The curse of a blessing

August 1st, 2011 — Wordman

According to Genesis 1:28, after God created humans, he did some version of the following:

  • And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (King James)
  • Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (New Living Translation)
  • God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (New International Version)
  • benedixitque illis Deus et ait crescite et multiplicamini et replete terram et subicite eam et dominamini piscibus maris et volatilibus caeli et universis animantibus quae moventur super terram (Latin Vulgate)
  • כח  וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם, אֱלֹהִים, וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְכִבְשֻׁהָ; וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם, וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבְכָל-חַיָּה, הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל-הָאָרֶץ. (JPS 1917 Edition)

Ignore, for the moment, that God is bestowing a blessing here, not issuing a command (that is, God is imbuing man with fertility). Also, ignore the multitude of translation problems something like this has.

Instead, assume for a second that this verse means what many in the modern world think it does: God commanding to humans to breed. You can even bring all the baggage you want with that, like the implication that, therefore, birth control is a sin, and so on. Pretend that the first instruction God issued man was to conquer the earth by having lots of babies. Hey, guess what?

Mission Accomplished

We did it! Humans have “filled the earth”!

Can we slow down now?

I don’t know much Hebrew or Latin, so I can’t be sure of the translation, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say “be fruitful and multiply, then keep multiplying to the point that you start killing yourself with your own waste”. It seems like self-extermination through overpopulation would seriously hamper the mission to “reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Even if you think we are not choking on our own waste already, how long do you think it will be until we do? How will you know? Think about it this way:

Say you have a jar. In this jar, you will be breeding some sort of organism (yeast or bacteria or something). Let’s say these organisms breed really quickly, with the population doubling every minute. You start breeding at 11am. By noon, the jar is full. Given that the population doubles each minute, what time is it when the jar is half-full?

People who don’t understand the problem (or exponential growth) will naïvely say 11:30. This is wrong, of course. What is not as obvious is that the mathematically correct answer (11:59, one minute before noon) is also wrong. It’s wrong because the population would never actually fill the jar at all. In the real world, the waste products produced by the existing organisms would kill the whole population long before the jar got anywhere near to full.

Now, imagine you are one of the organisms in this jar. What time would it be when you started saying to yourself “man, it is getting really crowded and smelly in here?” And once you notice, is there anything you can do about it? Or is it already too late?

One last thought: suppose waste doesn’t interfere and the jar really does fill up. Then, right at noon, the population finds three more jars, identical to the one they are already in. Hurray! The population is saved! They can expand into the new jars! Well, at least for two more minutes, until 12:02, when these jars fill up as well.

Seeking source

March 12th, 2006 — Wordman

In the comments of a recent Fark article, someone posted a list of questionable “lessons” one could learn from the Bible. Google indicates the same list is posted in a few other forums, but I can’t find any reference to the original source. Anyone know where it might be from? This is the list:

  1. In Genesis 3:16 god punishes all women, innocent or not, with painful childbirth and subjugation to men.
  2. In Genesis 7:4 god has a bad day at the office, thus decides to drown innocent babies, and animals both wild and domestic.
  3. In Exodus 4:11 god boasts about making people handicapped.
  4. In Exodus 4:23 god resorts to hostage taking and terrorism in order to get his own way. He does this via threatening a baby. Soon, he is slaughtering little babies all across Egypt.
  5. In Exodus 9:19-20 god slaughters Egyptian cattle. Sometimes, cow tipping just isn’t enough.
  6. In Exodus 9:29-30 god kills off innocent babies, and whatever cows he missed earlier.
  7. In Exodus 20:17 god tells us not to free another’s slaves. Abolitionists beware!!
  8. In Exodus 32:27-28 god tells the sons to slaughter their neighbors: 3,000 men are slain.
  9. In Leviticus 19:20-22 god demands that raping a slave woman is punishable by scourging the victim. The rapist is to be forgiven.
  10. In Leviticus 25:44-46 god tells his followers to make slaves of their neighbors.
  11. In Leviticus 27:3-7 god helpfully provides a pricing guide. According to this guide, as a male between the ages of 20 and 60 years (the most expensive category), I am worth approximately US$25. How much are you worth to god?
  12. In Numbers 14:18 god’s idea of justice is explained: little children are to be punished for their great-great grandparents transgressions.
  13. In Numbers 31:1-54 god tells his followers to commit genocide, “sparing” only the virgin girls, who are to be raped. Even god gets some “unspared” virgins.
  14. In Numbers 33:4 god kills of another batch of Egyptian babies. Abortion is a sin because…?
  15. In Deuteronomy 2:33-36 god demands genocide again. No mention of virgin girls this time, unless these children are raped to death…
  16. In Deuteronomy 7:2 god demands more genocide from his followers.
  17. In Deuteronomy 13:12-16 god demands new and improved genocide, now including cattle. Oh, wait, we’ve had that before. Damn cows.
  18. In Deuteronomy 32:21-26 god glories in being a psychotic terrorist. Don’t miss the atrocities of Deuteronomy 28, either!
  19. In Joshua 6:18-19 the omnipotent creator is short of cash, again.
  20. In Joshua 8:22-26 god demands more genocide, plus some more slavery as detailed in Joshua 9:21-27, but this time, in Joshua 10:10-11, we get slaughter and a chase scene!! Go, god!!
  21. In Joshua 10:28-32 god demands still more genocide.
  22. In Joshua 11:6-17 god still demands more genocide. There are more exceptions to “Thou shalt not kill” than there are to a rich man’s tax code.
  23. In Judges 1:2-7. god’s takes a break from genocide, has his followers kill “only” 10,000 people, but at least they get to torture and mutilate somebody by cutting off both thumbs and big toes!
  24. In Judges 1:12-13 Caleb offers his daughter as prize to anyone who conquers the City of Debir. The girl’s cousin wins the contest, thus the prize.
  25. In Judges 1:17-19 god gets back to good, ol’ regular genocide. Killing innocent people is serious work!!
  26. In Judges 2:14 god has a temper-tantrum and sells Israel into slavery.
  27. In Judges 3:28-29 & 4:15-16 god reverts to, you guessed it, genocide.
  28. In Judges 5:30 god hands out a damsel or two to each of his rapist soldiers. Booty Call!!
  29. In Judges 10:17 god gets angry at Israel, again, and sells them into slavery, again.
  30. In Judges 12:6 god slays 42,000 innocent people because someone with a speech impediment mispronounces the word “shibboleth”. I’ll bet you thought the word “lisp” was cruel jest.
  31. In Judges 15:4-8 a “righteous” Samson captures 300 foxes, ties their tails together, and sets them on fire. Abusing animals is almost as righteous as killing babies, apparently.
  32. In Judges 19:22-30, after taking in a traveling Levite, the host offers his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to a mob of perverts (who want to have sex with his guest). The mob refuses the daughter, but accepts the concubine and they “abuse her all night.” The next morning she crawls back to the doorstep and dies. The Levite mounts her dead body on an ass and takes her home. Then he chops her body up into twelve pieces and sends them to each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  33. In Judges 21:7-23 in order to find wives for the Benjamites, who were unwilling to use their own daughters, the other tribes attacked and killed all occupants of a city except for the young virgins. These virgins were then given to the Benjamites as “wives”.
  34. In 1 Samuel 2:10 if god doesn’t like you he will send a thunderstorm to break your body into little pieces. In 1 Samuel 2:31-34, if god really doesn’t like you, he will cut off your arm, consume your eyes, grieve your heart, and slay your sons and grandfathers. In 1 Samuel 5:6, 9, and 12 we learn that if god really, really doesn’t like you, he will give you hemorrhoids in your “secret parts”.
  35. In 1 Samuel 5:11 god wipes out another city.
  36. In 1 Samuel 15:2-3 god demands more genocide, this time as punishment for some no doubt petty transgression committed hundreds of years previously by the forefathers of these innocent people.
  37. In 1 Samuel 15:7-34 god goads Saul into torturing and slaying his prisoner, a King.
  38. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus strongly approves of the law and the prophets. He hasn’t the slightest objection to the cruelties of the Old Testament.
  39. In Matthew 8:21 Jesus shows no compassion for the bereaved, saying to a man who had just lost his father: “Let the dead bury the dead.”
  40. In Matthew 8:32 Jesus abuses animals by sending some devils into a herd of pigs, causing the pigs to run off a cliff and drown in the sea below. The acorn does not fall far from the tree. Was there a local shortage of Egyptian cows? Moo!
  41. In Matthew 10:15 Jesus becomes a terrorist, and threatens genocide against cities.
  42. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus tries to scare people by telling them that his dad can beat up their dad.
  43. In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus threatens more cities.
  44. In Matthew 12:47-49 “Mister Family Values” himself (Jesus) is disrespectful to his mother and rude to his brothers.
  45. In Matthew 13:41-42 Jesus threatens to send his angels against any who offend him, and send them straight to hell. Love, peace, tolerance, and forgiveness are beneath him, apparently.
  46. In Matthew 15:4-7 Jesus commits hypocrisy by demanding all others to honor their parents. “Sorry about being rude back in Matthew 12, Mom.”
  47. In Matthew 18:8-9 Jesus advocates self-mutilation, but for others, not him. He’s perfect, thank you.
  48. In Matthew 18:25 Jesus advocates slavery.
  49. In Matthew 25:29 Jesus proposes a system of economy where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
  50. In Mark 5:12-13 Jesus spooks 2,000 pigs, causing them to jump of a cliff and drown in the sea. Is this evidence of more animal abuse, or is the story from Matthew 8:32 getting better with each telling?
  51. In Mark 6:11 Jesus resorts to threatening cities again. Die, innocent babies, Die!!
  52. In Mark 7:9-13 Jesus criticizes people for not killing their children, as they should have, according to Old Testament law. The same law Jesus broke when he was disrespectful to his Mother in Matthew 12:47-49.
  53. In Mark 10:29-30 Jesus will reward men who abandon their wives and children.
  54. In Mark 11:13-14 Jesus kills a fig tree for not bearing fruit, even though it was out of season. Apparently, “Mister Perfect” wasn’t much of an agronomist, or ethicist.
  55. In Luke 8:20-21 Jesus is disrespectful to his mother and rude to his brothers, again. Or still?
  56. In Luke 8:27-37 Jesus heals a naked man who was possessed by many devils by sending the devils into a herd of pigs, causing them to run off a cliff and drown in the sea. This messy, cruel, and expensive (for the owners of the pigs) treatment did not favorably impress the local residents, and Jesus was asked to leave. This story does get better with each telling!!
  57. In Luke 10:10-15 Jesus terrorizes entire cities, claiming they will be violently destroyed and the inhabitants “thrust down to hell” for not “receiving” his disciples. No doubt these people preferred their pigs.
  58. In Luke 12:46-47 Jesus likens god to a sadistic, diabolical slave-owner, who will beat you “with many stripes”.
  59. In Luke 14:26 Jesus decides that it is not enough for men to abandon their families; they must actively hate them, too. Where is the love??
  60. In Luke 16:17 Jesus declares that all the vicious, irrational laws of the Old Testament are binding forever.
  61. In Luke 17:27 Jesus talks about Noah, neatly demonstrating his own ignorance of science, history, and justice.
  62. In John 2:4 Jesus is, again, rude to his mother. She seemed so nice, too.
  63. In John 5:14 Jesus stupidly announces that god handicaps people as just punishment for their sins.
  64. In John 7:8-10 Jesus lies to his family about attending a feast.
  65. In Acts 5:1-10 Peter, with god’s help, kills a man who sold his possessions, but did not fork over all of the earnings. Why is the omnipotent creator always short of cash?
  66. In Acts 13:48 we learn that only pre-ordained people would be allowed in heaven. So much for freewill…