The Danger of Belief

Marcus - Sacramento, California
Entered on April 6, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that belief is a dangerous thing, that it is an attribute of the human brain that is a result of evolution and the need of the human brain to make sense of a complex environment. When the human brain encounters situations and environments with actions it cannot comprehend, it invents explanations as a stop gap method of dealing with the world around it. Whether or not the explanations are commensurate with facts of the world is an entirely different matter. This method of dealing with the world is evolution’s chosen way of allowing humans to survive for countless generations in hostile surroundings where we have more often been the prey rather than the predator. But, this is not 3 million years ago… this is now. And, as a result, we have to come to terms with a tool of human evolution that is not as necessary now as it was in the beginning of our species when we were small, exposed, and vulnerable on the Savannahs of Africa.

I believe that belief is a dangerous thing, that we have outgrown our need for belief in it’s raw form, and that belief without logic and evidence is a recipe for extinction. But human beings have discovered the method for dealing with the world and indeed the universe in a way which is not dependent upon our beliefs. It is the inquisitorial method, the use of deduction and reason, the reliance on facts with the honesty to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “I don’t know.” In short, it is science. This method has brought us to the technological point we find ourselves at now with the ability to feed more people than ever before, house people in a better manner than ever before, extend life and increase its enjoyment more than ever before. It is a testament to the human brains ability to adapt and reduce the complexity of the universe to a point where it may be dealt with and that we can understand. And it is the only method available to the human brain that discovers universal truths while correcting errors in judgment all the while demanding accuracy and precision of thought. If science can be said to have beliefs then they are unique in the human endeavor because of the requirement that those beliefs be backed with fact, evidence, and testable hypotheses. I personally know of no other set of beliefs (if science can be said to have them) that meet these requirements.

I believe that belief is a dangerous thing. I believe that no belief is above scrutiny. I believe that we all too often give too much credence to a person’s beliefs without kindly asking for fact or evidence from the holder of those beliefs that may support having such views. Why should a person’s personal beliefs be above questioning any more than a political choice or a choice of a sports team or music to enjoy or art that you find beautiful. And, why should a religious belief be elevated to a level where it is de facto accepted and thus should not be questioned… what makes them any more special than what hat to wear that day? It is a vestige of humanity’s tribalistic mode of thought,the evolutionary leftover of the human brain that somehow our modern-day shamans and priests are given a more special place in society than are our scientists and that somehow the study of theology can be considered any different than the study of mythology. If we are to advance and finally begin to end the ceaseless strife of the human species against itself, we must come to the point where all beliefs, no matter their origins or their constructions, must yield to the ceaseless and unforgiving scrutiny of the brain’s capacity for logic, inquiry, and discovery and that any belief which cannot withstand such scrutiny must, by necessity, be abandoned or committed to the category of myth.

I believe that belief is a dangerous thing. If I can be said to have any beliefs, then they are in the category of testable hypotheses. I believe that reality is an objective absolute, that is independent of the existence of any one human being or any other entity for that matter. I believe that the way to understanding the universe is through an unflinching drive to question, experiment, and remain free of preconceived notions of how the universe should be… instead, we must first learn how the universe is and then how to live most effectively in it. Humanity must come to some realizations about itself … that it is still prone to primitive thought, that our morality comes about as a means to survival and beneficial mutual existence and not from some supernatural being, that science and art are complimentary and that through each the other can be expanded and a greater appreciation for our creative abilities can be achieved, and that the only limits we truly have are the ones we place upon ourselves. These truths must become self-evident to all human beings or our current beliefs, I believe, may well be our undoing and the potential further development of Homo sapiens may very well come to an end… at our own hands.