Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hot Air


I think it matters what you call things.  I guess it is true that a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.  But you can't ignore the fact that words are powerful.  Words have the ability to bring one's emotion up to the heights or down to the lowest depth.  Words are powerful.  That is why I am quite militant about language and the use of certain words.
I'm not a freak about your spelling (though mine will, in general, be correct).  I'm not the punctuation police or the grammar bully.  Feel free to make every error and to use all of that newfangled internet shorthand like brb and 4 sure and how ur?  I won't stop you.

But when it comes to word use, I have a problem with using religious rhetoric lightly. 

For example, you will never hear me call anything a miracle.  Or mention a spirit, a soul, or an aura.  I won't use the word creation.  Not because religions own these words.  They don't get to claim the language as their own.  But some words are a bit besmirched by the religious groups and the words do carry religious undertones.  In short, some words and expressions have been hijacked and can't be used freely without caveats or clarification.

That is why one of my pet peeves is the "name" often given to this cool deep space image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.  Within the Eagle Nebulae, M16, is this area of star formation, dubbed "The Pillars of Creation".

The pillars are composed of cool molecular hydrogen and dust that are being eroded by photoevaporation from the ultraviolet light of relatively close and hot stars. The leftmost pillar is about four light years in length.  The finger-like protrusions at the top of the clouds are larger than our solar system, and are made visible by the shadows of Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGs), which shields the gas behind them from intense UV flux.  EGGs are themselves incubators of new stars.  Isn't it gorgeous???????  Isn't it astonishing that our generation gets to see this?!!  Isn't the Hubble Telescope a marvel of human innovation and technology?!!!!?!

But that moniker, "The Pillars of Creation" could willfully be used by a creationist to claim some "rightness" of that creation ideology or by other religious groups to support their various mythologies.  It bugs me.  Why would astronomers or scientists use that expression EVER, especially on an image of such an fascinating part of space!  In a way, I think the name given to this deep space object cheapens the reality of it.  Erodes and detracts from it's magnificence.

I understand the all-too-human need to see spirituality in an image such as this.  It is so immense that our human brains can hardly wrap themselves around what we see.  I understand the awe!  But I cannot stand to see that sense of the infinite being reduced to any religion that our species has ever created.

Frankly, I am passionate about astronomy.  As a hobby it is a thing that brings our family great joy and wonderful friends.  But as an atheist, it brings us a sense of the immensity of everything and it provides us with a sense of awe at the wonders of the natural universe.

File:M16 - Eagle nebula.jpg
Infrared image of the Eagle Nebula


If you enjoyed this post you might also like:
Going Back in to the Atheist Closet
or this one:
That's My Girl 


  1. It's funny. The other day, I posted a dream about flying and I got all kinds of responses. One guy even called me at my home to tell me that was my spirit traveling outside my body. He advised me to enjoy the ride, maybe I wouldn't fall so much. lol I wish I could be so sure about things when it comes to the spirit, having one or not having one. But I just don't know. I do see your point about these amazing pillars. Wow!!! I loved learning about them.

    1. Yeah, dream analysis, as far as I am concerned, is dodgy at best.
      I do see symbolism and metaphor and Campbell's "Heroes With A Thousand Faces" etc and the strong urge to think there are hidden meanings in our dreams. I myself think along these lines at times.
      I wouldn't count on the "Woo Woo" of dream analysis. But there are some metaphors in dream symbols that seem to be universal to a given culture. Carl Jung suggested the "collective unconscious" was responsible for that. I think that we have cultural symbols for major themes: change, loss, growth, etc.


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