It just has to make sense

I’m going to watch avengers with some friends and they insisted that I should watch Thor, Captain America and Ironman as preparation, so I watched Thor and captain America two days ago.

As I was commuting today, my mind was wandering and I found myself thinking about the movies. I still didn’t understand why Odin stole Loki. How is stealing the child of your enemy’s leader going to help with bringing the two kingdoms together? And why isn’t grownup!loki blue and why doesn’t he look like his race at all?

While thinking all that, I was reminded of what I kept repeating to my ex in my email, back at the start when the break up saga was just beginning: it just has to make sense. Show me how it makes sense.

I mean, we don’t even have to talk about proof. It just needs to be coherent in-story. Even if I’m watching, reading or understanding from outside of that framework (as we all are when we read or watch fantasy or sci-fi), I should still be able to make sense of it. It just needs to hang as a coherent story. Tell me the premise, tell me the rules and off we go.

When you read Harry Potter, you don’t fault the story by saying “They can’t do that, there’s no such thing as magic.” That’s one of the premises we’re starting with, that there is such a thing as magic. But you can fault it for inconsistencies. You can fault it for not following it’s own rules, or not having any rules. A fantasy story’s not much fun if the characters can do anything whenever, making up new rules as they go along with minimal or no explanations.

Isn’t it a mark of a well written premise if, the closer you inspect it, the more questions you ask, the more you find that it hangs all together? That not only are there answers to the questions you’re asking (Why is Loki not blue? How exactly does a time turner work?), the answers are satisfying ones that are consistent and coherent with everything else in that universe?

Reality should be the best at this because it’s reality. You don’t have to make sure it fits, make sure it’s consistent. It already is! If your reality is inconsistent, you can know that it must be your interpretation that’s suspect, and not reality itself.

If this story you’re telling me is reality, why does it seem to make less in-story sense then brainless action movies? Why does it make less sense the more I stare at it? Why do you have to do the same acrobatics a back-peddling author has to do if he discovers he made a mistake, a loophole or contradiction?

If it’s my interpretation that’s wrong, why is it so hard for you to help me see where I went wrong? My invitation still stands… I just want to understand.

Double-Edged Sword of Intelligence and Knowledge

One thing that has always bugged me about religion is the fact that many of the religious people I know are highly intelligent (much smarter than me), well read and well educated (more well read than me), really nice and generally very awesome people who seem to have their lives completely figured out. In other words, many of them were people I really admired and looked up to. Why and how did they believe? They’re intelligent, logical people. Plain ignorance or misguided thinking can’t be the reason. It seems much more likely that I’m the one missing something rather than them. What is it that they can see, that they can understand, that I can’t?

For that same reasons, on the flip side it’s comforting to me to read or hear of people– scientist, pastors, friends-who-are-awesome — deconverting; It’s an even stronger ‘case’ this way round: The religious whom I admire have maybe only ever been on that side of the fence. But people who deconvert- especially pastors, for example- would know the religious side really well! It couldn’t be that they are ‘missing something’, because they obviously knew it before. They must know something that those still religious are don’t.

It’s really tempting and intuitive to do that, pointing to authority figures to support your point. But it’s also lazy, and isn’t really proof of anything. It’s basically saying something akin to, “Look, even Albert Einstein thought so; are you so arrogant as to think you’re smart and know better than Albert Einstein?” Er, no, definitely not. But are you suggesting that Albert Einstein is correct about everything just because he’s smarter than you or me?

Just because someone smarter than you thinks so, doesn’t mean you accept his opinion uncritically; Don’t piggy-back on other people’s conclusions, do your own thinking and make your own conclusions.

That’s not to say we discredit or ignore all other conclusions, though. Obviously, we still do have to take other people’s more authoritative, expert views into account, because it’s undeniable that they know more than us. Considering their deeper understanding will undoubtedly give us insight. But don’t equate knowledge or experience with infallibility; They may know more than you, but they are as human, and as fallible, as you and I are.

I keep learning that… being incredibly smart doesn’t really mean anything. Being incredibly smart doesn’t mean you’re always right or always come to the best conclusions. It doesn’t mean you never make logic leaps or fallacies, doesn’t mean you can see all sides of the issue. Being incredibly smart in one way doesn’t mean you’re incredibly smart in all ways.

Similarly, being an incredibly loving and caring person doesn’t really mean anything either; It doesn’t mean you’ll never hurt another person.

People, all people, are only human. They do what they can, they do what they think is right.  No matter how incredibly smart, well-educated, earnest and serious they are, they don’t have any magic answers.

This article, The Ugly Delusions of the Educated Conservative, builds on this idea that knowledge doesn’t always equate to credibility, and brings it a step further: contrary to what we might think, more eduction, more intelligence and more knowledge can actually make it more likely for you to hold inaccurate beliefs.

Why? because the smarter, more well educated and more knowledgable you are, the more confidence you tend to have in your own position. Confidence is fine, but it has a nasty habit of stepping over the line into arrogance, if you’re not careful. And arrogance loathes to admit that it’s wrong, which means, if you were wrong to begin with, you’ll probably stay that way.

Education systems all over the world tend to focus on intelligence of the students, and the knowledge they’re being fed. But intelligence and knowledge are a double-edged sword; They can bring you far, but they can bring you far in any direction.

Perhaps what the emphasis should be on instead is Open-mindedness and Critical Thinking; the ability to listen to consider other positions and to evaluate them. Only then can you be sure that knowledge and intelligence are constantly being checked and put back on track rather than veering off on one mistaken tangent, never to return.

While the article refers specifically to conservative republicans and climate change, I feel that it fits the religious as well, or maybe even more so. Wouldn’t the religious commit this crime more readily, for is that not the foundation of faith? You always operate within the faith, the possibility that your faith may be wrong is not an option. If belief in god is held as the foundation, the unquestionable, infallible truth, then all other knowledge that comes in will be twisted to fit that. As with the Republicans in the article, it’s not the supporting reasons that hold up the belief, it’s the belief that shapes the supporting reasons. And that’s the reverse of what it should be.

That said, the crime of being a ‘smart idiot’ (as the author terms it) is one ANYONE can easily make, once they forget to remember that their own opinions may just be incorrect, once they close their minds to all other positions but their own.

Here’s to helping each other make sure we don’t fall into the trap of being smart idiots.

We have nothing to lose

If my views are wrong, I have nothing to lose in everything to gain in further searching for the truth.

If my views are right, I have nothing to lose and much to gain in further refining, strengthening and deepening my understanding of my views and the reason why people think otherwise.

If your belief is wrong, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain in searching and finding out more.
If your belief is right, you have nothing to lose and much to gain in clarifying the details, confirming your position and understanding why people hold different views.

Perhaps you could say, the devil is a master deceiver; what if one strong in faith starts to question, and ends up deceived? …what’s to convince you you AREN’T being deceived right now?

Don’t assume what you think or know is necessarily the truth. Don’t be afraid to discard old ideas if new (and valid) information becomes available. Be open and always searching. What do you have to lose?

All easier said than done, so don’t stop trying.