Skeptics and Mystics

I spend too much time on MetaFilter, but I find it quite in­tel­lec­tu­al­ly stim­u­lat­ing when I don’t find it quite sil­ly. Sublime and ridicu­lous. Anyway, I’m some­what of a mi­nor­i­ty there since I’m Catholic and it seems at least the most vo­cal peo­ple are quite sec­u­lar. This is good for me.

This is good for me be­cause it chal­lenges me to rec­on­cile un­rea­son with rea­son and be­lief with fact. I’m not go­ing to men­tion truth [ex­cept for these cou­ple of sen­tences] be­cause truth and fact are two dif­fer­ent things to me. Facts are true, but not all truths are fact. So I should change the in­stances of fact in this post to truth. Maybe I’ll go in­to more de­tail on that some­time. Continuing:

The peo­ple that chal­lenge my be­liefs most of­ten are em­piri­cists. They take fact, log­ic and rea­son as their tools for liv­ing life. I am not much of an em­piri­cist. Yes, I have some of that Germanic love of see­ing every­thing set out or­der­ly, well-di­a­grammed and in its place, but that is use­ful to me on­ly as a place from which to leap in­to the un­known. I like cal­cu­la­tions but I’m not cal­cu­lat­ing. I have no re­al use for the sci­en­tif­ic method.

My un­rea­son isn’t the most use­ful of things, but to me it is a sight more in­ter­est­ing than log­ic alone. I’ve run across skep­tics who be­lieve noth­ing un­less they can see em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence and I’ve met mys­tics who will be­lieve the cra­zi­est tripe de­spite em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence to the con­trary. I try to keep my own path right in the mid­dle. Things that can­not be proven nor dis­proven em­pir­i­cal­ly [on­to­log­i­cal here we go!] are what in­trigue me and give me the most ex­er­cise.

So when I am chal­lenged in my un­rea­son­able­ness at be­liev­ing that a high­er pow­er is re­spon­si­ble for this that is, it seems like the peo­ple who do this are the ones who are pure skep­tics. Hm, I don’t think I’m ex­plain­ing this too well. It isn’t sup­posed to sound like a fight.

Starting again but not from the be­gin­ning: I am quite open to en­gag­ing in ideas and the­o­ries that can be nei­ther proven nor dis­proven, as fu­tile as it might seem. I’m un­rea­son­able in that sense. But I had to fig­ure out what sep­a­rat­ed me from the mys­tics who be­lieve in the Hollow Earth or that flu­o­ride in the wa­ter is a communist/​government plot to killus/​dispose of tox­ic waste. The hard­core em­piri­cists [not the em­piri­cists who just want proof], the ones who get livid at the fact that un­rea­son ex­ists are the folks who have helped me shuf­fle out and so­lid­i­fy my own cu­ri­ous un­rea­son and mys­ti­cism. I’ll give a well-thought-out but un­prove­able as­ser­tion a good lis­ten­ing and if I find it to be valu­able will be­lieve in it as far as I find it to be use­ful. But while I be­lieve that some­thing as seem­ing­ly far-out as telepa­thy has dis­tinct pos­si­bil­i­ties, I refuse to call it su­per­nat­ur­al, some­thing I think is im­pos­si­ble.


Just be­cause some­thing is un­proven, doesn’t mean it should be dis­missed as id­io­cy.

3 thoughts on “Skeptics and Mystics

  1. In de­fense of my own (non-be­liefs, I guess 😉 — though I know this is not an argeu­ment — not every­one who doesn’t be­lieve in a high­er pow­er does so out of the need for proof or log­ic. On a per­son­al lev­el, I just don’t feel the need to do so. I was raised Roman Catholic, so I had that op­tion avail­able to me and, yes, I went through my bit­ter con­fronta­tion­al pe­ri­od when I was younger, but as I got old­er, I became..and I don’t re­al­ly like this word, so I don’t know how ac­cu­rate it is..but “in­dif­fer­ent”. Yea, maybe there is a God out there, who knows, I don’t claim to. But, if so, I doubt he/​she/​it re­al­ly needs me to be­lieve in he/​she/​it in or­der to val­i­date it’s own ex­is­tance (and if so, that’s an aw­ful­ly in­se­cure god and I’m not in­to hold­ing oth­er­word­ly be­ings hands and telling them “it’s all­right”). So, I live my life as I will, just try­ing not to hurt any­one. I don’t care if oth­er peo­ple want to be­lieve in God, un­less the idea is used as an ex­cuse to sup­port their nat­ur­al ignorance/​hatred/​prejudice or if they get in my face about not.

  2. I think a lot of peo­ple out there that want some­thing to val­i­date a cer­tain belief.They on­ly be­lieve things that are fact or proven with a sci­en­tif­ic method. Now while I un­der­stand that log­ic I don’t agree with it. Science can on­ly get you so far. Science can­not give you hope when there is none, sci­ence can­not make you feel like you are not so alone in this world. A be­lief in some­thing (in my opin­ion) can’t be proved (like try­ing to PROVE you love someone),it doesn’t NEED to be proved. If you be­lieve it in your heart to be true,that what oth­er proof do you need? I grew up the very same as Pat, but we both took dif­fer­ent paths. While he does not be­lieve in God, I ac­cept that as his be­liefs and leave it at that. I think the peo­ple who ATTACK oth­ers for what they be­lieve are sim­ply in­se­cure. Truth I think, over­rules fact any day of the week.

  3. I’ll start by say­ing that Patrick and I have ba­si­cal­ly the same be­liefs — but then, that’s one of those things you square away in a re­la­tion­ship when you de­cide to get mar­ried — like talk­ing about if you want kids or not.

    Anyway — I took all these the­o­ret­i­cal class­es in art school where we would have meta­phys­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions with our pro­fes­sor, who start­ed out study­ing sci­ence in col­lege, and then be­came an artist. He is very philosph­i­cal. And German. 

    One of the main things we came back to is that sci­ence is not fact. You can state things like the mass of a gram of iron or the line dis­tin­guish­ing where one piece of mat­ter ends and the oth­er be­gins, but these are all based on hu­man con­jec­tures.

    All sci­en­tif­ic “facts”, or all facts in gen­er­al, are hu­man con­structs. We con­duct ex­per­i­ments and pro­pose the­o­rems but all the mea­sure­ments and what­not all come back to some­thing ar­bi­trary and sub­jec­tive. Such as — de­ter­min­ing that a pound is six­teen ounces. 

    So — I call my­self an athe­ist be­cause I don’t be­lieve in a supreme be­ing that over­sees the uni­verse. I do not claim that all the an­swers are in so called ra­tio­nal­iza­tion and fact be­cause I don’t think there are any ab­solutes that can be known.

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