Theology is Hard

An edited excerpt from Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver (page 330, at least in my copy). London, 1673. Daniel Waterhouse and a woman named Tess are having sex for the first time. Waterhouse is a “conflicted Puritan,” as the back of the book describes him, and so he is is relieved when Tess produces a knotted tube of sheepgut to use as a condom.

“Does this mean it is not actually coitus?” Daniel asked hopefully. “Since I am not really touching you?” Actually he was touching her in a lot of places, and vice-versa. But where it counted he was touching nothing but sheepgut.
“I say that we are not touching, and not having sex, if it makes you feel better,” Tess said. “Though, when all is finished, you shall have to explain to your Maker why you are at this moment buggering a dead sheep.”

LOL, be careful what you wish for.

Infinity War Part II: A Conjecture

I have a conjecture about Marvel’s second Infinity War movie, scheduled for release on May 3, 2019. If I’m right, this will be a spoiler for that movie. Also, this post contains spoilers for the first one, released within the last week as of this writing.

It all comes down to personal grooming.

And a few seconds of dialogue by Doctor Strange.

In the just-released Infinity War, there’s a scene in which Dr. Strange and bunch of other superheroes are fighting Thanos on another planet. Strange is briefly away from the action and he goes into a weird altered state for a few moments. When he comes back, another good guy (I forget who) asks him, basically, “What was that about?”

Strange answers, “I just looked at a large set of possible futures.” (He IS the Kwisatz Haderach!)

“How many?” the other person asks him.

“Fourteen million, six hundred and five.”

“In how many of those do we win?”

“One.”

Oh. So options are… limited.

But Strange has the time-altering Eye of Agamotto, so it’s a not a definite loss. After all, he can just wind back time, if things go wrong, and start over. Right?

Wellllll… it’s not that easy. As Strange is warned in the Dr. Strange movie, using the Eye of Agamotto to mess around with time is dangerous. You can irretrievably mess things up by screwing with the structure of time, or get stuck in a repeating loop forever, for example. So it’s not just, “Yawn, that didn’t go well, I call do-over” until things work out right.

In other words, Strange is constrained in terms of what he can accomplish, even with the Eye.

That’s one fact.

The other is that Black Widow is blonde. Even though she has had red hair in all the other movies she’s appeared in.

Also, Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, has a beard.

Yeah, so?

So one possibility is that the entire first movie actually takes place in what is, from our point of view, an alternate timeline.

Strange, to save half the sentient beings of the universe from being genocided by Thanos, had to go way back into the past and engineer a different universe from the one he was in.

That universe is the one we we think of as the real universe, in which Black Widow is a red-head and Captain America is clean-shaven.

Of course all this is speculation. And the following objection might be raised: At one point when Thor gets back to Earth and sees Cap again, he jokingly says, “I see you copied my beard.” This acknowledges, or seems to, that Cap is usually clean-shaven, leaving me with nothing but blonde Black Widow to support my notion. But what if, in the alternate universe, Cap had a beard first, and then Thor did? Then Thor’s line actually is a different joke, acknowledging, in an ironic way, that he’s “copying” Cap. All this is a stretch, but I find myself liking the idea so much that I hope it’s true. Also, the writers have dug themselves into such a deep hole in the first movie, with the seeming total victory of Thanos and a Reservoir-Dogs-worthy body count of good guys, that it’s hard to see how else they could extract themselves from it.