Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Christian God isn’t Vengeful Enough

Humans are designed to seek out answers. We need to know what caused what and why. Faced with an incomprehensible and complicated natural World, Prehistoric Man created stories to explain what he saw about him, and this quickly metamorphosed into Religion, which is still with us today. Partly because it provides a ready-made and simple explanation for the world as we see it.

Most religions are founded on the concept of Gods who exhibit much the same traits as ourselves. They can be kind or petty, generous or spiteful, merciful or mean, only to a much greater degree. When Gods get angry they can kill on a vast scale, making them the ideal scapegoat for natural disasters of almost any kind.

This neatly fills the human need in society today for Placing the Blame. The God of the Hebrew Bible was perfect for this role – a vengeful and capricious God whose motives were unknowable and who could be blamed for anything. However the God of the Christian New Testament is a loving God, a kind and merciful God, a God who is willing to forgive any transgression providing the transgressor repents.

Unfortunately such a God is pretty useless for taking the blame for unexpected tragedies. This leaves Christians in a bit of quandary. They have a perfect repository for any blame they would like to apportion. Earthquakes, sudden death of a loved one, incomprehensible bad luck, all could be happily laid at the door of a vengeful God – except the Christian God isn’t vengeful anymore. Although there is plenty of precedent in the Old Testament for a destructive God laying waste to whole regions – the Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah – the New Testament gives us no such examples.

Christianity therefore offers us someone who can be blamed for anything we like…except we’re not allowed to. The closest Christians can come is the phrase “God’s Will”. Yet we find this difficult to reconcile with the image of God as presented in the New Testament, where Jesus continually reinforces the idea of His Father as a kind and loving entity. Who do we therefore blame for the sudden and inexplicable death of a child, or a Good Man? Although God is the only person with the power to have caused any disaster we can name, he’s unfortunately far too nice.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

They just moved the search box on wikipedia

It’s now on the top right, bringing it in line with the accepted internet norm of where to find a search box. It will probably make first-time viewers of the site more familiar with the interface, so more likely to stay. It’s therefore logical where they’ve put it, up on the right where everyone knows they always find a search bar.

But I don’t like it. I can see the logic behind the move, but I prefer it where it was. It wasn’t because it was a better place to put it, or it made searching easier, but because I liked it there. It was aesthetically right.

But we’re also talking about a big shift of something important from the left to the right of the visual field. Any kind of left/right change has a major effect on the human brain. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa. The left side is (simplistically speaking) more logical, and contains the language centres. The right side is more emotional, artistic, creative.

Perhaps the right side of my brain did like the search bar on the left-hand side. Because it felt good? Or just because it was on the left-hand side, so my emotional side could control what went in?

Whereas the left side prefers the upper right because it satisfies it’s own logical reasoning. That’s the best place for it. Liking it where it is isn’t an issue that the left side engages in.

Which all makes me realise that each half of the brain is indeed like a separate individual, with wants and drives and a certain way of thinking. You would first think that sounds plausible, since we know that the opposite sides behave differently, and in a very human way (although one side can’t talk, nor can it write). However they appear to be more like ordinary human brains with a few bits missing. And of course like humans they are very good at cheating and lying to get there own way.

The thing is, when wikipedia (probably) asked their beta testers whether the search bar was better on the right, they would have been replied to by the logical left side individual (the one who can speak and write) and they would have got a predominantly logical response. If they’d simply asked “Shall we move it to the top right, yes or no?” they might have got a different response. We’re in a weird situation here, where whichever side of the brain answers a particular question, it may give a radically difference response to the question...if it could answer it! The right side can therefore never answer the question, even though it may feel strongly about it. This may be the root of situations where an individual moves to another part of the country, for sound economic reasons, but then finds themselves quite simply not liking where they are, wanting to go back, but being unable to (for sound, logical reasons).

Sounds like the war between Right and Left brain isn’t a war at all, it’s a situation of Dominance of Left over Right, Mind over Heart, and perhaps it’s why we are often miserable. Right Brain can’t tell you why it feels so unhappy, so it does the next best thing, it lets you feel it for yourself. It’s like the soldiers of the right bunging a smoke or stun grenade over to the left side of the brain and incapacitating all of it, and allowing the right side to take over for a while. A wash of emotion like that is obviously a threat to the left side. Well logically a threat, which is why the left side often decides in favour of the emotion.

People use the phrase “Body Politic” and that description fits with the way the two sides of the brain deal with each other. The left side will continue to convey (through language and communication) it’s own viewpoint of any situation to the outside world. The right side can’t communicate that way. It doesn’t say or do, it feels, it knows, and it is. So basically the left side can control and dominate the right side’s ability to convey it’s own hopes and wishes to the outside.

So no, I don’t like the Search Bar up there. I don’t have the same sense of enjoyment I used to get when I was following a Search trail for hours. I’m reading away, and it’s all very interesting, and then I want to search for something related, something still interesting, and I’m stumped by that need to move my mouse, my arm, my focus, up on the right. It just doesn’t feel as much fun anymore.