Saturday, 29 November 2008

Life of Pi

Recently, my American movie critic friends have published a review of the film Pi, a film I didn’t like in the least. You can read what the film is about in the review itself, but to sum it up in one sentence it's about a guy that deciphers a secret message from god in the Torah.
Earlier this week, while at home under a severe cold, I commented on their review; in retrospect, that comment was good enough to stand on its own, so here it is in a slightly modified version.

The term Torah refers to only the first five books of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. According to tradition, these were recited by god himself and written down by Moshe. When the Greeks translated the bible they took the name Moshe, replaced the "sh" with s just because they don't have an "sh" sound, and added an extra s at the end just because that's what Greeks do to names; the same treatment was received by a guy called Yeshua, whom you probably know as Jesus.
My point with this lovely tale of names' evolution is simple. When discussing secret messages in the bible, one has to take into account that the bible has been mixed and edited many a time before we got to read it. Worse, the Old Testament was handed over orally over many generations before it was put down in writing in the first place. Therefore, if god had intended for us to find a secret message in the Torah, he must have planted it in the version he would know we were to end up having; but then again, which version? The original Hebrew one or the King James one? Which is the truly diving bible?
Not that this simple logical problem has stopped me from hearing of these wonderfully encrypted messages one can find in the bible during virtually every time I got to interact with a religious person back in Israel.

As for pi in the context of the Old Testament, allow me to quote a passage dealing with the construction of the temple from Kings 7:23:
And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other... and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
What we have here, in case you couldn't already tell, is either some very divine circle or an account so ignorant its estimate of the value of pi is 3!

Which leads me to say that if you look hard enough for a pattern you will find it in everything. Look hard enough and you will probably find tomorrow's winning lottery numbers in this very post. The trick is to find something that matters, something that is statistically significant enough to stand on its own. Given the attention given to the bible, if such a thing really existed it would have been found ages ago.
My opinion is that things should have gone the other way around altogether. If god had wanted us to know about great big things, he should have given us a straight forward account. He should have specified Maxwell's equations or told us about electricity. He could have told us the fascinating tale of galaxies and black holes in some manner that would have passed through the ages with awe only to be understood generations later. He could have even settled to tell us the earth was rather ball like.
Yet he chose not to do any of the above. Instead, he left us with a document that can't even provide a good approximation of pi. Come on, I could do better during fourth grade with a bit of wire!
And you know what that makes me think? It makes me think the Old Testament is nothing but a man made relic of the Bronze Age. Hence for my opinion of films trying to glorify it the mumbo jumbo way.

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