Monday, March 19, 2012

I Believe...

Posting about fluffy bunnies and the comments I have received has made me think about beliefs. One of the things that people throw out the fluffy bunny phrase over is belief. Either you believe too much, or not enough. As in, those who believe in pixies, unicorns and instant karma verses those who don't really believe in spirits as entities with their own personalities and who scoff at the idea that your magical actions can come back to bite you in the ass. Either one of these can be labeled fluffy bunny and the two of them might just point fingers at each other.

Which leads me to the question, what do I believe?

And, of course, that answer isn't simple.

You see, I haven't led the most traditional life as an adult. I was already divorced with kids when I started college and graduated at the age of 30. I had already experienced my fluffy bunny days and had thought a lot about my beliefs and values and was somewhat set in my ways. I majored in Anthropology and minored in Biology. If you have ever spent any time in academia, especially in the sciences, you know that the cattiness of that community makes witch wars look like the Three Stooges. One thing I had a problem with was belief. That is, what you were expected to believe if you were a scientist and the idea that if you did not believe appropriately, you could not be objective.

In the Social Sciences, the idea is that if you believe too strongly in your religion, your beliefs will cloud your view of the culture you are studying. (Never mind that we've got a ton of really good information about pre-conversion cultures from the Jesuits.) This idea has given license to your various rabid atheists to tear into anyone who is anything but contemptuous of any and all of what they call "superstition".

(The Biology corner had its own annoying rules about beliefs, but it doesn't really come to bear on this discussion so I won't go into it at this time. )

So the time came came that I felt I needed to make a decision. If I was going to pursue a career in science, could I be an atheist? There was no way. I simply did not want to live in a world without magic. I can't believe that all of it doesn't exist. After all belief has a profound effect on societies and the way they interact with the world. To say that people are only affected psychologically- that it is the fear of a spell is the only reason for its effectiveness, for example, that causes its effects, seems awfully disrespectful to me and ignores evidence to the  contrary. After all, haven't I cast spells on people without telling them and haven't those spells been effective?

As a student of science I was taught to base my view of the world on evidence. So how does dismissing things out of hand fit in with the scientific method? And so I decided I would believe in everything, unless I encountered proof that it wasn't real.

So do I believe in Gods? Sure. There's lots of evidence that Gods exist. How bout the Christian God, Jehovah? Sure there's at least as much evidence for him as the rest. I don't think anybody's got it right. Spells? Yep, lots of evidence.

One day my daughter asked me if pixies were real. The very idea of believing in pixies seems incredibly fluffy to me. But was a scientist, right? So I said, "I have never seen a pixie, but I have no reason to believe they aren't real."

Yea. Total cop out. But those four years of college had to count for something, right?

I didn't become a scientist. I became a dog trainer. But my kids might, and I'd like to see the next generation of scientists have minds a little more open then some of the last.