Get off the speculation train
by Christian Y. Cardall
I know this title is unoriginal, but I decided to hijack it for my present snarky purpose of busting Geoff J’s chops. (Geoff, sorry dude! This is probably ill-advised, but I’m just gonna get it off my chest anyway. To put a positive spin on it, take the individual treatment as a back-handed compliment. ;-> Though I should clarify up front that some of what I say below ended up slanted to cover no only Geoff’s brand of speculation, but also more material (i.e. relevant to real life) pickings and choosings among statements of varying authority that I would not attribute to Geoff—a subject I planned to post on separately, but that also ended up getting entangled with this one.)
I haven’t been a regular participant in Geoff’s threads, but I interactively test-drove a couple in the last week or so. In the end I found the immersion in speculation to be a frustrating wrestle with a Tar Baby. (And I suppose this briar patch of a post is my way of trying to make a self-styled Br’er Rabbit escape.) I’m not sure what Geoff is trying to do: serious pursuit of truth, or admittedly personal and unverifiable expressions and explorations of what he happens to feel is an æsthetically pleasing metaphysics, or just mental gymnastics for the sake of pure intellectual diversion. To make a parallel analogy with another oft-expressed faculty in our world, are we talking a serious attempt at procreation; a mutual and loving but heavily æsthetically-motivated non-procreative encounter; or purely recreational habitual auto-eroticism? Perhaps my frustration derives from an incorrect assumption that the first of these options—serious pursuit of truth, the siring of actual knowledge—is the goal.
What restrains our speculations? Geoff seems to just want to know if what he suggests is absurd or impossible. However, there is little that is absurd or impossible as a matter of logical or semantic necessity. A few more things are ‘impossible,’ or at least incomprehensible, according to known physical law and the more plausible interpretations of historical data; but believers accept some such ‘long shots’ on the basis of trusted prophetic experience and revelation, hoping for revisions and extensions of current scientific and historical understandings. Beyond physical law and history (physical, geological, biological, cultural, …), the only thing one has to suggest anything about eternal realities is revelation—if, of course, one accepts prophetic authority.
In this context, it is the manner of handling the revelations in the process of dealing with subject matter that can only be known by revelation that gets my goat, raises my hackles, blows my stack (and here I begin to speak beyond Geoff alone). I am sympathetic to, even persuaded by, the notion that scripture may be heavily human-mediated (or worse); but I think one is really at sea—or lost in space, to anticipate a comparison I will make momentarily—once one’s cosmic scenarios require the throwing of various pieces of scripture to the wind while retaining others, without some sort of method or specified basis for doing so beyond intuition, idiosyncratic preferences, desired alignment with particular modern social mores, or even personal revelation. Uncoupled now not only from physical law and history, but freed from the constraints of canonized revelation and authoritative statements as well, the cosmic discussion enters a kind of fantasy realm in which the reliability of the relation to eternal realities is about the same as that of science fiction novels and blockbusters—but without the mythic relevance and entertainment value (and possibilities for eye candy) of engaging sci-fi plots (and characters) of epic proportions.
Which is not to say that revelatory speculation might not be a fun hobby, or more seriously for some (not Geoff), even a compelling need in order to believe and act in accordance with what simply must be so without facing the pain of a material break with one’s socio-religious milieu. Maybe I’m reading intentions incorrectly, but I just don’t think we should kid ourselves that it ultimately amounts to anything beyond the expression of personal preference among the unlimited range of imaginative scenarios—anything that can be convincing, or be taken seriously in a public way as a kind of eternal worldview.