Plagues, Privilege and Science

Haggadah Section: -- Ten Plagues

After nine plagues, it is likely the Egyptian food sources were teetering between inedible and inhumane: insects breeding disease, water damage leading to mold and rot, carcasses of dead animals taking their toll. What if the first born died because they ate first and the most among family members, and brought about their own deaths? Perhaps the 10th plague tells us about the dangers of privilege.

John Scalzi defines privilege as "playing the game of life on the lowest difficulty setting." If you're a cis white straight male, you play at "easy"; if you're a person of color, a woman, gay or trans, the difficulty goes up simply by showing up for life. Passover teaches us to remember that we were strangers in a strange land, and to remove privilege as we go forward.

The plagues also show us a picture of increasing ecological disaster - a scientific admonition to literally "repair the world" through our actions.  How are we supposed to digest the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea as miracles while also believing in the science of climate change and global ecology?  Former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman offers a clue in a lecture at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “We must avoid the suggestion that science and faith are mutually exclusive — they are different manifestations of the human experience." Science tells us the odds in life, and faith tells us to place the bet.

John Scalzi, Shirley Tilghman lecture

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