Friday, October 2, 2009

Human Survival and the Need for Scientific Truth

I am sure the Gods of Rapa Nui on Easter Island ignored their deluded prayers too...

WHENEVER I HEAR OR READ PRAISES for the legendary RESILIENCE of the Filipino in the face of some disaster, I suspect that the overall effect is to encourage the adoption of secret resolutions NEVER to actually change or do anything for real about the problems. Evidence of this is the endless cycle of self-inflicted catastrophes and disasters punctuated by short periods of self-criticism and fresh public resolve to fix things, soon forgotten or ignored in the ensuing bright sunshine and clement weather.

It is not pure irresponsibility or heedlessness, however, but something stranger: it is the conviction that as mere human beings we are powerless against acts of God such as typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flash floods, landslides and other natural calamities.

Powerless that is, except for a very special INCANTATION called the ORATIO IMPERATA which is a big favorite of Philippine Archbishops.   It has been used to pray FOR and AGAINST rain; as a defense against biological health threats like the bird and swine influenza virii; and for the avoidance of all sorts of public and private calamities. Lately it has been deployed against Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. 

Some people may consider this practice to be just a little harmless liturgical widget, but I think it is a blasphemous practice that exposes spirituality and the Catholic Church itself to incredulity and ridicule. It is no more than a circus act that borders on charlatanism when supposedly reverend and holy men such as the Archbishops of Manila, Albay, Cebu or Davao, importune the the God of the Universe to suspend His own Natural Laws on their behalf. 

To see why, please notice that there is actually  a 100%  chance of success--sooner or later--when anyone prays FOR or AGAINST rain

This inexorable conclusion is reached from a simple observation that the weather and climate on Planet Earth, and certainly the Philippine Archipelago, has oscillated between wet and dry, rainy and sunny, cold and hot, ever since Adam and Eve were cast out from Paradise for eating of the Fruit of Good and Evil.  In our epoch, indeed, an average of nearly two dozen typhoons and severe storms arrive annually, concentrated between the months of May and November, though in recent years these bounds have frequently been breached.  But as rain follows dry and vice versa, inevitably, the Oratio Imperata, cleverly phrased for all eventualities, will always SEEM to work!

Bishops who use the Oratio Imperata cannot but be slyly and culpably aware of these Probabilities and Statistics.  One does not become an Archbishop after all, not knowing how to do arithmetic whilst invoking the omnipotent powers of the Triune God!

But if such clerics think they are in any way aiding the cause of Religion, they ought to think again.  The long term effect of practices like the Oratio Imperata,  is perhaps the opposite of what they would want.  It actually brings ridicule to spirituality and reduces the priesthood to shamanism at least for those who see through this trickery. For the broad masses of the "faithful" the illusion that the prayer has been answered can always be relied upon to exist, at least in the minds of the susceptible! -- as soon as the WEATHER itself changes.  Since rain has always followed dry and vice versa since time immemorial, and even Category 5 tropical cyclones come and go by the dozens every year, praying for the meteorological opposite of the prevailing weather is a sure fire way to deserve a funny hat and a magical costume that will nonetheless cow the multitudes into silent awe and wonder, with a smattering of the skeptical, who are bound to burn in Hell anyway, and the liberal, who will make Purgatory.

Here then is current example, via Gerald Magno on Facebook of an Oratio Imperata:

Almighty Father, we raise our heats to You in gratitude for the wonders of creation of which we are part, for Your Providence in sustaining our needs, and for Your Wisdom that guides the course of the universe.

We acknowledge our sins against You and the rest of creation.

We have not been good stewards of Nature.

We have confused Your command to subdue the Earth.

The environment is made to suffer our wrongdoing, and now we reap the harvest of our abuse and indifference.

Global warming is upon us, Typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and other natural calamities occur in increasing numbers and intensity.

We turn to You, our loving Father, and beg forgiveness for our sins.

We ask that we, our loved ones and our hard earned possessions be spared from the threat of calamities, natural and man-made.

We beseech You to inspire us all to grow into responsible stewards of Your creation, and generous neighbors to those in need.


Note that there is  posited a universal supervision:  "Wisdom that guides the course of the Universe." But sinful mankind has "confused the command to subdue the Earth" and thus sinned against God and all of Creation.  Thus, we are reaping the wages of sin in the greater intensity of floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and devastating storms!  

I suppose that  poetic license is a thing vouchsafed for the crafting of clever prayers  but it seems perverse to ignore the fact that we have an urgent need to know the whole truth and nothing but the scientific truth about planetary weather and climate change. 

(Our old Nemesis, Damaso, is busy with public prayers coopting Al Gore and the UN Panel on Climate Change for his own sly purposes...) 

But Scientific Truth has become essential to HUMAN SURVIVAL itself, in our epoch of history, in my opinion.  Writers and thinkers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are quite right in observing that FAITH IS NOT A VIRTUE and deserves no respect, if by faith we mean a willingness to accept things without evidence just because supposedly holy men say so. Such a willing suspension of reason has also been historically fertile ground for extremism and harmful action of all sorts--or even worse--the maintainance of ignorance and bad habits.

The belief that all is in the hands of God leads ultimately to a dereliction of duty.

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary


baycas2 said...

Oftentimes we pray to Our Lord to stave off disaster even after doing all the necessary things humanly possible…a “Hail Mary pass” sometimes it is referred to metaphorically.

Indeed, it’s such a powerful prayer…but powerful or not, prayers are all the same. It’s about our faith…faith so powerful that even a simple prayer will connect us to Our God.*


Incidentally, geoengineering may be considered a “Hail Mary pass” after all other options have failed.

*Please listen to the audio presentation

blackshama said...


The media is spin doctoring in that the Doppler radar has been made into a sort of crystal ball on how much rain will fall. So it's no diff from what the Archbishops do for a living.

Even the tools of science can be used in Oratio Imperata!

We scientists are Priests too if the media thinks we should be!

Jesusa Bernardo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesusa Bernardo said...

WHENEVER I HEAR OR READ PRAISES for the legendary RESILIENCE of the Filipino in the face of some disaster, I suspect that the overall effect is to encourage the adoption of secret resolutions NEVER to actually change or do anything for real about the problems.

Either that (to discourage change) or to cover-up some entity's fault for neglecting responsibility.

Jun Bautista said...

Forgive my cynicism, but i'm sure after all have settled down, all these talk from our public officials about fixing our drainage system, improving our disaster warning systems, etc., will soon fade away and consigned to oblivion . . . until another disaster (hoepfully not) strikes in the future.