Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Curse of Certainty

The wise philosopher says: "Be Kind for everyone is facing their own great difficulty".

This is good advice and so I offer a small mea culpa for my name calling. The Sullen, The Silly and the Snarky: I don't mind using these terms in my discussion of science and religion because they have a certain poetic economy. Each one captures some essential element of the standard forms of the debate. But I am not deaf to fact that I am goofing on their subjects with the Jersey-born sarcasm this flesh is heir too. So I do not mean to offend and if I do I promise to bear it with grace when fired back upon. We are all stuck here for however long and there is no point in being intentionally mean.

I will say though that in this great debate I am intolerant of the intolerant. The whole point of science is to come to world with a sense of reverence and honor that serves as inspiration for the study of nature. The whole point, as far as I can tell, of an authentic spiritual longing is to live in accordance with a call to compassion and honesty. So what is up with the ham-fisted certainty that clubs dissent or dismisses it with a wave of the hand? The hardest thing we have to face as species with 6 billion plus is the sense that we know for sure, that we know with absolute certainty. It kills the creativity that lives in the moment. It kills the options that we may need to face the challenges we face. And, all too often, it simply leads to killing.


  1. Don't cater to the overly sensitive. Everyone needs to build a hide. Superficially spiky language is good. Priestly meekness is bad.

  2. I hear you. There is a balance to find. The buddhists have this tradition of Dharma combat where they go to the mat in debates about the nature of reality (i think the jesiuts have something similar).

    What I want to keep though is the sense that the exploration, scientific or otherwise, should fundamentally be a creative act. We should do it 'cause we love it. That is why I do science for sure. Getting overly nasty and personal robs us of the sense that we are just lucky to be here and have the debate at all.

  3. Bravo. You used a powerful rhetorical device to mildly ridicule the extreme positions that some hold. Unfortunately these positions dominate your audience's attention so something a little more powerful than reasoned discussion is needed to draw their attention away from entrenched points of view. It contrasted your position and helped frame the discussion.

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