The Null Device

Professor Kim's Magical Holy Water Machine

A South Korean man calling himself Profesor Kim is facing fraud charges after selling devices that he claimed transformed tapwater into "holy water", having "digitally captured" what it is that makes holy water from Lourdes holy. The devices, of course, did not work.

As absurd as the idea of holy water is (that an almighty deity has specifically blessed a location—a French town or an Indian river or similar—with magical healing properties), the idea of knockoff holy water takes it one step further. Surely in the sort of universe which features omniscient and omnipotent (not to mention judgmental) deities bestowing boons, actually pirating these boons and passing them onto the unworthy would be impossible, or at least ill-advised. But Kim cherry-picks the most convenient bits of two types of universes—the rational, technological one we live in and the mystical, demon-haunted one in which our fates are controlled by ineffable forces and holy water could be considered to work—and mashes them together like P.T. Barnum's mermaid, hoping that his marks don't notice the seams before parting with their cash.

There are 4 comments on "Professor Kim's Magical Holy Water Machine":

Posted by: Greg Mon Jul 5 10:19:10 2010

Everything in religion comes hilariously unstuck as soon as rationality (for example, the kind of questions primary school children ask) is applied to it. Holy water is as good as example as any.

Only the medieval minds that dreamt the tale up would think that "Lourdes water" is a neatly-defined category. On its way to the well, this water traveled through a complex set of underground paths (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundwater), anything from tiny pores in rocks to the water table.

So, if the water at a particular spring is magic, at what stage did it become magic? Was it already magic as it approached the spring via the water table? What about water in the porous rocks surrounding? Was it magic when it was rain?

Or does it only become magic as it exits the spring? At what precise point? If you draw water a millimeter before that point, is it not magic, whereas afterwards it is? What about impurities in the water? Is only the H2O magic? How large can impurities be - molecules, grains, boulders? ...

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Mon Jul 5 10:45:58 2010

To be fair, the water could be merely a prop, put in for user-interface purposes, with the demons that haunt this particular universe applying fuzzy algorithms to determine if someone gets the blessing, or even reading their intentions.

That's the God-as-virtual-reality-programmer theory. Given that the crackpot theologies of each era are bound to that era's technologies (witness Clarence Larkin's 19th-century hydraulic diagrams of Heaven and Hell, for example), I imagine that there'll be people reconciling theism with an understanding of, say, World Of Warcraft or Second Life. (Perhaps if you're bad, you get an eternity of FarmVille?)

Posted by: Greg Tue Jul 6 10:17:01 2010

I guess once you invoke the 'evil daemon argument', anything is possible and no sensory evidence is reliable.

Still, if a deity went to the effort of creating a universe-sized virtual reality in order to test people, you'd think they'd be interested in propensities more profound than the desire to travel to Lourdes for personal gain.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Tue Jul 6 10:36:25 2010

Perhaps this universe is one of the more boring unit tests in the test suite.

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