Friday, July 15, 2011

Zoomy Physics

I've been way too quiet on my blog, but I came across an interesting term, which might be meme-worthy: Zoomies. Sin particles that contaminate a location. I imagine most of you have encountered the idea before. I really wonder what sort of strange mindset causes people to think like that.

My first real encounter with zoomies, barring sci-fi and fantasy works, was shortly before I gave up going to church. I had just done something that helped eventually lead me to atheism: I read the Bible. In this particular case, the offending parts were in Numbers, when Moses was commanding all that genocide. Inevitably, I confronted someone who claimed to believe the whole Bible with those crimes, expecting him to do as I had done at the time: Label that part as something corrupt people added afterward.

That's when it got surreal: He said that the victims of those Biblical genocides deserved what they god because they had filled up the land with so much sin, it expelled them, almost like he was talking about an ecological disaster, rather than human beings engaging in religiously inspired plunder, mass murder, and rapine against another group for suspiciously unspecific sins. It didn't help that he talked as if every person in those victim nations were interchangeable, like sin was impersonal, rather than something you associate with a particular individual's crime. In the real world, we don't blindly punish everyone from the murder's neighborhood, we seek to punish the murderer.

I felt like I had stared madness in the face: Apparently, committing a crime wasn't what his version of god was angered by: It was these magical zoomy particles that offended him. In other words, god didn't care about helping or hurting other people. He didn't care about happiness or suffering. The illusion of god's love was just a Type 1 error caused by an arbitrary coincidence between zoomy particle production and harmful behavior. Being sinful and being evil were, under zoomy physics, independent of each other.

And the contamination factor just makes it worse: Under zoomy physics, a person could give to charity, save lives, and generally work hard to make the world a better place. But it was all for naught if his neighbors produced enough zoomies to cover that up. A kind person could therefore be treated as anathema for reasons outside his control. An innocent child could be treated the same as a murderer just for being born in the vicinity of one.

It strikes me as an abdication of individual responsibility and accountability. Can you imagine if it were applied in the real world? Sadly, I think I can: A murder has taken place in a slum. Rather than do a real investigation to figure out who performed the murder, the cops just take in the first person who looks "slum" or "ghetto" or "gang" enough to have done the crime, and assume that even if good evidence against the accusation comes up, he "obviously" deserves punishment for something because living in the slum means he's contaminated with zoomies.

Now there's the reverse: Preachers of allegedly high morals get caught performing devious con jobs and/or twisted acts sexual manipulation leading to some flavor of rape. What's one of the standard excuses? "The zoomies made me do it!" Okay, they typically say "devil" instead of "zoomies," but it's essentially the same thing: Blaming something else for their crimes. I'm reminded of instances of the Catholic Church blaming hippies and such for allegedly loosening moral taboos against child molestation as a cause for priestly abuse.

Normally, I'd be eager to write off zoomy physics as an invention of people who just want to have a ready excuse for doing evil, but if everyone thought of it as a transparent excuse, it wouldn't work. I can't imagine what must be going on in the heads of sincere believers in zoomies.


Anonymous said...

@pzmyers @michaelshermer @richardwiseman @jref

and the winner of the ORWELL PRIZE is...

Bronze Dog said...

Now he's crying persecution because people didn't like him being disruptive to natural, human conversations.

Here's a hint, DM: Give up the spambot approach, coward. THAT is why you got banned from places. You know that's why you got banned, and you're just to much of a coward to accept it.

Anonymous said...

Timothy Zahn wrote a novel "Angelmass" with real zoomie particles influencing people for good or ill.

David Mabus - I don't care whether you worship Satan, but take your trolling about your dark lord somewhere else.

Jim Roberts said...

It's a matter of agency identification combined with natural social bigotry. People see evil as being Evil, a force independent of humanity, because it's simpler that way, at least in their perspective. They see people act in a way they'd call "evil" - which might just mean that the person is different from the norm -and conclude that they're affected by that outside Evil force.

Marcus Ranum said...

Sounds like zoomies are the anti-miticlorian! They produce the Dark Side Force.

Bronze Dog said...

Now I'm going to have Imperial March going through my head whenever a fundie invokes zoomies as an excuse for genocide.

Oh, wait, I already have that.