Atheism and the Arc of History 2

It makes a difference if you think history trends your way.

The first half of this article described The Atlantic's bewilderment that Mr. Obama would use the term the "arc of history" as suggesting that he was convinced that history represents some sort of force which has a goal.  We observed that Mr. Bush seemed to share Mr. Obama's view that our side's victory was inevitable due to the "forces of history" which amounts to the same thing.

Mr. Obama learned nothing from the arc of history not supporting Mr. Bush's view that democracy in Iraq was inevitable; democracy in Libya turned out not to be inevitable either.  In a sense, you could say that both presidents' unjustified semi-religious beliefs in an "arc of history" led them into bad decisions.

Unfortunately, they aren't alone.  Let's continue our exploration of other semi-religious beliefs which seem to have no better foundation than seeing the arc of history as a conscious, goal-directed force.

Worshiping False Gods

American politicians have traditionally felt it prudent to at least seem to share some Christian values.  President Clinton was photographed waving his Bible over his head when leaving a church service with his wife.  In reality, he hardly ever attended church and most commentators believed that he had arranged a photo opportunity for political purposes.

Similarly, although President Obama spent 20 years attending the Reverend Wright's anti-American cult masquerading as a church, he claims never to have heard any of the pastor's oft-repeated criticisms of America.  Either he's lying or he slept through all the sermons; either way,he's not very Christian.

Belief in God, or of any personal responsibility to obey His commands, has fallen out of fashion of late - particularly on the left.  It came as no surprise that a motion to mention God in the Democratic party platform was roundly booed a few years back.  The party elites rammed the motion through anyway, over the strenuous objections of anti-God party delegates because they didn't want to scare off too many American voters, but the handwriting is clearly on the wall.

One can make the argument that few if any of our liberal politicians or pundits share many traditional Christian values, but what about other values of a religious nature?

The phrase "May the force be with you" originated in the Star Wars movie series.  Some believe the line originated from the Latin phrase 'dominus vobiscum,' which means 'The Lord be with you.'

The phrase has entered common use; it is seen as a generic way of saying goodbye, good luck, 'may you be protected' or 'come back safely.'  The speaker wishes the Force - whatever the speaker or addressee might consider that to be - to work in favor of the addressee.

An acceptable reply is 'And also with you' or 'May the force be with us all.'

The movie plots suggested that The Force can enhance physical and mental ability and that it also offers protection from persons who are on the wrong side of The Force - though it also depicts The Force as being on both sides, since both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are strong in it.

Is "The Force" anything like the "right side of history?"  Does it have a goal?  Does it care?  It would seem not: the bad guys are, if anything, more powerful in The Force than the good guys, though apparently even the most steeped-in-evil malefactor can be redeemed by last-minute repentance.

Although it was invented as a fictional plot element for a movie, there are now hundreds of thousands of people who claim to truly believe in "The Force" or the "Jedi religion;" one wonders how many have learned how to shoot lighting bolts from their hands like the Emperor, who's apparently the strongest Force-wielder though, thankfully, he's not immune to the forceful consequences of a thousand-foot drop.

Then there's the Gaia Hypothesis which argues that living matter on the earth collectively defines and regulates the material conditions necessary for the continuance of life.  The planet, or rather the biosphere, is thus likened to a vast self-regulating organism.  In this view, everything alive on earth is in fact one super organism which fights global warming and otherwise cares for the planet, just as you and the 4,000 or so species of bacteria that inhabit your digestive system work together to keep you alive.

Some adherents of the Gaia Hypothesis segue into believing that the planet itself is a deity which directly involves itself in human affairs - suggesting that it must not particularly mind modern technology or human activity or it would have done something about it, a point lost on most adherents of the Gaia hypothesis who tend to be extreme environmentalists.  This echoes the Greek belief that Gaia was the personification of the earth and the ancestral mother of all life; there's even a web site dedicated to this idea.

Are Gaia and The Force equivalent to the goal-directed arc of history?

Then there's karma, which, according to Asiatic philosophers, is the sum total of all a person's actions in this and previous states of existence.  Karma is viewed as deciding everyone's fate in future existences.  Whenever anything interesting happens, some people refer to "karma."  Again, the underlying idea is that "karma" has a goal, or at least an operational definition of what's good vs. bad, and arranges the outcomes of your actions accordingly.

The Christian Arc of History

Christians believe in an arc of history, but their arc is under God's control, and it's anything but a straight line.  Instead of an unstoppable grand sweep of progress, the Bible teaches that as we approach the end of history, things will wax worse and worse.  Christians see the breakdown of families, the proliferation of anti-Bible actions such as gay marriage and abortion, and the general rise of immorality and divorce as evidence for the "falling away" that will come before The End.

The Bible also says that all nations will be united into a one-world government, which is a reason besides nationalism for Christians to oppose the one-world movement.  Thus, Christians would agree with Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton that there is an arc of history, but instead of improvement, they regard the world as being lost in spiritual decay with the overall arc of history pointing in very much the wrong direction.

Many Americans speak of The Force, Gaia, or karma as if they're controlling forces which determine how things turn out.  Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton seem to refer to the arc of history in the same way.  People who mention them assume that these forces are aiming somewhere we want to go, but are they really?

Making a Monkey Out Of Me

One consistent element through most of our modern "arc of history" types is that they believe in the theory of evolution, as contrasted with the traditional Judeo-Christian belief that God created the world and everything in it.

The Atlantic, which is as staunchly pro-evolution and anti-creation as any publication, wrote about CRISPR technology which makes gene editing simple enough to carry out in a high school chem lab.  With high-school students able to tweak bacteria, who knows what advances might result?  Scientists are already using CRISPR to create bacteria which can dissolve plastic waste.

Th authors and editors at The Atlantic assume that natural selection, which we've discussed, can create new species and make existing species more complicated, but even so they can't resist writing about CRISPR in terms of intelligent design:

CRISPR was invented billions of years ago, as a way for bacteria to defend themselves against viruses. The bacteria grab the DNA of invading viruses, incorporating it into their own genomes. That viral DNA always gets inserted in the same place, and new sequences get added after old ones, as if the bacteria were stacking books on a shelf. They use these archives to guide an enzyme called Cas9, which cuts and disables any viral DNA that matches the stored sequences.  [emphasis added]

Note their use of the word "invented," as if a group of bacteria got together and said, "These viruses are giving us a hard time - let's use CRISPR and Cas9 to get rid of them."  Science teaches that that's ridiculous - evolution and natural selection are entirely random processes which have no end goal, no direction, and no intermediate goal even though it certainly seems as if they must.

The Atlantic isn't alone. Scientific American distributed a podcast about whale fins which said: "Whales and dolphins were molded by evolution to glide through water."

Describing evolution as inventing or molding biological mechanisms shows how hard it is to think of the immense variety we see in living organisms as the product of random changes and undirected evolution.  If evolution in fact has a purpose, invents, or molds, changes cease to be random and by definition become the product of intelligent design - because in order to have a purpose, there has to be some level of intelligence deciding what that purpose is.

Believing that all these changes could come about from positive mutations resulting from simple random chance, when we know that just about all mutations observed in nature are harmful, requires a great deal of faith.

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

Is Mr. Obama's "the arc of history" his equivalent of karma, which determines how everything turns out?  As The Atlantic observes, seeing history as an unstoppable force is at best a tortured interpretation of the facts, if not arrant nonsense.  Is he, in his innermost thoughts, more religious than he'd like to admit?

We think it more likely that he realized early on that he was hopelessly out of his depth and had no way to move toward the enlightened, totally green one-world government he craved.  In referring to the "arc of history," Mr. Obama was offering himself hope that his goals would materialize despite his obvious inability to make anything move in the direction he preferred.

Recent history shows that except for the forces of the "deep state," the arc of history doesn't bend in Mr. Obama's direction at all.  In Poland, Mr. Trump recognized that the arc doesn't particularly care how it bends.  Moving the arc the way you want takes time, talent, and treasure, not to mention loss of life.

We tend to think that, in the long term, the arc is more likely to bend in Mr. Trump's direction than in Mr. Obama's, precisely because he understands that he needs to work hard to make it so.  Say what you will about Donald Trump, nobody ever called him lazy, which cannot be said for Barack Obama.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Excellent analysis. The question raised is perhaps one of the most ancient, "From whence did I come and to whence shall I go? I do not believe that human intelligence has evolved sufficiently to answer either question. Give it another thousand years.

July 20, 2017 5:44 PM

I don’t see much conflict anymore between intelligent design and natural selection. Now that we are sequencing DNA we know that the genetic possibilities are not infinite and they are not random. Applying a field of mathematics called combinatorics to DNA sequences, gives us a very, very large but finite number of genetic combinations that are mathematically possible. Of those, there are likely a lot smaller but still very large number of combinations that are biologically viable. At this point, if you want to consider the biologically viable genetic combinations intelligently designed I don’t think the science is changed at all. The natural selection of Darwin chooses which of the biologically viable designs survive and which don't. There's no scientific conflict between intelligent design and survival of the fittest, but there is also no evolution driven by random events. The laws of genetics were all baked in the cake before the natural selection began with the original set of biologically viable designs.

The open questions have to do with the exploration of which of the mathematical genetic combinations are biologically viable. At the moment, we are in the early stages of genetics and can only glimpse that these questions will exist once we get further information. However, I would expect that eventually we will have models that will be able to explore the biologically viable combinations for clues as to hidden aspects of extinct lifeforms. If you want to dwell in the past conflicts of pre-genetic Darwinism versus creationism, enjoy yourself.

July 21, 2017 3:21 AM

We're not alone in thinking about all the non-religions "religions" Americans follow. lists a number of them.

July 24, 2017 9:23 PM
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