There are no blue birds.

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.”?

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10 thoughts on “There are no blue birds.

  1. Can you intelligently defend your beliefs?

    Theologically speaking? Nope, not really.

    Politically speaking? Against one who holds the exact opposite position? Very rarely.

    With someone who might just possibly see a glimmer of something – just a glimpse of something worth considering within my frame of reference? Perhaps.

  2. All one must do is open onesself to the possibility of being wrong, and one discovers a whole new world

    Brilliant.

    Can you intelligently defend your beliefs?

    I guess because I have a status of lack of beliefs its pretty easy for me – there is a lack of something to defend.

    As for my beliefs on things such as abortion/homosexuality etc, I find it hard because I come across so many people with the ‘I met one bad egg, so I’m going to generalise about the whole bunch’ mentality. It’s very hard to shift someone out of ‘I’ve got proof from experience’ mode, when their experience is usually very limited.

    Still, I wonder what I’ve been plain wrong about and have glossed over with assumptions…I mean, if everyone else does it, surely I must at some point.hmmmm

  3. I love this post. It clearly describes the bigots I know. Sure they all hate Mexicans or African-Americans or name-the-race, but when they meet some one that they like, they make that person honorary white. No matter how much evidence you give to throw out their arguments, they always have something else to throw back.

    Same with religion. As you are aware of my stupid-late-night-militant-athiest discussions, I can only hold myself so far because for every scientific fact that I see God working in, the husband sees science. My fil, another confirmed athiest but without the chip, once said you can not argue the emotional/faith with logic. While I can defend my beliefs and not be shaken by a little argument, I cannot persuade another peson to see it my way. Besides doubt is not the oppisite of faith.

  4. I can only hold myself so far because for every scientific fact that I see God working in, the husband sees science.

    This is interesting, as my boyfriend and I are usually only in the opposite position.

    Can you give an example?

    • The easiest one is in sex. (Lindsey, I hope you’re ok with this and I’m not stepping out of line or being too graphic.) Everything about it screams to me the work of God because in the end, humans were meant to fall in love, pair off, and form families. Take the “first sexual position.” At first scientist believed it had to be doggy style because that is what is dominant in the animal kingdom. But it turns out the vagina is angled towards the front, meaning humans first evolved position must have been a face to face position. Why is this so important? Because this means humans had to make eye contact, making a stronger connection, an emotional connection. So how can love be an accident when it was clearly designed? To me, this means there was something that had a hand in this. My husband sees pure science, but there has to be something, someone behind it.

      • It’s a very difficult, because you two seem to be looking at the same object, but both taking different meanings – which in the end is a matter of intepretation.

        The vagina is more likely angled front ways because we are sentient – we stand up right and have two legs, meaning the easiest sex position is to ‘spread em'(missionary) – something most animals can’t do because of being quadrapeds. However, it’s a chicken and egg question. Did we evolve to crave intimacy during sex because of our body shape, or was our body shape partly molded to allow greater intimacy and thus we craved it?

  5. @ Faemom & Goldnsilver: No worries- I love this discussion! And I can identify. I’ve never been married to an Atheist, but I’ve had close friends I could debate with for hours.

    And as for the question of sex and intimacy- it’s always been one of the things that *I’ve* seen as a sign of God’s love for humanity, but that’s one of those emotional responses to faith that is hard to defend rationally.

  6. Goldnsilver~ It’s true that the angle of the vagina was moved when we stood, but scientist were surprised how far it moved. Scientifically, naturally, it doesn’t matter what position as long as there is conception. It is the chicken and the egg question as is most of our evolution. But it’s interesting that our biology pushes us into love. It’s one of the many things that cannot be explained as of yet by science, just like why there are so many different eye colors. There’s no logical reasoning for it.

    Are we taking over your post, Lindsey?

  7. Interesting points, but I’m sorry, I’m probably more like your husband in this respect. (I feel like such an arsehole!)

    I think there are many unexplained things about biology and evolution, but these lack of explanations don’t cause me to see Gods work in them. I see them as things that will eventually be explained and also must have served some kind of evolutionary strength and thus were preserved. Love could be compared to the growing intelligence in the human race – it was advantageous for the community and thus became more prevalent.

    t like why there are so many different eye colors. There’s no logical reasoning for it.

    Eye colour is determined by melanin, just like skin colour is. The warming the climate, the more melanin a person has. This is why black people, who originate from hot, arid climates, have dark eye colour – where as caucasions are more likely to have lighter eyes, as with their skin, which is a product of their colder environments. It’s not really logic, just a by product of climate.

  8. Don’t feel like an arshole. This is a great discussion. And I’ve heard of the melenin with eye color. But there are so many shades. Then I wonder where do green eyes come in to play because they don’t seem to be on a descending scale of brown to blue. Or the fact that some people’s eyes change color through out the day or life time.

    I see your point about the unexplained. I agree that we’ll find the scientific answers. I guess it comes down to how you veiw things. Like if you believe in fate, then there are no accidents. If you believe in God, then you see God everywhere. It gets a little mind blowing.

    I do love that humans are so complex, so different that we haven’t found all the answers yet of what we really are.

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