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Friday, November 14, 2008

God's Trash

I was recently snorkeling off an island in the Caribbean sea, Curacao, and I saw a flatfish. I was excited because I had read about this evolutionary marvel over at Pharyngula. The flatfish is extremely well camouflaged and I only saw it because it was swimming. When it stops swimming if you take your eye off of it for more than a few seconds you will lose sight of it. The flatfish is a great example of the novelty, beauty and intricacy of the evolutionary process. To see the fish body form adapt in such an interesting way is beautiful. The flatfish has both eyes on one side of the body, the top, the interesting part is the top of his body is actually one side of his body. So one eye migrates over the symmetrical center of the body to the other side during the development of the juvenile flatfish.

I shared my story of the encounter with the flatfish with a local friend of mine and he told me that in Papiamentu, the local language of the island, the term for the flatfish meant "God's Trash". I forget the actual local word but I remember the meaning.

Recently, one of my debate strategies when discussing religion is to highlight what I perceive as a major difference in world view between atheists and theists. When someone or a culture has a belief in a Creator God who can create and destroy the Earth at his will then the Earth is not precious. Something that is truly precious, if lost, cannot be replaced. However, if there is no God then the Earth is precious! If we allowed the Earth to be destroyed we will have lost the one unique place in the universe that is ideally suited for our form of life. Atheism makes me an Environmentalist! It makes me care for the Earth in a much more profound way than Creationism ever could!

My story above highlights how a culture that is heavily influenced by religion can have it's thinking altered to the point where a life form, such as the flatfish, can be viewed as God's Trash. An organism that is viewed as out of favor with God. From my perspective I don't understand why God would create trash? Moreover, if God can create trash then he can clean it up and many religious people feel that we can pollute the Earth because God will clean up the mess since God will protect us. This is the view of Evangelical Christians, many of whom believe End Days will come in their lifetime.

By Peter


Kevin J Bowman said...


I very much enjoyed your post. I think you are right, there are beauties of this earth that are profound, and how any people could call any part of it trash, is beyond me.

What confuses me about so many of my fellow Christians, is that kind of a stupid attitude. How could there be any trash at all in a creation?

Yet, I am so embarrassed that it is the people like yourself who don't believe this is a masterpiece of art and beauty that recognize it is the only home we've got and we should appreciate it's splendor, and protect it's weakness.

Thanks for a beautiful post!

gilbertt said...

We'll it's a good thing they didn't call the fish "Butt Fish", "Camo Fish" or "Flat Fish with one Eye" or you wouldn't be able to compare it to God's creation. It's more interesting out of this whole cosmic, black hole, twenty zillion light years wide universe this is the only space with life, ok, like us, not some single cell plasma or someone with death ray guns to kill us. Instead of wondering if God exsits, you should be wondering if satan (small s) exsits and what the difference could be. Takeing a whild guess here, but I think you might of went to some religion place sometime in your life and you got a bumb deal. Men will always be men, but in this time of Advent, you should see what the real meaning to the season is and go beyond that to the cross.

Tropical Pete said...


what cross?

Also, do you realize how similar to single cell organisms we are? We are made of trillions of cells that work together.

Unknown said...

I agree that we should take care of the unique gifts we've all been given. The Earth is just one of those. "Gods trash" is just one persons/culture's perspective but I believe from both a religious as well as a basic biological perspective that everything matters. Everything has a purpose. The theories of creationism and evolution are just points of veiw but they can work together. The same can be said for many of the worlds religions. The problem is that throughout history, we often look at things from our own perspective vs. considering how others see it. What can see (and prove) vs. putting ourselves in anothers shoes. We think in exclusionary terms vs. an inclusive world culture. It's an "us" vs. "them" world. We've come along way but then again, no. At least in this country, we are free to choose. Religion or not. Creationism or Evolution. I feel that we are continually manipulated to find the differences in one another vs. the commonalities because it's in the powers that be's intrest for the to divide the cultures. Easier to control and less expensive too. Why fight us when they can get us to fight each other. Our emotions can give us strength but all to often, it's our biggest weakness because we can be so easily mislead into harming one another. At the end of the day, its about loving one another. Religious or not, we can start by respecting each others point of view or at least our right to them. And, if we talk about them a little, we'd probably find some similarities. Bless you all and the flat fish too.

Tropical Pete said...

Evolution is not just a point of view. It's a comprehensive collection of facts with an explanatory framework.

Unknown said...

...don't forget the theories that we add to bridge the missing links. The world religions do not have all the answers either from messages told to a simpler civilizations through the ages. There isn't "solid/complete" evidence either way, however, more and more scientists are finding it more mathmatically possible for designed evolution.

We could look at it a bit like the global warming argument. If we believe in it, try to do something about it and then we're wrong, we've lost some money and time. If we don't believe in it, don't try to do something about it and then we're wrong, we have potential extinction of life on the planet. If I am wrong, about my opinion that God exists, worst case, I take a big dirt nap and dispear forever.

To be far, I feel that as religious people of this world, we've brought a lot of this on ourselves by our human arragance/ego. We've made many mistakes. The lack of respect for a creation/evolution like this fish, which has a purpose, is just one. A bigger problem is being religious hypocrites. We're supposed to be about "Love" yet we've killed our fellow man (and beast) over the details of a word which is the fondation that most religions are built on. We're human and our egos have gotten in the way.

Over time though, I think we're learning, through the gift of science, that everything really does have a purpose and there is still alot to be learned. No disrepect to you, Gilbertt, Kevin or the Monkey.

Albert Einstien once said, "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

These are just my POVs and I genuinly appreciate the exchange in perspectives and information. Hey, if your not learning, what's the point? Have a great New Year!

gnome said...

peter you are right, would like to add....
god is created by man to force the weak to conform to religious fundamentalism.

the believers (conformers) are decieved to believe they are free, they are not.

they have compromised or lost the ability to be objective and free-thinking people.

god and armageddon has been created as an excuse
for environmental ignorance and for those who have given up hope for themselves.

the reality is that the christian-like atheist (as all good people will) will be going to heaven as he does not judge and codemn others.

is kind to fellow human and creatures, trees, sky, water, air and earth - without prejudice.