So, I just unfriended a young atheist-science activist on Facebook. Not because he was an atheist nor because he believed in science. Not even because he disbelieved in things that are lumped into the ‘pseudo-science’ category. It was for the same reason I will unfriend or abandon any acquaintance or friend: his rude belligerence and argumentative tone that held a superior attitude and my feeling of being dismissed if not outright belittled.
I dealt with being mocked and belittled since I can remember. I’m less likely to put up with it in my old age than I used to back when.
So. The argument was regarding a meme that normally I would ignore, but for whatever reason, I took issue enough with it to make a comment. Which resulted in an argument, and ended with me being fed up with his attitude and going, “I have tools to not have to put up with this.” The meme was a quote from some other supercilious person who, to paraphrase, said that because no psychics came forward to warn about the Boston Marathon bombing, that all who claim to be a psychic are charlatans because obviously psychic ability does not and cannot possibly exist.
When I pointed out that the statement was as ungrounded as claims that psychic abilities exist on anecdotal evidence, he jumped all over anything I said, picked it apart, and threw it back in my face. Ironically, he did agree with me on most of what I said. He simply took exception that I allowed for the possibility of psychic ability to exist and made theories as to how it could. And that, since there is no real proof one way or the other that it really-really exists now, that I hadn’t dedicated my life to finding that proof, I was lame and stupid and this is why I should renounce any acceptance of blahblahblahyaddayadda.
(Sorry, I like to eat so I have a paying job. Research doesn’t pay. Ask any university or corporate reseracher that has to suck up to get funding for research. And I like to write novels, and I love spending time with my family and I’ve no patience arguing with people. Just because I’m unmotivated to prove anything to anyone doesn’t make me wrong. Just means these are my priorities, not those.)
Now, for the record, I will agree that I believe most people claiming to be psychics are not. They are opportunists. Given how society is, I would not blame any psychic for keeping their heads down and mouths shut. If nothing happens, they are mocked and ridiculed. If they are right, and it’s stopped, they would be hounded by everyone wanting to speak to Aunt Bertha, to know what the winning lottery numbers will be, to who is a terrorist. If they are right, and it’s not stopped, they would be lambasted for not doing more. Not to mention scientists wanting to poke, prod, torture, and dissect them to see how they worked so they could find others.
However, I do believe that there is some truth beneath the ‘pseudosciences.’ Not some of the newer ones that have cropped up, but the ones that have been around for thousands of years. They would not have endured if there were not some truth within them. Much like religions have some truth at their core, but have been corrupted and tainted by generations of spin doctors adding their layers of half-truths and lies so much that people are turning away from them in disillusionment.
No one tries to unearth where that kernel of truth is. Homeopathy is a pseudoscience that is much criticized. My thoughts usually gravitate to the placebo effect. The effect that most medical trials are supposed to account for with a control group of test subjects. Given the side effects of so many drugs these days, it’s not hard to believe the cure is worse than the disease. If someone can feel better drinking a glass of water and believing it has something to cure them, and they do feel better? I am happy for them.
Where science and religion are failing — and I will lump atheism under religion due to it being a belief in a lack of a higher power — is a public relations problem. Both sides have a tendency to come across as ‘better than thou’ and when they argue with you, they will beat you over the head with facts or arguments about how you are wrong, why you are wrong, oh how wrong you are and right they are. And how stupid you are for not seeing how right they are, why they are right, oh, how right they are and wrong you are. And how much of a failure you are for the aforementioned reasons.
No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to be attacked. Anyone who “converts” to an attacker’s demands on how to think or believe are not doing it because they truly believe anything but just trying to survive. Sure, there have been many cases of successes in doing such things, but I believe most do not really consider torture and symbolic executions as examples as a good way to go about it. I don’t think anyone should look back with pride on inquisitions, crusades, or lynchings.
What most who believe in pseudosciences are looking for is hope, answers, and guidance in their often chaotic, confusing and lonely lives.
When a science or religious activist attacks someone’s beliefs, they are trying to destroy their hope, take their answers, and leave them lost and aimless.
I believe in a higher power, yes. I do not necessarily believe it is part of any current organized religion. But I have always believed that science was how we understood that higher power. It could be that said that higher power did or still is affecting things. Or it could be that said the universe is simply the results of the ripples caused by a proverbial pebble being thrown in a pond and have all happened by chance.
And I have always believed that whatever humans can imagine, it once could have been, or might one day be. Because the universe isn’t static. Change is the only constant, and human lives are so very brief.
I had grown up loving science because it gave me hope, answered questions, some I didn’t even know I had, and gave me direction in my life. I also believe in some pseudosciences because they give me hope, answer questions that science has not answered, and sometimes gives me direction. Attacking or belittling me for either science or spiritual adherence is not going to convince me to abandon either. It’s going to piss me off and make me feel a little more alone in the world.
If there is a higher power in the universe, perhaps it chimes in now and then and gives a hand or a smack as needed. But it gave us the ability to learn to do for ourselves. And expects us to do for ourselves. Attacking science is attacking a gift we had been given. Praying without putting any other effort forward is laziness and spurning a gift we had been given and shirking a responsibility to come together to better ourselves and our world as a whole.
And for the love of whatever you believe in, before you go attacking someone or something, stop and think about whether or not what you are attacking is harmful.
Vaccinations save lives, there is proof of that and whatever power that is allowed us to find that means to curb terrible diseases.
Homosexuality might be the world trying to curb population growth naturally, since so many refuse to use the tools we made and have available to take responsibility ourselves. Simple existence hurts no one. Beating up someone, directly or indirectly, hurts someone.
As for my or anyone else’s soul? That’s a matter between us and whatever higher power we may see when our time here is done. We need to worry about the here and now and take care of each other and our world because this is where we are living now. The afterlife will sort itself out. If it exists. Maybe it doesn’t. But I like to think it does exist. Because it gives me hope. And it doesn’t hurt anyone else that I believe it does. But I’m not going to stop trying to improve things here just because of my belief in a better afterlife.