To introduce the need for critical thinking and the scientific method, my Psychology professor stood up and proudly proclaimed that there are no blue birds. Of course this was answered by the laughter of the classroom. But my Professor smiled with grim determination and reiterated his point, asking if anyone could prove that blue birds exist. Show him a picture of a blue bird? Clearly it was doctored. Explain to him about the millions of eye witness accounts of blue birds? He equates it to mass hysteria, much like leads to belief in the existence of the Abominable Snowman or like creatures. Ask him to go outside and see the blue birds in the flower garden? He simply states that such an action would be pointless, as surely the birds are not truly blue- for there are no blue birds.
Once the class started to get really irritated with him, he launched into a long speech on how science is not about explaining what you percieve to be true, but studying all available facts and seeing if you can be disproven. Proving that there are no blue birds requires searching for evidence of their existence- evidence that is overwhelming- thus immediately disarming you of the need to prove you are right. Clearly, you are wrong. And while my professor’s example was a ridiculous one, meant to grab our attention and not chosen for it’s applicability, the concept holds water.
And I find that as childish as my professor’s argument was (clearly!) that truly intelligent people show the same niaveness and ignorance of their facts in their own arguments. Often. A few examples:
- There is no God. Christians suffer from mass hysteria. Any anecdotal evidence to the contrary is coincidental, baked, or insignificant.
- All gay people were sexually abused or otherwise traumatized. Any that don’t remember abuse are hiding from the truth. Others who don’t remember abuse and aren’t deluding themselves are only gay to be fashionable, or out of rebellion, or because they are weak willed and were forced into it.
- All gay people had parents who were distant or ineffective or not devoted enough to God. Any who claim otherwise were probably abused or something.
- If a woman works outside of the home it will cause irreparable damage to her children.
- A child has to have a father figure to be well adjusted. For that reason, a woman has to remain married to the father of her children, no matter how he treats her, as long as said father is not abusing the children.
- Gay people are not capable of raising well adjusted children.
And I could list this stuff forever, really I could. There’s no limit to the amount of false, indefensible assumptions that people make. And most of them carry some grain of truth, just enough truth that a person can grip onto them like a pit-bull and never ever let go. Some of what people argue as evidence of God in their life surely is anecdotal coincidence. Certainly some gay people were abused, or had poor parents, or were just “trying it on” and grew out of it- but the existence of those stereotypes doesn’t mean that there aren’t real, valid experiences that fall outside of those boundaries. And while some children may have suffered being raised by single parents, there are other children that may have suffered more due to a parent staying in a relationship to avoid the possible damage caused by leaving.
All one must do is open onesself to the possibility of being wrong, and one discovers a whole new world. A new breadth of experience and possibility. A world in which one is challenged, one fights to know the truth. And sometimes we discover that we are right, that when we engage in an honest debate all the challenges to our ideals are silenced. Sometimes we discover that we are wrong- and isn’t that okay?
Tomorrow I’ll write more about my own journey of questioning my faith, but for tonight I’d like to leave you all with a question:
Can you intelligently defend your beliefs? Or if someone holds up the metaphorical blue bird, do you stubbornly say “surely that bird isn’t blue.”?