Sunday, August 14, 2005

The need for certainty

Another post inspired by that colossal procrastination machine I call Okayplayer.

I had the evolution vs creation argument again this week. Actually, more than once. In the process of those arguments though, I came to realize a fundamental truth about mindsets I consider intolerant, whether religious or secular.

Sidenote: Although it is not said often enough, the legions of atheists and 'skeptics' who spend every waking moment not just pointing out inconsistencies in religions but believing that they have truly found the only way are guilty of the same hubris they charge religious extremists with. Namely believing that their way is the only way. The choice to believe in no god at all is just that, a choice. Since science, which a lot of them deify without understanding, IMO, makes no statements either way about the existence of a god, any arguments for either side are philosophical in nature and have little to do with proof. If you take a stand on either side you do it out of faith.

Now, there tends to be the same core mindet behind the wholesale unquestioning embrace of any particular religion, philosophy, political party, economic system etc. Namely, the idea of certainty. A group of ideas that can not be questioned and which are always appropriate regardless of the context in which they are applied.

Now, personally, I tend to apply certain aspects of the scientific method to real life. Particularly the part that requires that we consider all ideas subject to change. Also the part which requires we honestly admit what we do not know. I've always believed that before any kind of learning can happen, I must be prepared to admit my ignorance. This is not to say that I've never been ashamed to admit ignorance, or gotten my ego tangled around an idea to the point that I was unwilling to change it, but I try.

I see the need for absolute unshakeable certainty in anything as a very dangerous thing. You have to wonder how much of the ugliness in human history could have been prevented by someone just considering the possibility that their beliefs could be wrong. Its impossible to empathize with another human being so long as you believe only your perspective has validity.

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