, but one of the really cool refutations that can be offered is that we actually know what landscapes carved by catastrophic floods look like, and they can be found only a thousand miles or so away from the Grand Canyon, in Washington state. These are called channelled scablands, and are the remnants of a catastrophic flood caused by the sudden emptying of a glacial lake about 15,000 years ago. Needless to say they look nothing like the Grand Canyon.

Picking holes in this sort of bullshit is all very entertaining, of course, but I must confess I don't really understand what motivates the creationists to try and come up with these just-so stories. I mean, if you believe that your God just magicked the WHOLE FREAKIN' UNIVERSE into existence in a week - a week which included a duvet day on the Saturday, let's not forget - what's to stop him just SHAZAMing all the water out of thin air, or KERPOWing the Grand Canyon into existence, or just casually excavating the whole thing himself with one scrape of his mighty fingernail? Why bother to contort yourself so horribly constructing these risibly childish theories? I suppose one answer is that otherwise the ex nihilo creation of stuff with the outward appearance of age makes God look like a bit of a prankster, and the other one is that not everyone has the critical thinking faculties to see through this stuff, and moreover some of those who don't have money that can be deposited into church coffers. Money that may now instead be spent going to see Noah, I suppose - suddenly the animosity makes sense.


D MackD said...

Hey hey. Less of the disparaging "animal-dung-encrusted-people" purlease.
I write as one after all...!

D MackD said...

Hey hey. Less of the disparaging "seasick" people purlease.
I strum as one after all...!

electrichalibut said...

Hey hey. Less of the disparaging "cripplingly inbred" people purlease.