I am sometimes torn between my scientific and spiritual side. Educated in the sciences I appreciate cold pure logic. So, when I run into a lecture likes this by Peter Boghossian…
…I might have my spiritual world shaken up.
When Dr. Boghossian explains that faith-based processes are not reliable, I have to admit that he is right. When he shows us that homeopathy does not work, I am tempted to laugh with him about the ridiculousness of faith in a remedy that does not contain anything (but water). According to homeopaths, the remedy does contain the ‘essence’ of the substance. But ‘essence’ is not something than can be measured, so it really IS only water.
What do I do to get back to my spiritual base?
First of all I have to allow myself to be exposed to ridicule for believing in something that science can’t see. But then I also have to make real to me that there was a time, not very long ago, at that, when we could not measure radioactivity. If somebody at that time postulated something that could kill you within the shortest time without being felt, smelled, or seen, this person would have been certainly ridiculed. I make it clear to me that we cannot measure the ‘essence’ of a substance – yet!
Beyond that argument I try to wrap my mind around the question if we are possibly only looking into a self-fulfilling closed system. Results of religious believes are often explained as self-fulfilling situations – if I believe in the resurrection of Jesus with all my heart and don’t allow any other possibility, I might actually have an apparition that is as real as the cop handing out a ticket for kneeling in the middle of the street.
If this works for a single person, then a group of people can certainly increase the effect and we have those events where blind start seeing and lames start walking. Science has looked at those events with double-blind studies and found that they are all humbug. Yet, they cannot duplicate a parameter they are completely unaware off, so the double blind study might miss essential parameters.
Thus I clarify for myself that science itself is in no way different than the faith they investigate. It is just a different faith – a faith that requires a multitude of observers that all observe the same.
Comparing this with a vivid dream might make this more obvious. Imagine a dream in which you can fly. And also make this a dream where you have a sweetheart that can fly with you (yes, I am thinking of Douglas Adams.) Then add another element that there is a big crowd that cheers you on as you swoop through double barrels and looks deeply embraced with your sweetheart. Would any member in this dream doubt that you two fly?
But, but, but … that’s a dream, that is different!
To which I have to answer: Says who?
Just as I could imagine that in my dream I introduce a scientist that does not believe and demands double-blind studies, so can I imagine that in ‘real life’ I introduced those scientists that tell me that homeopathy is humbug and that they have proven it beyond any reasonable doubt.
For me it boils down to the question if the ‘real life’ is any more real than my dream. And I have to admit total inability to answer that question. Simply from the fact that while I am in the middle of my lucid dream I don’t know that I am dreaming.
Maybe I am dreaming now – I would not be able to tell until I wake up – until then the question has to remain unanswered.
Up to that point any logic is self-contained logic, conclusive within itself, and the logic of science has no more relevance than the logic of astrology or reading tea-leaves. I might have preferences, but that is solely my own, personal decision.