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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Usefulness of Metaphor

Have you ever visited a ghost town, ancient ruins or once famous building, long since abandoned? What was it like then and now? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1310).

The concept that matter is composed of discrete units and cannot be divided into arbitrarily tiny quantities has been around for millennia, but these ideas were founded in abstract, philosophical reasoning rather than experimentation and empirical observation. The nature of atoms in philosophy varied considerably over time and between cultures and schools, and often had spiritual elements. Nevertheless, the basic idea of the atom was adopted by scientists thousands of years later because it elegantly explained new discoveries in the field of chemistry.[8] The ancient name of "atom" from atomism had already been nearly universally used to describe chemical atoms by that time, and it was therefore retained as a term, long after chemical atoms were found to be divisible, and even after smaller, truly indivisible particles were identified.

References to the concept of atoms date back to ancient Greece and India. In India, the Ājīvika, Jain, and Cārvāka schools of atomism may date back to the 6th century BCE.[9] The Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools later developed theories on how atoms combined into more complex objects.[10] In the West, the references to atoms emerged in the 5th century BCE with Leucippus, whose student, Democritus, systematized his views. In approximately 450 BCE, Democritus coined the term átomos (Greek: ἄτομος), which means "uncuttable" or "the smallest indivisible particle of matter". Although the Indian and Greek concepts of the atom were based purely on philosophy, modern science has retained the name coined by Democritus.[8] (


Democritus in ancient Greece coined the term "atom". No question, based on man’s present knowledge centuries later there is a sense in which he was dead wrong….but also a nagging sense in which he was uncannily conceptually right on. We must admit even today that his thoughts (given allowance for aspects of knowledge inaccessible to him) were noteworthy.

Sometimes I wonder what structures we map out today people years hence will say “In a sense they were dead wrong, but in a another sense right on.” A thousand years hence, they will generously excuse us for not having knowledge inaccessible to us now and refrain from quibbling about this when they find a basic idea useful.

In my view, a principal candidate for this involves the spiritual aspects of mankind. I look forward to the day when faith and belief in the Fruit of the Spirit will be verifiable as absolute based upon real phenomena simply inaccessible to current tools of understanding. For example, one Sunday morning I heard a young layman illustrate to children regarding spiritual matters that we are something like radio receivers receiving guidance from God and the Holy Spirit. You may think this illustration ludicrously corny, but the idea could well prove to be basically right even though our idea of ”receiver” will be shown to be hugely outdated and grossly oversimplified in the light of more complete understandings.

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