Thursday, December 21, 2006

`What is it we are a part of that we do not see, as the spider was not gifted to discern ...?' (Eiseley)

I bought a second-hand copy of the late anthropologist Loren Eiseley's 1978 book "The Star Thrower"the other day, and I was struck by his analogy in it of "a huge yellow-and-black orb spider,

[Graphic: Golden Orb Web spider (Nephila pilipes), Australia]

whose web ... was her universe, and her senses did not extend beyond the lines and spokes of the great wheel she inhabited ... a tiny ... spider's universe concerned with spider thought."

This being "a symbol of man in miniature" who "too, lies at the heart of a web, a web ... Like the spider's claw, a part of him touches a world he will never enter in the flesh" and yet "Is man at heart any different from the spider ... man thoughts, as limited as spider thoughts" (and here I take it Eiseley means scientific materialist man) with "nothing beyond, nothing allowed for the unexpected, the inserted pencil from the world outside":

"We think we learn from teachers, and we sometimes do. But the teachers are not always to be found in school or in great laboratories. ... For example, I once received an unexpected lesson from a spider. It happened far away on a rainy morning in the West. I had come up a long gulch looking for fossils, and there, just at eye level, lurked a huge yellow-and-black orb spider, whose web was moored to the tall spears of buffalo grass at the edge of the arroyo. It was her universe, and her senses did not extend beyond the lines and spokes of the great wheel she inhabited. Her extended claws could feel every vibration throughout that delicate structure. She knew the tug of wind, the fall of a raindrop, the flutter of a trapped moth's wing. Down one spoke of the web ran a stout ribbon of gossamer on which she could hurry out to investigate her prey. Curious, I took a pencil from my pocket and touched a strand of the web. Immediately there was a response. The web, plucked by its menacing occupant, began to vibrate until it was a blur. Anything that had brushed claw or wing against that amazing snare would be thoroughly entrapped. As the vibrations slowed, I could see the owner fingering her guidelines for signs of struggle. A pencil point was an intrusion into this universe for which no precedent existed. Spider was circumscribed by spider ideas; its universe was spider universe. All outside was irrational, extraneous, at best raw material for spider. As I proceeded on my way along the gully, like a vast impossible shadow, I realized that in the world of spider I did not exist. ... I began to see that, among the many universes in which the work of living creatures existed, some were large, some small, but that all including man's, were in some way limited or finite. We were creatures of many different dimensions passing through each other's live; like ghosts through doors. In the years since, my mind has many times returned to that far moment of my encounter with the orb spider. A message has arisen only now from the misty shreds of that webbed universe. What was it that had so troubled me about the incident? Was it that spidery indifference to the human triumph? ...Was it this that troubled me and brought my mind back to a tiny universe among the grass blades, a spider's universe concerned with spider thought? Perhaps. ... I saw, at last, the reason for my recollection of that great spider on the arroyo's rim, fingering its universe against the sky. The spider was a symbol of man in miniature. The wheel of the web brought the analogy home clearly. Man, too, lies at the heart of a web, a web extending through the starry reaches of sidereal space, as well as backward into the dark realm of prehistory. His great eye upon Mount Palomar looks into a distance of millions of light-years, his radio ear hears the whisper of even more remote galaxies, he peers through the electron microscope upon the minute particles of his own being. It is a web no creature of earth has ever spun before. Like the orb spider, man lies at the heart of it, listening. Knowledge has given him the memory of earth's history beyond the time of his emergence. a part of him touches a world he will never enter in the flesh. Even now, one can see him reaching forward into time with new machines, computing, analyzing, until elements of the shadowy future will also compose part of the invisible web he fingers. Yet still my spider lingers in memory against the sunset sky. Spider thoughts in a spider universe-sensitive to raindrop and moth flutter, nothing beyond, nothing allowed for the unexpected, the inserted pencil from the world outside. Is man at heart any different from the spider, I wonder: man thoughts, as limited as spider thoughts, contemplating now the nearest star ... Let man spin his web, I thought further; it is his nature. ... What is it we are a part of that we do not see, as the spider was not gifted to discern my face, or my little probe into her world? ... It is not sufficient any longer to listen at the end of a wire to the rustlings of galaxies; it is not enough even to examine the great coil of DNA in which is coded the very alphabet of life. These are our extended perceptions. But beyond lies the great darkness of the ultimate Dreamer, who dreamed the light and the galaxies." (Eiseley, L.C., "The Hidden Teacher," in "The Star Thrower," [1978], Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York NY, Reprinted, 1979, pp.116-120).

Continuing the analogy, one can imagine this spider intoning to itself :


(with apologies to the late Carl Sagan in his "Cosmos," 1980, p.4). And therefore anything outside its "tiny ... spider's universe concerned with spider thought," such as "A pencil point ... an intrusion into this universe" by a being "outside [it] was irrational, extraneous" and not only does not, but cannot, exist!

But why, if as the Epicurean materialist-naturalists claim, "We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies":

"Hawking ... told the BBC: `We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred thousand million galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.' ["Master of the Universe," BBC TV, 1989]" (Strobel, L.P., "The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2004, p.118)

should what we can detect with our senses (analogous to "the spider's claw") be "ALL THAT IS OR EVER WAS OR EVER WILL BE"?

This is an even greater cosmic arrogance than Sagan (and his Epicurean ilk's) claim that Christians are guilty of saying "We're at the center [of the Universe]" (it is a myth that Christians ever claimed this):

"You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species over all that time-with us excitedly chattering, `The Universe created for us! We're at the center! Everything pays homage to us!'-and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots." (Sagan, C.E., "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," Random House: New York NY, 1994, p.17)

because it is, in effect, claiming "We scientific materialist- naturalists are the center of the Universe", in the sense that, "What we want not to exist (e.g. a God `outside' the Universe who can and does intervene in it), cannot exist"!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).

Genesis 30:31-43. 31"What shall I give you?" he asked. "Don't give me anything," Jacob replied. "But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen." 34"Agreed," said Laban. "Let it be as you have said." 35That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks. 37Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban's animals. 41Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys.

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