Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Holy Nova!

Either a supernova  or a mammogram.
So the Good Star Betelgeuse might be on the way out. One thing is guaranteed, humans being what they are (gullible, imaginative, and self-centered in the extreme): if Betelgeuse goes ahead and dies on us in a fiery explosion, a lot of people aren't going to be content to admire it for the awesome spectacle it is, but will impute all sorts of significance to it. It will be a sign of something: impending doom, God's Moral Flashlight, anything but the collapse of a massive star that has about run out of fuel and can no longer overcome the force of gravity. Nope: people already believe that their lives are disrupted whenever a planet looks like it's going backwards but isn't. They're not going to let a supernova go by without wringing as much meaning out of it as they can.

For instance, there's quite a lot of speculation that the Star of Bethlehem that led the three wise men to Jesus's bed of straw was actually a supernova. Now, right off the bat you have that problem with witness reliability: Matthew was the only Gospel writer who even mentioned a big star, which you'd think one of the others would have noticed. Especially if it was moving around the sky and pulling up short and parking right over the baby.

But evidently there was a doozy of a nova on February 23, 4BC. And some scholars, based on various things known about King Herod, put Jesus's birth at anywhere between two and six years before his birthdate, which is a good trick all by itself, but maybe not a problem for the divine.

We can't take everything the Gospel writers said to the bank. They don't agree with each other. Everyone has the blessed event taking place in Bethlehem, which concords with an earlier prophesy, but some have Joseph and Mary and the babe hieing off to Egypt and others have them right back in Nazareth, having only popped off to Bethlehem for the census.

(Think about that for a moment. We get all upset when someone bangs on our door for the census, or we have to fill out and mail a form. Imagine how a modern person would feel about making a road trip for the purpose. On a donkey. Pregnant.)

Anyway if it was that particular nova, once again, we're dealing with something that actually took place 21,000 years earlier, so if it really was announcing the birth of the Savior of Mankind, that was some slick planning. The only thing we know of that was happening around then was that people were moving to the vicinity of Canberra, Australia. And generally speaking it isn't mankind that needs to be saved when people start occupying territory, it's the animals that already lived there. Nevertheless, the whole coincidence--star blowing up, baby born 21,000 years later, mankind redeemed--is considered by some to be a mystical slam dunk, because God.

Now if good old Betelgeuse were to collapse this year, it really would've happened in about the time Peter the First of Portugal was born. Peter was in love with his wife's maid and his own father hired men to decapitate her; he had her dug up again, but nobody is reported to have sailed into the sky or anything, and he had to settle for matching tombs so that at least they could be together at the Last Judgment.

To be fair, lots of supernovas haven't panned out, Messiah-wise.

But let's stick to the convention that the significant event is the arrival of the light from the explosion to our planet. In that case, if Betelgeuse goes off now, we should start looking around for a new savior, and it's none too soon. I would've put my money on Greta Thunberg, but I guess it's too late.

22 comments:

  1. It must be the End of Days again, so hopefully the Fundies will be waiting for that come election day and forget to vote for their Messiah whom some of them think is currently in the White House. Hey, I don't make this stuff up.

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    1. Isn't it something to think that there are lots and lots of people out there who are excited that we are inciting wars because it's going to hurry up the Judgment Day? Dang. Kind of wish they'd punch their own personal ticket and leave the rest of us out of it.

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    2. I was rather looking forward to "The Rapture", so that those hypocrites could be transported to "Heaven" and leave the rest of us with a more manageable number of people.

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    3. Yeah...me, too. Instead, we got a prime minister who keeps a bible in his desk at the Houses of Parliament.

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    4. I try to point out to my fundamentalist friends that wrecking the world to hasten the rapture (as they believe it) is profoundly disrespecting the Creator who expects us to care for it. Yes, it would be great if the evangelicals would just poof themselves off (and leave their homes and cars for the less fortunate), in the same way the children of warmongers (including the three Dump children) should be on the front lines of any war they create. Alas, we live in an illogical world.

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  2. I learn a lot from your posts. They do not make me feel better about the day, but they do make me think.

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    1. Oh, now, you have to credit Studley Windowson for making your day better.

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  3. Little Greta, out there in the temples of power lecturing her betters at her age? Biblical, really. Keep your money on her.

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    1. Oh, I'll pour money on her any old time.

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    2. There's somebody making red ball caps with "Make America Greta Again" - clever.

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  4. Yes, why do humans infuse natural events with such outrageous meaning? Okay, I can understand back when nobody knew anything science-y, but as we learned more and more you'd expect the magical thinking would have gotten less and less. Not so.

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    1. The thing that's weird to me is that reality is so darned interesting you shouldn't need to start making stuff up.

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  5. I would love to be somewhere with a powerful telescope and actually see a supernova happen. And if the telescope also had a camera attachment that would be the icing on the cake, so to speak. I'm not one to worry about whether a supernova means anything, good news or harbinger of doom, it's just one more thing dying as everything will eventually do. We already have enough doom and gloom to worry about anyway.

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  6. Wondering how long it might be before some nit-wit links Beetlegeuse to the massive bushfires here.

    I've always thought that if the Smart Ones could have re-plotted star charts and the likelihood of induced parturition after being bounced on a donkey ...Hallmark might have made a sockful if they'd come up with a dos-a-dos card for Christmas AND Easter...

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  7. Your posts not only make me think, but, more importantly, they make me laugh. Thank you!

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  8. I like to think about what the religious people would say if we actually did discover life on another planet.

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