Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Science

I love science. It's given us a lot of things that I'm really grateful for. I don't really know how I'd fare in a less scientific world.  The fact that I can work from my with a computer over the internet, enjoy an air conditioned living space in the heat of summer and warmth in the winter, and have all sorts of entertainment and educational options without even going anywhere is truly amazing.

Science, however is a tool, not a belief system in and of itself.  It fits into the framework of larger beliefs, called metaphysics, or fundamental views about who and what we are, what existence is, and what - if anything - we're doing here.  Science only describes the interactions of physical materials and energy: it doesn't tell you what to believe about the larger questions. That's our choice.

Some people confuse the personal metaphysical beliefs as expressed by many scientists, like materialism or atheism, with a conclusion of science itself.  As far as I know, there is no scientific evidence that there is no god, and there is no scientific evidence that there is no afterlife.  Therefore, these cannot be scientific conclusions, but are rather metaphysical beliefs.

When someone says that spiritual or religious people are "anti-science", they are making what is called a categorical error; it is not the physical descriptions of the interactions of matter and energy that the spiritual and religious generally disagree with, but rather the metaphysical interpretations and beliefs some scientists profess as if they are scientific conclusions.  We (the spiritual and/or religious) take issue with the metaphysics of scientists being presented as a part of science itself; we don't take issue (generally speaking) with the actual science.

The point of the above is to make the case that if some people feel compelled to believe what scientists tell them as if everything scientists say are incontrovertible facts, the important thing to remember is that there is a difference between describing a physical interaction, which is what science does, and making a metaphysical claim about what those descriptions mean. We are still free to believe whatever we wish about the meaning surrounding those descriptions, even if we accept the description itself as true.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Beliefs

Most people do not come to their beliefs by a deliberate process.  They are influenced into believing things by the happenstance of their lives - what part of the world they are born in, who their parents are, the teachers they interact with, what various figures of authority, friendship, love and respect tell them.  They are influenced by the course of events in their lives.

Mostly, they are guided in their beliefs by emotional attachments and through emotional events, and by  the structure of whatever local society exists around them.  That's not to say that they adopt the consensus beliefs around them, but rather that those local group structures serve as the grounding for however their particular belief structure assembles as time goes on, pro or con.  One might rebel against their local beliefs, but then those local beliefs are still the basis for their rebellion.

And, usually, this is not a deliberate process, but rather just a happenstance collection of views that are usually not very well thought out.  Which usually ends up with people committed to hypocritical, self-conflicting, unsupportable and/or even disabling views. Committed to them on a deep, emotional level where their beliefs become a large part of their sense of self.  Challenge their beliefs, and you've attacked them personally.

How many people, do you suppose, are willing to set aside all that they believe (even if possible), and start with a blank slate, and pose these questions:

1) What should I believe, and why?

2) What do I want to believe?