Thursday, March 01, 2012

Hoping and Knowing

There’s hoping and then there’s knowing. Religion is devoted to hoping and science and rationalism are devoted to knowing. When you pray you are hoping a LOT of things. You’re hoping that the lines are up, you’re hoping that the message will be answered. When you go to church and express your faith you hope that you are going to heaven. Even the faithful will agree that they don’t know any of those things but that they have faith. They’re hoping.

People are fond of saying that they know something “in their hearts”. This is put up as an unassailable position when in fact it's just a metaphor. Moreover, by saying you ONLY know something in your heart means that you’re hoping. Flowery language cannot be used against cold hard facts. You’re basing your premise on what you want to be true based on no information or research and probably via ignoring information that contradicts that which you are hoping.

When you know something (no matter how much you may wish it weren’t true) you know it based on research, facts, known theories, and testable and re-testable experiments. Your knowledge is firmly attached to reality. There is nothing between you and your knowledge that has to be accepted to move on. Nothing is based on hoping. Everything is open to examination and tests. That’s real knowledge. And if someone says to me, "Yes, but what about other realities or the supernatural", I say, well just show me an example and we'll take it from there. Experiments will continue and would frankly be fascinating!

I get the hoping part. It’s a scary world out there. Our lives are so short. We wish things were different perhaps. But hoping they were different doesn’t make it so. Every parent teaches their kids this pretty early on, right? You may wish your child didn’t have to go through the pain of a dying pet but making up a doggie heaven doesn’t change the facts. As kids grow they have a pretend world that meshes with the real world and that's great but we all know the difference, right?

None of this would be worth writing about nor would it be a problem except for the fact that hoping and reason are hoisted up on the dance floor as if they were on equal terms (because the former might actually be worth more votes). When it comes to the death of Bowser I could give a rats ass really what you tell your kid. But when it comes to how we operate something as complicated as the US of A I get a little nervous. Why should I care what invisible deity what candidate sends his hopes to. Why do we still say that someone is a “man of faith” as if that makes him qualified to lead the nation. If that were all it took we’d draft Tim Tebow and be done with it.

Examples abound. When the religious right tries to pretend that there is controversy regarding evolution they are putting their hope that the bible is true and accurate and that man is special up against tons of reality based research that says we are no more special than any other of our fellow creatures and that clearly there has been a plodding progression from simple organisms to more complicated. We’re part of that progression. How could we not be without being aliens from another planet? That these two positions are put up as if they were worthy debate contestants is ludicrous.

When people listen to congressmen instead of scientists when it comes to global warming it’s because they HOPE that it just isn’t true and that it’s really still 1957, gas is 29 cents a gallon, and Wally and the Beaver are on their way home from school. Sorry, the planet is definitely warming up and anyone who can read and think a little will agree with the thousands of SCIENTISTS who also agree that the planet is warming up and that it is industrialization that caused it. It’s a tough reality so just deal with it and let’s start working on solutions. There is nothing in the way of solving problems except denying that they exist!

1 comment:

Rich Pope said...

Thanks for your usual good thoughts. Turns out that today I am pondering the difference between two other words--acceptance and forgiveness. The latter term seems to have religious roots, and I'm not sure if I buy the concept. I'm going to go to my own blog (which I haven't posted anything on for years) and do some writing.