At an intersection in a shady part of town where dark immigrants and refugees of foreign disturbances crept in weird tracery among the long sunset shadows, a popular family owned phô joint named the Flyin’ Bowl recently found itself with new competition. Just over the bridge that spanned a tight bundle of Santa Fe railroad tracks, this rival had the same menu, the same recipes, even the same name (the Fly in Bowl) and members of the same family steering the enterprise. Tommy Ruangsawat’s sister had manipulated the matriarch of the family into giving her blessing to an expanded operation of sorts. The remainder of the family wrote the sister off in disgust. She kept a tighter ship, a cleaner ship, and that’s why Delilah chose the Fly in over the Flyin’. And it’s usually less crowded, she said as they sat down at a table that soon revealed an unruly short leg, and Tommy has a bit of a crush on me.
Delilah’s five feet of dark hair and Asian lips settled and her eyes finally met his and he became acutely cognizance of his very precarious position. She’s way smarter than you, Poole had told him, she’s the smartest person in any room she walks into. That’s a reason not to try? isn’t that the very reason to try? Poole had given him a comic gesture of disregard.
You fuckin with the phô? she asked him with a spasm of Groucho brow and her perfect grin.
They ordered the beef phô and Mexican beers and the moment her lime hit the suds, she fired the first salvo across his bow. I assume you don’t subscribe to the notion that it takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist. You know I don’t. Explain then. Just like this? we’re gonna jump right into this? I haven’t even touched you yet, he said. And you won’t. Hmm, look, religion never offered me any reason to rely on it as an effective tool to work the universe, he told her. But you don’t see how that requires faith on your part? You already know how this is gonna argue, Delilah, I just find it very weird that you—a scientist—play the game this way.
She let those dark cake colored eyes wander for a moment. Big Bang Theory? she said, faith. Sub-atomic particles? Faith. Hatchet, science is an estimation of an estimation of an estimation in an attempt at understanding an observed phenomenon. Anything science explains requires faith. Faith and science are two routes to the same destination.
This amused Hatchet. The faith we place in science can be tested with method and experimentation, he said, tugging on his beer. The faith placed in unfalsifiable metaphysics cannot be trusted.
What about ghost hunters? she stuck her tongue out at him and smiled.
He leaned across the table at her, the beers sloshing under the limits of the short leg. Ghost hunters are trying to sell you toilet paper, car insurance, and prophylactics.
Three things I am in short supply of, she said.
Let’s move to a booth, and she grabbed her beer and stretched out on the red vinyl upholstery set under a moving waterfall picture made of electric motors and revolving rolls of clear plastic. She began again, It takes faith to be an atheist. Just as much as it takes faith to believe the supernatural exists. Science fails to recognize the single most potent element of human existence. Faith. Letting the reigns go to the unfolding of the universe is faith, faith, faith. Science has failed our world, Hatchet.
She was reciting lyrics to some song just to piss him off. Faith is letting go? Science has failed our world? Really, Delilah? Do you say that when you flick a switch and science turns on the light? Do you say that when you turn on your TV and science puts pictures on the screen?
Science gave us light?
Do you say that when you get on a plane and science makes the thing fly true and land safely at its predetermined destination? Do you really?
Science allowed me to defy gravity and fly! Praise be to Science! Wanna know what would be really hot? If science gave us sex!
He felt his upper lip moisten.
Hatchet, can't you see that those examples are just a manipulation of what already exists in nature? Anytime I step onto an aircraft designed by an engineer, I’m taking advantage of the Magnus effect, discovered by a guy named Magnus although Newton had probably figured it out. Natural advantages designed into the fucking thing by the engineer. What is the source of the nature? Maybe God is the source, Hatchet. A source of energy not created or destroyed but is eternally transformed. Perhaps when we die, our energy will be transformed into something that is not currently tangible. Some type of energy that gravity doesn't influence. Considering that thermodynamics governs every physical/chemical reaction, the entropy cannot be ignored. Every reaction is theoretically reversible, but we all know theory is not reality. I believe entropy in theory suggests an origin that must have been perfect. Go to the source. Science has failed our Mother Earth. The spirit moves through all things.
She was reciting lyrics again. You sound like one of those zombie people in those pews of that church, so strange from a science student.
I am a scientist, Hatchet. I have a degree.
Then you of all people should be able to accept certain things; there are things we can deduce. No, the sun will not always come up tomorrow. One day it won’t but there is absolutely no evidence or indication that it will not come up tomorrow. Faith is a funny word. He examined her breasts and cheeks and her neck and what parts of her ear he could see below a smooth wave of hair. She gave him a sigh that she turned into a joke by simply laughing at herself for doing it.
She was baiting him. He couldn’t see it.
But let's analyze this it-takes-faith-to-be-an-atheist approach, he kept at her. Atheists do not and should not carry the weight of proof. We’re not saying that cars don't exist or trees or planets or crickets or bald eagles or beautiful research assistants. I dare say we have irrefutable proof of the existence of these things. What we are saying is that theists are the ones who should carry the weight of proof for their idea. Our idea is not that there is no god. Your idea is that there is a god. Our argument is just a stand against your lack of proof. I can say that there are little green men who live at the center of our planet cranking handles to keep the planet's magnetic field working but to be believed, I would have the burden of proof.
Little green men?
Yeah, little green men.
I don’t believe you.
Any rational thinking person cannot take the sheer outlandish ideas behind most religions to heart with the same level of faith required to believe that sub-atomic particles exist. Hatchet failed to see that he was pushing it too far. It takes an astronomical amount of faith to believe in bearded old men in the sky and people rising not just from the dead but flying unaided into another dimension.
A bearded old man in the sky? You really hate God, don’t you?
Every single aspect of religion has to be given to its followers by ancient, ambiguous texts and/or oral tradition, translated so many times from one language to the next, it becomes that rumor game you played when you were in kindergarten.
You’re showing your age now, Hatchet.
Science, which supports the majority of atheist refutations against religion, is not just a pile of books. Anyone can conduct experiments that prove boundless things about the world around us, none of it pointing in any way to a creator or an almighty intelligence. Science places a limited amount of faith in the people of science. Religion does the exact opposite; you have to place your fully roused faith in those who claim to know everything about the universe in which we live.
Calm down, cowboy, she told him. What about entropy? You didn’t touch it.
Entropy might be a damning idea. I see that. Hatchet successfully stopped himself from delving into things he had no business discussing with her, things like the entropy gap caused by the expansion of the universe and quantum variables in useful energy. There’s a lecture on quantum states I want you to hear. It broke me from claiming agnosticism. Anyway, how does entropy imply omniscient intelligence?
Now you're asking questions like a true scientist. Is agnosticism supposed to be a step below atheism? What is the difference?
Agnosticism. Atheism. The words are semantic.
What words aren't semantic?
All your magic energy theories and life force stuff is very cute albeit viable and simple. My faith lies in the even simpler idea—Occam’s Razor and all that jazz—that nothing isn’t nothing. There never was simply nothing. There never will be simply nothing.
What do think the universe is expanding into? what is that?
You know that’s a pointless question, Delilah. Just because it’s expanding doesn’t mean it has to be expanding into anything.
Why can’t you imagine another dimension, where creation began?
I can imagine anything but any attempt to really examine creation seems futile due to the never-ending loop of trying to go to the source. The source is everything in the universe. Everything is the source. All of it pushing this way and that way. And I say that without any spiritual connotation. It’s just plain math. We see pairs of opposing forces everywhere. There is always a positive and always a negative. Without a positive there is no negative.
You realize you’re trying to explain Taoism to an Asian.
Hatchet gave her a smile. Neither high nor low entropy can last for long. See, he winked at her, no god. Just you and me and some camping equipment... and some shrooms.
Look how smooth you are. Well, aside from the fact that the idea of cyclical cosmology has taken some pretty hard kicks recently, you have to know that simplicity is the heaviest double-edged sword out there. No matter how simple you break things down, you eventually have to turn around and go the other direction and deal with the limits of definable complexity. Now you are going to say I’ve highjacked your position, stolen your theory for my very own... See how we’re beginning to go in circles?
You knew this would happen.
We both did. Eat your pho. I’ve seen your pictures, by the way, she veered. They’re good.
Within the last fifteen seconds, she had done everything perfectly, rendering his lecture as useful as fish flavored bubblegum. She unpuzzled the cube that he had been and then rescrambled him and set him down in a multicolored disarray. She figured she’d leave him like this for a while; maybe she would want him permanently locked in this confusion. No more effort would be required. He was a dancing monkey.
They ate. He asked her to drinks. They told dirty jokes over whiskeys. She let him make-out with her in a red shadow stretched across the uncharted parts of a busy downtown martini bar. He put his hand down the back of her jeans. And then she went home.
Buy Skitz O'Fuel's novel That Night Filled Mountain
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River of Blood, a novel about anarchism, atheism, racism, violence, family, and corruption.
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.