Friday, February 11, 2011

Train of thought.

The argument that we have no way of being able to verify universal truths means that we have to treat all belief systems equally has annoyed me for quite some time.

For one thing, it leaves no place for a graduated system, the idea that some ideas are less wrong than others. The difference between calling a tomatoe a vegetable and calling it an automobile for instance. Greta Christina at alternet, not somehwere I normally browse, but after reading this, maybe somewhere I should, has another reason to dislike it. One that I rather like. The reason that is. It's an old post, but I've only just found it and I think it's worth talking about.

The seed of the argument comes from people that she has encountered, that despite evidence to the contrary will still take their belief system over objective reality. The exasperation in her writing is heartwarming, her frustration obvious. In asserting that there is no way to prove a set of beliefs 100% correct, her opponents are giving equal footing (at a minimum) to objective reality, otherwise known as that big 'ol thing, the Universe. Which of course begs the question as to why the universe is more important than what is in your head. Your head specifically that is.

This lack of perspective is ... worrying. In day to day life, people do care about how the world works, one of the examples that Greta gives is the leaving a building from a high window, people don't generally think that their own beliefs trump the physical reality around them. Or at least, those that do are fairly quickly removed from the gene pool. On a lesser level though, say turning the tv on by throwing a rock rather than using the remote. Some would object that this deference to the physical world is important and that insistance on the validity of spiritual beliefs doesn't affect the real world and thus it doesn't matter wether the believer believes them or not. Homeopathy puts that idea to rest. As Greta says, human beings tend to be hard wired to believe what they already believe, it takes work to step back and critically evaluate your life. No one aspect of a persons life is privledged, that it should not be submitted to rational enquiry, to ring fence an area as such is to assert it's primacy over the world as a whole. And if it is important to find out how our world works so that we can operate it in better, then privledgeing one aspect of ones life is a subversion of that.


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