Friday, August 24, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

WMAP cold spot: a huge hole

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In the right lower "corner" of the WMAP pictures, there is a rather small and thin blue region - the so-called WMAP cold spot in the constellation Eridanus. Some people argued that they could see non-gaussianities there at 3 sigma. At any rate, the Very Large Array radio telescope has looked into this region and concluded that there are virtually no stars in that direction and at distance between 6 and 10 billion light years: there is a gargantuan hole there. They also call it "Woit" because "void" means emptiness, vacuity, lacking legal validity: every void is transparent and has no content.

The hole is so huge that it looks like Mother Teresa's spiritual hole: it turns out that she has been a cryptoatheist for 50 years.

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reader Polymath said...

You're wrong about Mother Teresa, having been misled by distorted news stories and a lack of understanding of the concept of "dark night of the soul". Mother Teresa *believed* in God, but had lost the direct emotional and spiritual satisfactions of the earlier part of her religious life. The important thing is that she believed *anyway* (Google "Mother Teresa" and "anyway" to fully appreciate this reference), and acted accordingly, just like her earlier namesakes St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux, who also experienced extended periods of spiritual disappointment but persisted in their sanctity.

Now you may be an atheist yourself and therefore reject the concepts I use above, but that doesn't refute my point, which is simply that Mother Teresa was not a "cryptoatheist" despite failing to feel the presence of God in the way that she earlier had.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Joe, this is a text about WMAP cold spot, but OK, I started it.

It may be an issue of terminology but I was very careful when I was choosing the word "cryptoatheist". It's chosen because it describes the situation most accurately.

Some quotes by her:

"If there be God -- please forgive me -- When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven -- there is such convicting emptiness. ... I call, I cling, I want -- and there is no One to answer -- no One on Whom I can cling -- no, No One. -- Alone."

"The smile," she wrote in one letter, is "a mask."

"If there be no God -- there can be no soul -- if there is no Soul then Jesus -- You also are not true." (1959)

She was 49 when she wrote the letter above.

She acted as if she believed God which is why the word "cryptoatheist" is more accurate than just "atheist". Agreed?

It is rather likely that I would call the other Teresas you mention cryptoatheists, too. These people determine things like existence of God not by rational arguments but by their feelings.

If they have a feeling for 50 years that there's no God, then sorry, but it means that they don't believe that there is God. You may call it a disappointment, lack of satisfaction, a period for spiritual growth, or whatever you like, but it doesn't change the correctness of the statement that she thought that there was no God.

reader Polymath said...

Mother Teresa's intellect and feelings were at odds and she acted in accord with her intellect, despite her feelings; you refuse to give her credit for this, instead saying the opposite, "These people determine things like existence of God not by rational arguments but by their feelings." It is always desirable to bring one's intellect and feelings into concordance, but not always possible.

By the way, I am a big fan of your blog, and I am not trying to get into a religious argument; I just think you unfairly discount the possibility that a believer's faith in God can be intellectually rather than emotionally based. (It would be fair for you to discount it if you thought that God had been disproved in a way Mother Teresa should have known; but you didn't give such a disproof, since the existence of her own barren emotional state did not contradict her theology.)

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