Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Wonky Cross Phenomenon

"If you stare into the dark long enough, you will begin to see things."


Last Sunday, I, a self-tailored Buddhist and a "mild" agnostic, attended church when my Christian girlfriend skipped Sunday service in favour of her bed. At a glance, this appears right out some kid's idea of an Opposite Day but analyse it for a bit - my girlfriend already has faith in her God, and going to church isn't likely to reinforce it (or at the off-chance; diminish it). I, on the other hand, am an agnostic (a term which basically means "no knowledge") and having no surety or exclusive knowledge of the existence of any godheads, believe that I require more education. I promised myself that I must never be proud enough to trust that I know all I need to know, an attitude I highly recommend to every person in this world who professes to a religion.

I was invited by one of my churchgoing Protestant friends, Yin Yee, to her congregation to watch a certain DVD which their pastor is pretty darn excited about. I went, with an academic spirit, to find out why.

Firstly, to cover my own ass, I need a disclaimer. I, and a good number of other non-Christians were invited to sit down patiently in their church to listen to their point of view. I believe it is safe for me to assume that the aim of this exercise was to educate me about their faith and possibly, to offer their brand of salvation if I choose to take it. And they threw in free banana cakes too! In line with that assumption, I think it is perfectly fair for me to respond to that with my own opinions here in my blog (but sans banana cakes, sorry). If you want someone to listen to you, you must be prepared to listen too, I always say.

The DVD in question was a segment featured in a Christian "How Great Is Our God" rock concert where a certain persona who goes by the name of Louie Giglio gave a short science lecture about precisely that; how great his God is.

The first part was basically a trivia filled documentary comparing Earth with various other bodies in space. I won't bore you with the details but the rundown is this; Earth is abysmally tiny (and us humans infinitesimally tinier) while the universe is super insanely massive beyond imagination. And by extension, the Christian God who created it is even more super insanely massive beyond imagination compared to it. The objective of it is to put things into perspective, for Christians, just how awesome their deity is - but the video did absolutely nothing for people who believe in other spiritual doctrines or are atheists. That Giglio dude could have been talking about any Creator figure in any of the world's religions if he had not specified that he's Christian - proven by the urge of my naughtier and more impish side to stand up at one point and shout "Go Brahma, you rock!"

So, Giglio needed some sort of a clincher to nail all of creation to his own personal God. He believe he had one in this,

The centre of the Whirlpool Galaxy.

I was expecting something like that from the start. Okay, not quite like this but you know what I mean.

Here's another disclaimer; I was not determined to disbelieve, as some people might be too eager to point out. I went with the interest to learn and should anything prove of genuine intellectual value, I would be the first to snap it up.

I just want to point out that the Cross of Golgotha had a crossbeam which is perpendicular to the vertical stake. Okay? We move on now?

Trying to fit something into a preformed idea is neither scientific nor productive. This image is likely to be championed by many Christians to be some sort of proof of the Christian God's hand in Creation - a quirky signature, if you like - if the reaction of the hundreds of audiences in the video was anything to go by. And since it was shown in the church, I guess it means that it's an opinion endorsed by the pastor of the church I was invited to (who baked such awesome banana cakes, I might add).

Here, I like to share a quote which I cherish; "In science, if the facts don’t fit the theory, the theory is modified or tossed out. In religion, if the facts don’t fit the theory, the facts are often modified or tossed out"

A sincere apology goes out to whoever I might be disagreeing with, but this is just in the spirit of sharing ideas - I see the acceptance of the crooked crucifix as a plain act of modifying a fact. When I point that out to a Christian friend this afternoon, she said, "Well, it'll probably look straight when looked at from another angle".

It's a straight example of someone
determined to believe.

What I didn't say to her in reply was if it was ever meant as a sign by the Creator to his chosen people, you'd think he'd set it up in the right orientation. Well, it might be intended for some alien blokes on Alpha Centauri or some other galaxy, I don't know. But that's pretty unlikely too, since the "X" (yes, it's referred to as thus) is formed by two dust rings around a black hole intersecting each other - so this is as close to a cross as it's ever going to get, from any possible angle.

But that's not the main point. Even if the cross was angled correctly, it is still meaningless - both to a disbeliever and (dare I say) a Christian. I have more than a pedestrian knowledge of the teachings of Christianity, and Christianity is never about looking for signs and proofs in everything one sees to rationalise one's faith. This is just one step above those loonies who see silhouettes of Jesus in burnt toasts and insisted that it was some religious revelation. By focusing of trivialities like this, it subtracts from the dignity of the teachings of Christ in the eyes of outsiders. I'm not saying that there aren't people (bless them) who would convert on the spot when they are confronted with this OMG mind-blowing proof that the Christian God is real, but are they truly knowing God and what He stands for? Does He stand for squinting into the vast unknown cosmos and seizing any intersecting lines one finds as the proof that He's Out There?

Now, don't any of you throw Corinthians 2:14-16 at me. You can't qualify the ability to straighten out crooked crucifixes as an "understanding of the Holy Spirit".

I may not understand what it is to have faith, but I do know this. Proof and faith is not compatible. When someone tells you something, and you believe what was told without any verification, you are taking something on faith. When you have proof; faith, in all its sense, ceases to exist. You can't have both. This applies to every religion who claims to have special knowledge which has to be taken on faith.

Next up in the DVD, Giglio went on a tangent about how crazy unique and special each of us is lovingly crafted by the hands of God (citing some statistics about DNA complexity and length). Long story short, he started on about a certain cell adhesion proteins found in the human body called laminin - which many of my medical school colleagues would no doubt be familiar with. Then he unveiled the kicker.

This was tentatively the picture he showed his audience (to much rejoicing, I might add),


Okay, diagrammatically it's a straight crucifix this time. Then the Giglio guy went on to quote Colossian 1:17 which goes like so,

"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

And since laminin is some molecule which glues stuff in the body together, this is taken as some "Ahah!" thing by the Giglio dude that proves the Bible as the de facto proof of God (again with the proof thing).

Actually, in all honesty, the first thing which popped into my mind when he showed the diagram was the caduceus, an antique astrological symbol of commerce and of Hermes, messenger of the Greek gods, conductor of the dead, and protector of merchants and thieves,

Better fit, no? See, it got the twirly bit too!

Gosh, I see it now! It is in Hermes that all things hold together!

Again I must stress, I do this not as an act of malice towards Christianity and its followers but to prove that the cross in the laminin is nothing more than a coincidence which can be interpreted differently by different people when they do not share the same sensibilities. Admit it; not all lines in this universe are parallel - some of them are bound to cross one another. If you look hard enough, you'll probably find a lot more crosses in nature than just laminin. It's a devilishly simple shape, after all

Incidentally, there is also a molecule called trunkamide which resembles the head of an elephant. It was isolated from a sea squirt in the Great Barrier Reef and was reported to have anti-tumor properties. Does this mean that the elephant headed Lord Ganesh cures cancer?

Anyway, I'm not finished.

Then, that Giglio dude did something which totally made me suspect that he's actually some radical atheist agent going all out to ridicule Christians (to see him for yourself, go here). He showed this scanning electron micrograph of an actual laminin,


"I'm like how crazy is that?" Louie Giglio gushed. "That the stuff that holds our bodies together - it's holding the linings of your organs together, holding your skin on - is in the PERFECT shape of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!"

At that point, I burst out laughing and Josephine, who was sitting beside me, had to pinch me to stop me doing that (thankfully, the DVD was sufficiently loud to drown me out). I couldn't hold it back - It was practically a self-parody. And the fact that I have a rather developed faculty of imagination probably didn't help. Glaring in my mind that moment was the image of Jesus Christ crucified on that wonky cross.

And when I look at it long enough, it began to resemble a stick figure of Abe Lincoln wearing his iconic beard and hat, a pair of oversized clown shoes and waving a pair of maracas in his hands.

The audience in the video were clearly not as impressed. The cheering was palpably weaker and less enthusiastic than it was when he displayed the basic molecular diagram which, admittedly, looked more cross-like.

Anyone with a basic high school knowledge of biochemistry would know that the bonds and forces which configures the 3 dimensional shape of a protein molecule are very complicated and often, the actual thing looks very, very different from a schematic representation of the same thing. Just check out the one in the box in the top right of this picture,

There's nothing even remotely suggestive of a cross in that top right picture. I shouldn't need to state the obvious.

Considering just how complexly convoluted and tangled proteins are in all living things, they might just as easily have been hijacked by worshipers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a divine proof of their noodly deity. Read the Wiki article on it - it's sufficiently interesting to warrant a bit of attention. It's a parody religion devised by Bobby Henderson to protest the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to biological evolution.

More importantly, Henderson said something which I agree with wholeheartedly,

"I don't have a problem with religion. What I have a problem with is religion posing as science. If there is a god and he's intelligent, then I would guess he has a sense of humor."

I enjoy intelligent discussions - which means no wonky crosses, please - about religion with people who have different ideologies from mine and try to learn from them the truths in their faith. It's pointless to talk about other religions with people who share the same prejudices you have - nothing will ever come out of that except the reinforcement of ignorance. Also, I think it is the responsibility of anyone who favours one god and faith over the others to take time to learn just what they are rejecting. After all, how can someone say that apples are the best tasting fruits in the world when he has never in his life tasted oranges, bananas and pears?

That's all I have to say, I guess. Oh, and be careful - the cross can be an idol too. Cue wink.

Once more, I offer my apologies to any of my friends or readers who are offended by this post. I was invited to listen to an opinion, and I feel that it's only fair to extend the same invitation back.

P.S. I welcome anyone who wants to discuss religions, metaphysical theories and morality here with me but please, do so in a polite and composed manner, befitting of a person of some intelligence. Wronky cosses not allowed.

In the interest of truth,
k0k s3n w4i


bevE said...

Anyone with a basic high school knowledge of biochemistry would know that the bonds and forces which configures the 3 dimensional shape of a protein molecule are very complicated and often, the actual thing looks very, very different from a schematic representation of the same thing.

dis from when i sed that i bio student its the least i can do to know that molecules are more complicated than that ah -_- u insult me wei, seriously >_>

(why d font so weird wan?)

btw ur cross of hermes where got like the J-cross? like penis la. so unholy.

Innocent^^Guy said...

nicely written....enjoyed reading it!

mrbherng said...

When science and religion comes together... it can be quite a joke

read this : http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/report_32_of_prayers

Voon said...

the onion is satire. Is your hyperlink complete?

I feel incredible how some of your posts mirror my (unspoken)thoughts. The problem is rather more fundamental for me. Believe it or don't believe it. I have no love for apologetics because the approach is plain wrong. The problem with faith(in this case) is, it requires the absence of proof. No one will ever prove the existence of the Omniscient.
1. He doesn't exist - self explanatory
2. He exists - If He were to reveal Himself to us, we would be in check of our behavior BECAUSE of fear of retribution or for some final reward. Heaven should be a home for the truly righteous.

mrbherng said...

Ooops... here you go http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/report_32_of_prayers

Ven said...


k0k s3n w4i said...

beve: it's just that i constantly think of u as a 13 years old girl. you're seeing penis everywhere u look. i'm sure it shows that there is sumthing srsly perverted in the way ur mind works.

innocent^^guy: ah, glad u did, man. it takes quite an effort to write.

mrbherng: OMG, I so laughed my ass off reading that. Especially the "eaten by birds" bit. and the Nigerian guy xD. How come, in all my time, I've never seen this Onion article? Capital find, dude.

voon: I'm not too into the whole punishment and reward thing. I believe in doing good, even tho I'm not likely to be rewarded for it. Neither do I feel especially inclined to be evil considering that I don't believe in divine punishments. Kindness and altruism are their own rewards.

bevE said...

i tot u being smut would've realised dat long taim 'go.

Zzzyun said...

harlo! im back after a long hiatus in the blogger world.

anyway, i want to say this post rawks - but probably only because my (private) opinions match urs.

a few of my friends had watched the very same video during their cg and i rmb them raving abt how they loved laminin now due to its "holy-related" shape.

and i was thinking to myself, if God really want to show himself thru science, he wouldnt do it in sucha pamby-namby-unstraightforward way. and besides, it was just purely a coincidence. hah.

i was wondering if... if their symbol hadnt been a cross, but a triangle, then wudnt they have a field day over it - coz u know lah, in medicine, damn alot of triangles! lol.

i rest my case.

Anonymous said...

Hey I know Im late to the party but I just found out about this - very good post - as a Christian I am often amazed at the bad illustrations people try to use to prove God - ...if I may I would like to challenge your definition of faith and proof:

Proof and faith is not compatible. When someone tells you something, and you believe what was told without any verification, you are taking something on faith. When you have proof; faith, in all its sense, ceases to exist. You can't have both. This applies to every religion who claims to have special knowledge which has to be taken on faith.

There is a middle ground - reasonable faith - faith that is exercised based on evidence in the absence of absolute proof. We do it all the time with everything else in our lives, but for some reason we bail on reasonable faith when it's comes to religion.

Say you are in on the top floor of a building and there are two elevators which can take you to the lobby. When the bell rings one elevator opens and you see light, hear music, and a BIG fat guy comes walking off...the other elevator door opens, about halfway, you see the light flickering, and smell a little smoke, and hear the crackle of a busted speaker trying to play music...which one are you going to get on? But, either one could have the cable snap and drop you to the bottom - getting on either elevator is exercising faith - that it will get you to the bottom floor alive - but getting on the first elevator is more reasonable, because there are proofs it may be the better option. Absolute proof and faith are incompatible, but Christianity does not ask for that - it does not ask for you to believe something without any verification - as a matter of fact an unexamined faith is not a faith worth having...again thanks for the post because I agree this illustration is silly, and by the way, if I was beside you during the presentation of the laminin I would have laughed too..