• Posted: Jan 23, 2012 09:54:02
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Had the privilege, recently, of reading a few unpublished snippets from the journal of a fellow writer. One in particular caught my eye: "But even steps in faith crack the fragile ice and the plunge can be deadly. - ggorman"
How curious, I thought. Like the words of one possessed, speaking in tongues. I mean, is it mild wise caution or the inner voice of one totally consumed by fear, unable to risk a step forward in any way shape or form?
And what of the concept "in faith"? Is the speaker warning of following false prophets? Or, is the speaker questioning the reliability of normal expectations, or of trust in others, or of trust in one's self, or even of trusting God as reliable and shielding?
I questioned the writer along those lines. And they wrote back: "Oh, my - such a grand deconstruction of a humble proselet! I think it could be summed up as 'A Caveat as to the Consequences of Magical Thinking', an activity to which I am too much drawn . . ."
Now there's a concept worth contemplating: magical thinking - the attribution of causal connection where mere coincidence is in evidence. And, of course, the elaboration of stories to "explain" the agency by which such dubiously assumed causal connections exist. It's a rather common function of brains searching for meaning or understanding where only ignorance exists.
The difference between magical thinking and scientific thinking is that scientific thinking is put to rigorous test. Magical thinking is not. Magical thinking merely sums up incidences of concurrence, totally neglecting often far more frequent incidences of non-concurrence. Scientific thinking is also, more often than not, a collaborative endeavor with many independently skeptical minds cross-checking and retesting the rigor and bounds of each newly proposed theory and discovery. Magical thinking may be practiced by most of us, but hardly ever within skeptical collaboration. On the contrary, we avoid those we suspect might be skeptical and seek out others who may have independently come to similar conclusions. And in doing so, as the above writer suggests, we risk a plunge through fragile ice existing only because we've erroneously and unrigorously concluded that it does. Serious folly on our part, often with consequence not only for ourselves, but for others.
All well and good, you might assert, but Is there robust opportunity for life within the bounds of rigorous scientific thinking? Or, must we, in faith, unavoidably risk stepping out onto ice whose depth and stability we only imagine might support us? Undoubtedly, the answer will not be the same for all of us. We each choose our own path while reality determines our fate. But all is not lost or to no avail. Culture and genetics preserve the wisdom of our choices within what part of us survives the test reality exacts.
May the choices you make help thin the clouds of uncertainty we all must face.
Saturday, January 14th, 2012
45.2 mm 214 mm