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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Hurrah for Snopes!

I've been hard on Snopes before, so I want to give credit where it is due: their article on "NASA and the missing day" is spot-on. Look how it ends:

To those who've given over their hearts to God and the Holy Word, this is a deeply satisfying legend. Faith is, after all, the firm belief in something which cannot necessarily be proved, a quality that can leave believers (especially those who find themselves in the midst of non-believers) feeling unsatisfied. As steadfast as their certainty is, they cannot prove the rightness of the path they tread to those who jeer at their convictions. And this is a heavy burden to shoulder. A legend such as the "missing day explained" tale speaks straight to the hearts of those who yearn for a bit of vindication in this life. Being right isn't always enough: sometimes what one most longs for is sweet recognition from others.

That recognition, and that satisfaction, is what this legend provides. Intoxicatingly heady stuff, that. No wonder this tale has survived from generation to generation and withstood the ravages of countless debunkings. Nonetheless, its factual details are wrong, the scientific processes it describes are dubious, and its premise of a "missing day" depends upon some very selective and questionable intepretations of scripture.

Authenticity matters little, though: our willingness to accept legends depends far more upon their expression of concepts we want to believe than upon their plausibility. If the sun once really did stand still for a day, the best evidence we'd have for proving it would be the accounts of people who saw it happen. That is what the Bible is said to offer. Some people accept that as sufficient proof, and others don't.

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