Greg and Jennifer will be leaving tomorrow morning. This is welcome news in the sense that things will assume some more normal state of what I currently refer to as normal, but I’ve loved the time I’ve been able to spend with best-friend-now-brother-in-law. This vacation (extended family + vacation are, I think, mutually exclusive) has been nearly as much stress as enjoyment. It doesn’t help that we’re still living out of suitcases – not an enjoyable feat for anyone, but even less so for a family of 5.
I recently read an article in the NYTimes that listed various scientists’ and authors’ responses to the question: What is something you believe, but that you can’t prove? It was cool to read the responses. I was particularly happy to read one guy state clearly that evolution/big-bang stuff could so far not be proven, although he believes it nonetheless. Nevermind my own opinions about the beginnings of the world, it was nice to hear intellectual honesty about the fact that evolutionary theory is as much based on belief as any of the many other stabs at explaining the beginning of – us. It’s all belief. No one was there. We’re just wandering around a really cold crime scene trying to figure out what the heck happened. Believe what you want. You’ll never know (in this life).
The response that most reflects my thinking was:
Psychologist, Hope College; author, “Intuition”
As a Christian monotheist, I start with two unproven axioms:
1. There is a God.
2. It’s not me (and it’s also not you).
Together, these axioms imply my surest conviction: that some of my
beliefs (and yours) contain error. We are, from dust to dust, finite
and fallible. We have dignity but not deity.
And that is why I further believe that we should
a) hold all our unproven beliefs with a certain tentativeness (except
for this one!),
b) assess others’ ideas with open-minded skepticism, and
c) freely pursue truth aided by observation and experiment.
This mix of faith-based humility and skepticism helped fuel the
beginnings of modern science, and it has informed my own research and
science writing. The whole truth cannot be found merely by searching
our own minds, for there is not enough there. So we also put our ideas
to the test. If they survive, so much the better for them; if not, so
much the worse.
And here’s one that I thought was probably the coolest; with which I am also in agreement:
Psychologist, University of Texas; author, “The Evolution of Desire”
I’ve spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating.
In that time, I’ve documented phenomena ranging from what men and
women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual
treachery. I’ve discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which
men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I’ve studied mate
poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators and spouse murderers.
But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human
mating, I’ve remained unwavering in my belief in true love.
While love is common, true love is rare, and I believe that few people
are fortunate enough to experience it. The roads of regular love are
well traveled and their markers are well understood by many – the
mesmerizing attraction, the ideational obsession, the sexual
afterglow, profound self-sacrifice and the desire to combine DNA. But
true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows
no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It’s difficult to define,
eludes modern measurement and seems scientifically woolly. But I know
true love exists. I just can’t prove it.
Of course it isn’t lost on me that I forewent the responses of those generally assumed to be heavy-hitters in the intellectual world – the neuroscientists, the evolutionary biologists, etc. My two favorite responses were from psychologists. But what have the heavy-hitters gotten us? The atomic bomb? I suppose they got us to the moon, and maybe they gave us antibiotics, so yeah, they’re cool. But they also got us napalm and agent orange…and it’s the psychologists who are still cleaning up that mess. So I suppose that in the end, the heavy-hitters and their fans should acknowledge a little more parity when contemplating the intrinsic worth of their idols.
Here’s the link to the whole thing: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/04/science/04edgehed.html?incamp=article_popular_2