I have a rather eclectic group of family and friends, all coming from quite diverse backgrounds and all having incredibly different opinions and life, the universe, and everything. I love it. I really do. Yet sometimes, I find it rather depressing as well.
You see, there’s a growing trend I’ve noticed in the world where we are becoming increasingly polarized against each other. Our ways are the only ways, because that’s how we see the world working. Other belief structures, cultures, and backgrounds don’t matter because “I know what’s right, screw what the other guy thinks is right.”
Quick side note: I’ve been planning this article for a few days now and just this morning, on the day I was intending to put it together, I happened across this quote from George Clooney, which I believe does a great introduction into my thoughts here (I should also note that, in harmony with the tone of this article, I did absolutely no research to see if he ever did actually say this):
I’m disillusioned by the people who are disillusioned by Obama, quite honestly, I am.
Democrats eat their own. Democrats find singular issues and go, ‘Well, I didn’t get everything I wanted.’
I don’t want to focus on it, just a side note about a related concept.
This happens all across the board, I don’t intend to pick on liberals. Spend a couple seconds talking to a Republican and you’ll see, Democrats are the devil, just in general. Who cares what they’re actually offering up for policies?
But this is still not even the point I’m trying to make. The real issue I want to focus on is much simpler. I want to take a look at how we view people who disagree with us on things. Simply put, if you disagree with me, you’re wrong. It doesn’t even matter what we’re talking about. Your opinion is different than mine, you’re wrong. You have no facts to back you up? Neither do I, but you’re wrong!
We have become a people who are so dedicated to the concept of being right that our schools fight over it constantly. The pursuit of knowledge has gone by the wayside as we choose to be more concerned about being right.
I bring up this last bit due to a conversation I had recently about the idea of teaching children about a 6 24-hour day creation being a detriment to the child’s education. Not in my words: “not being taught such a large part of what science is about, not being taught how to understand science”. Now, we can debate all day and night about whether or not children should be taught creationism in schools, I’m not here to settle that debate. But the idea of it being a detriment to a child’s ability to understand science, well, it bothered me. Quite possibly because I was a child brought up being taught about the 6 24-hour day creation. But most importantly, it caused me to question how I really felt about the idea…an idea I officially have no stance on.
Even today, I’ll admit, my knowledge of the concepts of the big bang theory, the god particle, and how we developed from a primordial ooze that came into existence against inconsiderable odds, is quite rudimentary. But I take offense to the idea that my not-full understanding of how the Higgs-Boson element could have created an ever-expanding universe that ultimately included us on this insignificant planet on a wing of an insignificant galaxy affects my ability to understand basic scientific concepts.
I am a science fiction author, after all 😉 You know the type. The ones who don’t like to explain how things work.
Now, I get it. You believe something to be true based on the facts that are presented to you. That’s actually a basic concept of science (although, the scientific method does allow for going outside of your immediate circle to find additional facts). The problem at hand here is that on both sides of these conversations, whether it be about origin theory, abortion, financial reform, or whatever, we have people who have completely different facts presented to them which bring them to their initial conclusion.
The problem lies with an inability to accept further facts…a problem that is diametrically opposed to the scientific method.
Take, for instance, Galileo (who, for the record, was taught creationism and managed to become a scientific mind still respected today). He was able to determine for the first time ever that the Earth went around the sun, instead of the other way around (it should be noted that Copernicus actually introduced this idea decades earlier and this is typically referred to as Copernicanism). Obviously the church ran things back then and declared this all sacrilegious, but sooner or later people did have to accept the new facts and understand the truth of the matter. Ideologies changed based on new information. It just took a while, especially considering how one passage in the Bible was understood at the time.
But here’s the thing…Galileo, as well as other scientific greats such as Newton, Faraday. Fleming, and a list that could go on for forever, all knew something different before they began their pursuit for knowledge. They had facts presented to them, they were given a conclusion based on those facts…and they still managed to develop completely new theories, models, scientific laws, that changed how we view the world today. Science is not about being right, it is about learning more about the world around us. Could one state that you aren’t learning more about the world around us when not being taught opposing theories at a young age? Certainly, but that’s kind of my point. Being taught opposing theories, learning that most of what we use to explain the world around us is done through models, metaphors for what’s really going on, these are all the basic tenets of science and scientific understanding. Not the facts, the method. The interior of an atom doesn’t really look all that much like the dot with growing concentric circles around it, that’s a model we use to describe what’s going on inside an atom.
The same thing could be said for theories such as the big bang theory, as it is a cosmological model of how we believe the universe came into existence given current observations. It’s like looking at a finished cake, breaking it down into the base components, and coming up with the recipe that way. It’s probably accurate, but perhaps we missed the fact that they beat the egg whites first, instead of just tossing them into the pan. If we were to make a new cake based on the recipe we determined, the end result might be similar, but not the same.
One of the most important things, I believe, for a scientist, is to be okay with being wrong. The pursuit of knowledge is one wrought with danger for those who must only be right.
Unfortunately, we live in a world today where we are all always right and everyone who disagrees is always wrong. It is quite possibly what will completely destroy America’s political system, as well as the church…heck, it’s split up the church enough over the millenia.
But to move forward, I believe there are two base concepts we need to understand. 1. We are probably wrong on at least one thing we hold dear. 2. They are probably right.
In other words, we need to not only be open to new ideas on what is truth, but we also need to be more understanding of the backgrounds and reasons for those who disagree with us. Without that understanding, we will never be able to reach the compromises necessary to live together on this earth (no, I’m not talking about compromising on scientific integrity, I’m talking about compromising on how we live together and interact with each other and rule each other). Why must we immediately judge those who are against us as being wrong, instead of trying to understand why they believe differently?
After all, very few of us actually did the real research behind any of our beliefs, whether they come from the Bible (most important when discussing issues with translation), scientific research, or political concepts…we are all, in some sense, just reiterating the ideology someone else taught us based on a limited view of the world. And I know…insert outrage here over the term, limited view of the world. Just realize that our way of looking at the world is actually quite different on the whole from many other cultures…hence the term, Western Thought.
And remember, just because we can’t scientifically observe a supernatural or spiritual plane does not mean it doesn’t exist. It just means we haven’t found it yet.
There was, after all, a man who was once locked up because of his belief in bacteria (actually, I just seem to remember that story from some point and can’t prove it…which I thought made for a great point here. However, it is important to note that atomism and microbiology were, at one point, merely belief systems due to our inability to observe such phenomena.).
In closing, I’m not trying to side with any one group here, I’m merely trying to state that all of us could do with a little extra humility in what we know to be right. I know I need it on a regular basis, just ask my wife. Remember that time you shared that post on how Facebook was going to start charging its users, or when you told your friends in grade school that gum would take seven years to pass through your digestive system?
You see, the issue here is that we all spend a large amount of our time re-gurgitating what we’ve been told, whether it was in the classroom or otherwise. In answering the original question posed from the conversation that started this whole thing, I believe we need to teach kids how to find the truth more than we need to teach them what is right. Yeah, it’s a constructivist approach, but I’m going to go ahead and stand behind it because this article is already way too long.
Have fun out there.
P.S. I also realize this could be misconstrued and feel I should clarify something. I’m totally cool with debate. Disagreeing with people will happen…just realize, you might be wrong, especially if you don’t take the time to understand where the other person is coming from.