Somewhere, Over the Rainbow
I think part of why this either-or argument is so interesting is because the ‘separate spheres’ retort is so popular. If I’ve heard people say that once I’ve heard them say it – quite a few times. It’s always irritated me profoundly. That’s one reason I was so intensely annoyed to see Stephen Jay Gould, of all people, come out with it a few years ago. (Another reason was that he said so many absurd things in the process.) It’s always irritated me because it’s so convenient. So perfectly tailored to allow people to believe anything and everything they want to, just by locating whatever it is in the ‘separate sphere.’ Of course, people are ‘allowed’ to believe what they want to in any case, but with a convenient sphere to stash things in, they can do it without losing face intellectually, or at least they think they can, and some people let them get away with it.
But let’s stop letting them do that, shall we? Let’s hold their feet to the fire. Let’s just ask them, if it’s in some separate sphere that’s immune from any kind of inquiry (and don’t let them claim there’s another, special kind of inquiry for the Separate Sphere, because there isn’t), then how do they know anything about it? And if they don’t know anything about it, why are we supposed to believe them when they tell us where it is? If they do know anything about it – how do they know? Perhaps they’ll tell you it’s via an inner experience. Well, that experience is part of nature, obviously. So let’s inquire into it. They won’t want to let you, of course, they’ll claim it’s impossible, or that they’ve had a Revelation. But just stay calm, nibble a few pistachios for strength, and ask where the Revelation came from.
After all they have gotten away with it for a long time. It is very convenient, isn’t it. There just happens to be this Place that’s not really a place, that’s not part of nature, that’s not subject to scientific inquiry (meaning any kind of human inquiry), that’s not anything we know anything about – but even though we don’t know anything about it, by definition, because it’s in this Other Realm outside of nature – despite that, religious people know all about it and about the deity who lives there. Oh well that’s convincing. Hmph. If that’s where it is then they don’t know anything about it and can’t say anything about it, and can’t whistle about it either.