Tuesday, April 17, 2018
--- My apologies ---
The need to know is inherent in the human mind. Not "want" - "need". It's a security issue. If there is a question, then there must be an answer and, if that answer isn't forthcoming, then a human will make a best guess and call that the answer. It's at the basis of many of the mental biases that people that study the mind know exists, but most people never even suspect. It's at the basis of most of the isms. We need to know that what we are doing is reasonable. Racism, nationalism, Marxism, Republicanism - we believe what we believe because our group has all the answers and, if it doesn't, then the world becomes a scary place where things can't be firmly established.
Central to a person's worldview is their religion, or lack thereof. Is there a God, or something else out there that we can rely on? What happens to us when we die? Does the world go on forever or is there an end out there somewhere? These are important questions and most of us need to know that we can be confident in the answers we possess.
Can't blame people - the world is a scary place.
But when personal answers won't do - when subjectivity has the reputation of less-than-certainty, for questions this important, we need certain answers, and that means answers informed by objective study.
Most people who study questions like, "Is there a God?" realize that, inconveniently, there is no way to objectively test it. There are subjective answers but God is an individual and not a trained animal that can be called on to do tests. And were a being called God of a mind to do so, there are always ways to explain the test results away.
But, if you take away a person's religious beliefs, the fear is (and it's a real existential fear at the core of a person's being) that the security answers they have about the universe, the validity of their moral decisions, about death, about all of life and relations with others, will simply crumble to dust.
Can't blame people - it's a reasonable fear.
The answer is apologetics. It's an answer that is usually encountered in religious studies and conversations, but it's just as prevalent in secular sciences. I once overheard a group of research scientists. One of them said (almost verbatim - as much as my memory will allow), "We must defend the theory of evolution at all costs."
I believe that what happened to lead to the biological diversity we see in the world today involved evolution. I believe that, not only because science says so but, also, the Bible tells me so. Phrases used in Genesis sounds surprisingly like evolution. It doesn't say, "let there be animals", it says, "let the earth and the oceans bring forth animals."
But I, for one, don't know. Mainly because I can come up with alternative mechanisms that would lead to the same state of the world today, and, primarily because - I wasn't there to see it.
How quickly "science" forgets that science is based on first hand observation. The further one gets from that first hand experience - historical evolutionary biology, scientific history, quantum physics - the further one gets from science and the nearer one gets to philosophy.
Can't blame people - they need to know.
But there's apologetics.
Science takes observations of the real world and carves out explanations that fit those observations, and science is always ready to let go of the most cherished beliefs if there is a hint that the theories don't fit observed reality.
Apologetics takes what one believes and forces observed reality to conform to it. You can support any system of beliefs - simply pick and choose your evidence. There are people today, and they're not stupid people, who believe that the world is flat, and their beliefs form a rational and consistent theory of the world. It's easy enough to say that the work that has been done in space is a conspiracy to hoodwink people. You can explain a curved horizon as atmospheric optics.
I am often embarrassed at the tact the church (frankly, all the churches, religions, isms) takes to "prove" that the Bible is inerrant, that God exists, that we have a hope in an afterlife that is - pleasant. They try way too hard. Does anyone outside our circle pay much attention to these arguments. A few, yes. But dig deeper and the telling point is not the arguments (For instance, C. S. Lewis is a major example of an atheist dragged "kicking and screaming" into Christianity. For a detailed account, read his "Surprised by Joy"), but the experience - the personal subjective experience of something that "science" can't quite get at.
Science has it's power. It's a great thing, but at it's best it humbly recognizes it's limits and allows the stage to philosophy, art, literature, history...
Science is objective, but it relies on subjective experiences - observations - to get it going.
I observe my world and then I test my observations, as far as they can be tested, and from there my worldview springs.
I have a belief. I believe that my subjective experiences give me real grasp on the world, and that's good enough.
How much of your worldview is based on subjective experience and how much on the objective testing of those experiences?
There's a movie starring Tom Cruise called "Eyes Wide Shut." How far can a person move through life and not observe the world around them?
As you explore your world (as I hope you are doing - that's the heart of this blog) and your understanding grows, how much of it would you be willing to let go of if you were to find that it did not adequately explain your experiences?