Sunday, October 3, 2010
God and the Fortune Tellers
Having just returned this weekend to Ghana, I watched a History Channel programme on Nostradamus and his modern equivalent, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Who is he? Well, he’s a mathematician who has a futurological algorithm which suggests prediction of events involving humanity is possible. Paid handsomely by Fortune 500 and the State Department for his secretive maths he has cross-checked Nostradamus’ various foretellings, and come to similar outcomes. QED, we are all about to die in catastrophic events involving some combination of the rise of the third great Anti-Christ, an asteroid hit bringing fire from the heavens and/or nuclear war. Grim plot lines.
Since Bruce was roughly correct on the rise of Al Qaeda and the Twin Towers attack, among other modern events, he has a certain fervent following. Some fellow mathematicians are pretty irritated that they can’t take out their red pens and check his workings. But they couldn’t with Nostradamus, either, since he cracked the number codes in the texts of the Ancients and then hid his discoveries in cryptic, revelatory prose. I suppose if you are reading this and have a penchant for global hypochondria, then you can imbibe your fill of doomsday scenarios by following the thread of December 21st 2012 on Google and see how the world will end, according to all the available predictions from the Mayans, Revelations, the Chinese Horoscopes and, of course, Nostradanus, himself.
This latter prophet could not proclaim his predictive capabilities at the time, unlike Bueno de Mesquita, because he would have been hung, drawn and quartered by the Catholic Church for assuming a power which only God exercises. He had to stay this side of heretical. And here is the nub of the paradox. Those among us who are critical of the place of organised religion in society may agree with the Catholic position, if not its reasoning. If there is Fate, then there is possibly a god-like force that has written the script of life on earth, the universe and everything. If Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is right and his sums add up so that his QEDs equal actual scenarios, then atheism may have to float out of the window. And, unfortunately for many of us, so might religion. Why? Well, it seems to this benighted thinker that people tend to pray in order to persuade their God to do this or that; save a stricken relative from an incurable disease, save one’s soul, save the planet or win a lottery. There is an assumption that S/he can intercede.
Either God knows everything that ever was and ever will be or S/he has set in train humanity’s careering journey into the future, giving it the capacity to choose a path that is either self-destructive or filled with glory. If everything is laid out in warp and weft and we have no choice, then God becomes a bit of a supernumerary and certainly beyond any need for disciples and their prayers since they wont change one jot of the narrative. If it isn’t then Nostradamus and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita are remarkable indeed, for their mathematical equations are taking the forces that bind us to life and, by the application of Games Theory or numerology, are prognosticating events which are as beyond the ken of God as they are us.
Which is exactly what God might have planned for the two of them. Or not.