Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Things I Don't Believe In

The first three things I don't believe in are interrelated, so the explanation as to why I disbelieve in these forces appears only once.

1. Fate

2. Karma

3. Everything Happens for a Reason

All these ideas suggest the presence of order in the world and I simply don't believe in order on a large scale over great spans of time. That doesn't mean there aren't staggering coincidences that feel like fate. Nor am I suggesting the idea of karma is complete nonsense. If you treat people consistently well, it is often the case that good things come your way. If you treat people badly, you often suffer the consequences. But not always. And the levels of reward and punishment are frequently disproportionate, inconsistent, and far from universal. Some people get by with causing misery; others lead blameless lives and never find happiness or contentment. And it only appears things happen for a reason because humankind invented reason and applies it to as many events as possible.

4. World Peace

I'm not only deeply skeptical that world peace is possible, I am also uncertain that it is desirable. Of course, I also don't favor a state of constant war. But as long as humans remain, well, human, war must exist as a possibility. I would only support world peace if it were accompanied by a shift in fundamental human nature. Otherwise, without conflict, necessary changes are difficult to put into place. That doesn't mean I endorse senseless violence, only that violence must be retained as a last resort for those who fail to see reason. I do not support war as a means for population control, to enhance wealth, to oppress peoples, or for any other petty political reason. But in the world as currently constructed, the sword has to be an option if the pen fails. If there's a deep change in the state of the world, maybe global peace will appear more viable. We can hope.

5. Intelligent Design

The possibility that the universe was created by God, or merely by entity or entities unknown, still resonates with me. The idea that the universe evolved without intervention from a creator due to a series of events both spectacular and ordinary also holds some sway. Neither notion explains everything perfectly, but I think some combination of the two may account for our existence.

However, the Intelligent Design argument as it stands now lacks both moral and spiritual integrity. ID advocates take the portions of various scientific theories--the Big Bang, the Modern Synthesis-- they are willing to accept and ignore what they dislike. That's a very human reaction to something controversial or counter intuitive, but it isn't really scientific. They fill in all the uncertainties of scientific theory with the idea that "God did it." Well, maybe God did do it, but that doesn't tell us anything. Science may sometimes be about whether God did something, but the larger question is how God did it. Whether God created a constantly expanding universe or designed very peculiar creatures like the woodpecker and the platypus represent keys to fascinating philosophical and spiritual questions, but that's no cause to simply attribute the inexplicable to God and stop investigating. The mysteries explained by Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were perceived by many as intractable as well until those men solved the problem. Maybe there was a designer and maybe he or she or they was/were intelligent, but shortcomings in evolutionary theory do not constitute direct evidence of a creator, only, at best, circumstantial evidence.

6. Ghosts

7. UFOs

When I say I don't believe in these things, that doesn't mean I think everyone who claims to have seen ghosts or UFOs is either insane or lying. Nor do I consider either of these ideas to be impossible. All I'm saying is I have never been persuaded.

Odds are, planets in other parts of the universe support life, perhaps even intelligent life. However, given the huge distances between different points in space, the behavior of alien life forms during alleged sightings strikes me as curious. They seem to have come an awfully long way just to be fleetingly observed before they vanish. Are we to believe beings advanced enough to cover the vast emptiness of the cosmos would simply turn away at the last moment rather than risk a direct encounter with humans? Could be, but I doubt it. It's possible they have observed and researched us and concluded we are not to be trusted. It's possible they have attempted communication and we have failed to detect their efforts. Maybe. But I remain unconvinced.

As for ghosts, who knows? I don't discount the possibility of disembodied spirits, I simply haven't seen any compelling evidence. I have known people who have seen, heard, even engaged in interaction with what they thought were ghosts. Some of those making such claims seemed pretty crazy; others appeared perfectly levelheaded.

8. -isms

9. Principles

Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Fascism and most other systematic -isms are just names people give to ideas in order to simplify and organize them. The general principles of any of these notions are not universally agreed upon and it is dangerous to apply them across the board in every situation just for the sake of remaining consistent with a set of ideas that were conceived by imperfect humans in the first place.

I actually do believe in principles but sometimes people confront situations where any choice one makes violates one principle or another. As referenced above, consult the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson when it comes to the dangers of a foolish consistency. So what principle should not be subject to compromise under any circumstances? The first that springs to mind is never actively betray your friends or loved ones.

10. Bigfoot

Come on, now.


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