Prelude to final review of Pilgrimage [no spoilers]

True or false? To use a microwave is the same as to understand how a microwave works.

True or false? To be interested in microwaves, even to the level of obsession, or to be religious, heavily observant and totally faithful, is the same as being inside a microwave, observing what is going on there.

Silly questions? But they can be productive, in terms of how intersections between religion, magic, belief in witchcraft or supernatural beings, and science that most people don’t understand come up frequently when one teaches this material. On one level, anyone who uses a microwave successfully understands how it works: you plug the device into the wall, put something in it, press the start button, and after a certain amount of time, the contents come out warm (if you follow a few simple but crucial rules). We all assume it’s more complex than that. Substantially fewer people know that a microwave works by bombarding its contents with a particular frequency of electromagnetic radiation that causes some of the food molecules (especially water) to vibrate more quickly, producing thermal energy. I would say perhaps ten percent of the students I taught knew that much. The number of people who understand the relationship between vibrating molecules and thermal energy, or how electromagnetic radiation causes molecules to vibrate, is vanishingly small. Nonetheless all of these people use microwaves.

True or false? Medieval people used relics in the same way that modern people use microwaves, in ignorance of how they work but in full confidence that they will.

Have you heard of Clarke’s third law? Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

We don’t know how these things work, relics or microwaves, we just know that they do.

Is your microwave magical?

Is relic piety a technology?

More soon.

~ by Servetus on July 2, 2017.

5 Responses to “Prelude to final review of Pilgrimage [no spoilers]”

  1. very cool. very interesting.

  2. Yes, very interesting I look forward to reading more.

  3. Good questions to think about. I trust that this reply will get to you. Don’t really know how… could be magic!

    • Could be! I can explain a lot of it. But there are gaps and things I don’t know. Like, I don’t know what it is about the way that a semi-conductor is organized that causes it to choose between 0 / 1 for any particular transaction — beyond electric charges. No matter how deep you look you could always look deeper.

  4. […] [Spoilers. Post assumes you have seen the film or are aware of the detailed summary, as well as the list of errors in the portrayal of religious history in the film. And I assume you have thought at least a little about “how relics work.”] […]

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