Sunday, June 21, 2009

Are You There, Benevolent-Creator-Type-Being-Who-May-or-May-Not-Exist? It's me, Chrissie.

So Sydney's been really into ontologies lately--a welcome break from endless rounds of Baby and Mommy or Grocery Store or Road Trip With Unspecified Destination But Plenty of Snacks, which are pretty much the recreational mainstays around here. I'm not sure where this interest in the nature and origin of all things (and I do mean all things) came from,* but lately our conversations have grown increasingly complicated. For example:

Sydney: "Mommy, where do babies come from?"

Mommy (stalling): "What kind of babies?"

S: "Baby lizards."

M: "Baby lizards come from Mommy and Daddy lizards."

S: "But how?"

M: "Well..."

S: "..."

M: "The Daddy lizard gives the Mommy lizard something, and that makes the baby."

S: "...."

M: "...."

S: "But how are baby babies made?"

M (stalling): "What do you mean?"

S: "Like, babies like Evan."

M: "Well, Daddies have a, uh, special thing, and they give to the Mommy, and she has a special thing, and they put the special things together and that makes a baby."

S: "..."

M: "Does that make sense?"

S: "Yes. Mommy?"

M (struggling to find a child-friendly equivalent to semen): "Yes?"

S: "But how is the the world made? How is everything made?"


So obviously this is some sort of payback. Right?


First tactic: Total Transparency.

M: "Well, there was this thing called the Big Bang-"

S: "--like a big explosion??"

M: "Well, sort of..."

S: "Things blew up? That's scary."

M: "Well, they didn't really blow up, they sort of imploded.."

S: "What's imploded?"



Second tactic: Mystery

M: "Well, no one really knows how those things were made."

S: "...."

M: "..."

S: "But Mommy. Tell me."

M: "I don't know, baby. No one knows."

S: "I don't like you. You're an idiot."


Times like these, I wish we were believers. It would make it easier--not just for me, but for our little girl, who just wants to understand how the world works. I wish I could just tell her, with great conviction, that God made the world, that God is waiting in Heaven; I wish I could provide that consolation and that promise. But I can't--and not because I do not believe, but mostly because I am unsure, and believe like Richard Dawkins that:

Humans have a great hunger for explanation. It may be one of the main reasons why humanity so universally has religion, since religions do aspire to provide explanations. We come to our individual consciousness in a mysterious universe and long to understand it. Most religions offer a cosmology and a biology, a theory of life, a theory of origins, and reasons for existence. In doing so, they demonstrate that religion is, in a sense, science; it's just bad science. Don't fall for the argument that religion and science operate on separate dimensions and are concerned with quite separate sorts of questions. Religions have historically always attempted to answer the questions that properly belong to science. Thus religions should not be allowed now to retreat away from the ground upon which they have traditionally attempted to fight. They do offer both a cosmology and a biology; however, in both cases it is false.

But you try explaining all that to a 3-year-old.

* Which is in itself an ontology. Ha ha.