Friday, September 19, 2008

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and the Creation of the Universe

Religious revelations aren’t rare now a days, even though my friend Owen walks around wearing a t-shirt that reads, “I found Jesus. He was behind the couch,” not everyone’s spiritual awakenings are quite so sarcastic. A good friend of mine recently found religion, which has led to some interesting conversations and deeper thoughts than I usually allow myself to have. Deep thoughts are dangerous, because it usually leads to writing, and writing contains typing, and with typing I risk carpal tunnel. And there lies my dilemma, my buddy Josh is suddenly an amateur preacher and I concern myself with subsequent keyboard related mishaps, like typing so fast that a quick flick of the wrist causes the P to shoot off my laptop and strike me in the eyeball (and of course I mean the letter P key, not a stream of urine suddenly erupting from my keyboard – while both would be unfortunate, one would make for an amusing anecdote, while the other might burn like all get out and void my manufacturer’s warranty). Anyway, Josh’s metamorphosis has led to some interesting conversations and some soul searching about some very deep topics.

When it comes the battle royale that happens when science and religion meet, I’ve always had this mental picture of God as a mad scientist. Forgive me if this seems blasphemous, but as a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s many of life’s difficult to tackle topics take the form of Muppet skits in my television saturated brain. I know Jim Henson lacked the desire/balls/career-suicidal-tendencies to attempt this one, but I can’t help but conjure up an image of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (who I just now realized has a very honeydew melon like head) as our Lord Almighty. Of course that would leave us with Beaker as Jesus, which takes this concept up the ladder to a much more blasphemous, yet entirely hilarious, level. Anyway, a bumbling Christ with a test tube shaped head who lacks the ability to form coherent words aside, back in 1979, Dr. Honeydew mixing a little of this and a little of that, lighting the Bunsen burner, preventing Beaker from spilling some boiling concoction that is destined to become mankind all over the lab floor, pouring this solution into that compound in just the right proportions so that, despite the wacky antics of his meep-meep-meeping sidekick, he’s made the heavens, the Earth, and the platypus – all of this done with surprisingly nimble fingers considering the fact that he’s a felt puppet.

To me the melding of science and religion has always been sort of a no-brainer. It could be in part because Father Tom, the family priest, and Mrs. Robinson, my 5th grade science teacher, resembled each other in such a way that that statement isn’t flattering to either of them. It could also be because my mind has always had a strange gift for connecting different parts of my life – A sermon on Noah would have me conjuring up images of family zoo trips and my ridiculously huge stash of mail-ordered “Safari Cards.” Daniel and the Lion’s Den sent me straight to PBS nature shows. The concept of water into wine had me plotting midnight pantry raids to see just which herbs and spices from my mom’s cabinet would give me the same power (I never did figure out how to do it, but in case you ever wondered – chicken bouillon cubes and 7-Up, not so good). – It could also be because no one bothered to tell a curious young Mike that (just like chicken stock and lemon/lime soda) you aren’t supposed to mix religion and science.

I know there are creationists out there who deny science had any part in the origin of the world. Like Newman and Kramer insisting that Keith Hernandez was indeed the “lone spitter,” these folks seem in constant denial – concocting all sorts of “they fabricated the dinosaurs/there was no moon landing/carbon dating is a ploy to brainwash us all into buying microwave ovens, strive for the perfect robot, and subscribe to OMNI magazine” conspiracy theories to discredit science. Some of these religious extremists interpret the bible a wee bit more literally than perhaps it was intended. Really, seven days for all this?

The authors of the bible, with all their songs and psalms and tales and yarns and fables, had a bit of a flair for the dramatic. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that many of them just may have taken a bit of poetic license with their stories, and just like Hansel and Gretel is an super-Xtreme-over the top “don’t take candy from strangers” tale, some of bible stories may amp up the “wow factor” a bit to get their point across. Did God create the universe in 7 days? Well it seems kind of convenient that he used the exact number of days that mankind would later come to know as a week. Doesn’t it seem more plausible that Genesis is an allegory, a fable, a story based in fact, but written with a lesson in mind? Doesn’t a protagonist with a magic zappy finger demanding light and water and earth and sky and zebras and bullion cubes and 7-Up into existence make for a much more riveting and awe inspiring story than an faceless power that uses a cosmic whisk to stir up the flour, butter, and sugar of the universe to make “existence cake” in some sort of higher power version of 30 Minute Solar Systems? A boring story without a humanlike leading man might not have had the same affect. A moment by moment play by play of evolution doesn’t have the same zing as voices from above willing creation to begin.

Now, on the other hand, there are scientists who question the existence of God and the power of Christ. In a world where there are many inexplicable things: frogs that change gender mid-life (like an amphibian RuPaul, only with less mascara), male seahorses that give birth, creatures that regrow severed body parts, chemicals that cure disease, the sphincter, Georgie W. being elected twice… Why do so many people find the possibility of one man being able to walk on water, heal the sick, and rise from the dead so unlikely? To risk blasphemy once again for the sake of argument – say there is an explanation for Jesus’ strange abilities – say J.C. was the David Blaine of his time. Say he wasn’t powerful, just super tricky. Maybe he didn’t really reconfigure the water molecules into fermented grape juice. Maybe he didn’t really take a stroll across the lake. Maybe he didn’t have a magical bread multiplying ability. Maybe he was just a really good showman with a special knack for the sleight of hand/foot/loaf/winejug. Maybe he couldn’t heal with his hands; perhaps it was a skill with medicines. Maybe he didn’t rise from the dead, but pulled some sort of switcheroo on us all. Even if Jesus was an olden days version of David Copperfield, why is it difficult to believe that those skills, those abilities, that “which hand is the basket of fishies in” power was God’s gift? How come there are so many out there willing to believe that aliens wander the universe, artificially intelligent robots are a possibility, man-made plagues can wipe out the planet, cool black guys (with a little effort) can teach even the most uncoordinated white guy to dance, and many other Will Smith movie plots, but they refuse to accept the possibility that there was a sentient being that stirred the initial pot?

It may not seem terribly clear which side I’m arguing for or against here, and that’s the point. It’s like the concept of the egg and the chicken. It doesn’t matter which came first – what matters is how did the first one get there? Did science create it? Did God create it? Did God create science or science create God? You can’t have chickens without eggs, or eggs without chickens, or God without science, or science without God, or Dr. Bunsen Honeydew without Beaker, or bullion cubes without 7-Up. It doesn’t matter which came first, what matters is they are. They both are.

If you think God has a sense of humor, vote for me at, if not, go look at a platypus and rethink that point of view.

Then go visit the gods and goddesses of funny at


Sheryl said...

So this is where you've been hiding! I've got you bookmarked, so I'll be back!

Chat Blanc said...

Beaker as Jesus!! ahahaha!

Bee said...

Damn. That's a lot of thinking for a Saturday.

You definitely have a seat in the great underworld I call Indiana.

Eve said...

I think you are so funny that I am giving you a Kick Ass Blooger Award. View my site for details! You keep me laffing.

Bee said...

MIKE! I came to check your feed on H-B and it looks like its working now! :o)

Doug at Taunt Vortex said...

Sometimes I think God gave man a sense of humor, and that's what separates us from the rest of the animals on this planet.

But then I see how humorless so many people are, and it blows that theory right out of the water. So I'm back to the opposable thumb thing.

But thanks for bringing more humor to existence! Well done.

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