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Jul 16 2010

Movie Friday: DOUBLE RAINBOW!

Apparently this video went viral, so I’m a bit tardy to the party.

WARNING: he starts openly weeping about 1 minute in.

People often accuse skeptics and atheists of failing to recognize the beauty and majesty of the world because we break things down into their constituent pieces. While I don’t think it’s necessarily true that knowing how something works makes it less beautiful – for example I still love listening to the symphony, even though I’ve played in one for nearly 10 years – even if it did, I’d much rather be impressed by nature than… whatever this guy is. “Double rainbows” are neat, but they’re common. Rainbows are formed simply as light refracts through water vapour. Depending on the incident angle of the observer, multiple refractory patterns may appear. Once, on a plane over the Guyanese rainforest, I was lucky enough to see a FULL rainbow, which is actually a circular refractory pattern. Knowing what it was didn’t make it any less beautiful, but it prevented me from being gobsmacked by a simply-explained event.

My favourite skeptic, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York) said something that reminded me of this video. At around 1:30, the narrator of the video asks a question: what does this mean? He is then reduced to tears as his drug-addled brain struggles to comprehend the meaning of a rainbow. Dr. Tyson would have said to this guy:

“Just because you can string together words in the English language and put a question mark on the end of it, that doesn’t make it a real question.”

One of the greatest things about science is that it teaches you to distinguish between meaningful (or useful) questions and those that have no value. Asking “what is the meaning of life” is an example of a question that sounds meaningful (the word “meaning” is even in the question) but it’s in fact just a bunch of words strung together. A better question might be “what is a good way to live life?” or “what do I want to get out of my life?” Asking for “the meaning” is making a fundamental assumption – that there is a meaning. A “double rainbow” doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a really cool thing.

Now this guy was clearly on drugs, and drugs open your mind up to asking speculative questions like that so I’m not going to hold it against him. The Insane Clown Posse has no such excuse:

NONE of the things mentioned in this song are miracles (except ghosts, which somehow got worked in there) – the vast majority of these things are things that have been explained decades or generations ago. If you didn’t watch the video, good instinct. Watch this one instead (it’s seriously genius):

So any time someone tries to invoke the majesty of nature as proof that God exists, direct them to this video.

“CELLS! OH MY GOD! WHAT DO THEY MEAN?

They mean you should have paid more attention in science class.

1 comment

  1. 1
    Brian Lynchehaun

    “Just because you can string together words in the English language and put a question mark on the end of it, that doesn’t make it a real question.”

    I’m stealing this. This is all kinds of genius!!!

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