Rational Thinking & Skepticism vs. New Age Mumbo Jumbo (part 1)
I just watched – or should I say tried to watch – the movie “What the (Bleep) Do We Know?” last night. Whether you’ve seen it or not isn’t important to this essay. If you haven’t seen it, then count yourself lucky that you have two extra unwasted hours of your life than I do. I rented it at a relative’s request as he thought I might like it.
Well, in a word, I found the movie offensive. I made it through about 20 minutes before I began debunking virtually every word that came out of the various people’s mouths! It was such complete and utter nonsense that I was truly appalled. It was nothing more than a load of touchy-feely nonsense; one long and silly ramble on New Age theories with very little science and a whole lot of thinly disguised religion.
Any time a so-called scientists starts falling back on divine answers to scientific phenomenon, you must immediately tune them out. They are taking the easy way out, the caveman way out. Cavemen didn’t understand thunder and lightning, so they conceived of things that were within their realm of understanding. They prescribed the actions of nature to other people (or “gods”) moving about in the heavens. Such thinking was simple-minded back then and it’s unforgivable now.
I’ll cite a very specific example from the movie that I found immensely insulting:
One of the women in the movie recounted a story (which she, of course, believes to be true) of Native American Indians seeing European sailing ships for the first time. Her story goes on to say, however, that the Indians couldn’t actually “see” the ships because the physical constructs of the ships were outside their realm of experience. And it was only through the efforts of a witch doctor observing the effects of the ships in the water that the natives were finally able to “see” the ships.
This is ridiculous in the extreme and shows a complete and utter lack of understanding of both psychology and biology. I was a psychobiology major in college, which is to say I studied the biology behind behavior. That story is completely at odds with innumerable studies that show this is not how people “see”. If a UFO dropped out of the sky tomorrow and landed in front of you, I guarantee that you would see it and not simply blindly walk into it for lack of understanding what you were seeing.
Yes, there are illnesses where people’s eyes and other sense organs are working properly while the brain is unable to interpret the input correctly. However, this is a very rare malfunction, not a normal aspect of how we perceive the world. This supposedly scientific movie would have us believe that this is how our bodies function. That alone is a gross misstatement and debunks the idea that the movie is at all founded upon science. If this theory were true, mankind would have been killed off long ago…the first time we met up with a Wooly Mammoth or a tiger and couldn’t “see” it, we’d be dead.
FAITH, RELIGION & WISHFUL THINKING
None of this is to say that there aren’t aspects of life or spirituality that we can’t yet understand. Science has hardly even begun to explore the realms of the invisible – unexplained phenomena, ESP, energy channeling, healing arts (like acupuncture & reiki), biofeedback, etc. But these topics need to be explored and examined from a rational perspective. Simply throwing open the door to unlimited possibility without a healthy dose of skepticism begs for disaster.
There is a definite line where the concrete becomes bastardized by stupid people, and we then cross over into the realm of outright fantasy. This is New Age thinking, a different sort of faith-based rationalization that is as equally invalid as anything any religion has ever produced. The belief in the healing power of crystals, astrology, UFO’s, alternate realities, gods, angels, demons are all magical human constructs without any solid basis in fact. They are exercises in wishful thinking used to explain otherwise explainable phenomenon.
What’s worse than that, however, is that they are the products of lazy minds. Rather than observe, study, and produce an answer, such “solutions” rely upon a laziness of intellect that prescribes a fantastical answer to a difficult question. Rather than actually pursue an answer, we give up, throw our hands in the air and say “God did it”.
Religion has survived the centuries in this very same way – falling back on baseless and unassailable platitudes such as “men’s minds are too finite to fathom the infinite” or “question not the Lord Thy God“. Not only does religion survive only by dissuading serious questioning, but it is founded upon the concept of “faith”, which is supposed to explain the unexplainable by presupposing that there simply is no explanation humans can discern for themselves. Its followers therefore must simply believe at face value alone. Ridiculous!
Faith is belief without proof, which is also another definition of insanity. It’s a childish notion that excuses laziness and simplemindedness. It is also an excellent tool of control, which has been its use for many, many centuries.
Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest answer is usually the truth (i.e. the answer that makes the least number of assumptions to arrive at the answer). By this rationale, is it more realistic to believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there is an all-powerful divine creature watching out for mankind and occasionally answering prayers or that the concept of gods and devils is pure man-made mythology like so much else we’ve discarded as fiction over the millennia?
The answer is, again, obvious to all but the insane…or the brainwashed. The divine answer makes innumerable assumptions (not to mention excuses) to arrive at an answer while a simple recounting of history makes the second explanation the most overwhelmingly likely choice. Even as a practical matter, the second choice is still the best by far.
MAKING YOUR OWN REALITY
New Age mumbo jumbo would have us believe that we make our own reality. They don’t mean this in the Tony Robbins sense – that you can make of your life what you want by working towards your dreams and goals. No, these fools would have you believe that simply wishing for what you want is all that’s required. You heard that right – simply by the power of your mind and no overt physical effort of any sort, you can attract a spouse, money, fame, whatever. It’s all within your reach, they say, if you only wish for it hard enough.
Sounds a little like organized religion telling you their god will provide anything you want if you only have enough faith and pray. Given that there are an awful lot of religious people in the world and at least as much grief, suffering, and unhappiness, I tend to believe the situation speaks for itself. Prayer and wishful thinking are, in equal measure, delusions.
The fact remains that reality IS reality. There is a concrete “here” and “now”. This essay did not simply materialize on your computer screen out of thin air, nor did I imagine it and send it to you by force of will alone. I had to physically sit down, type it out, and post it online. You then had to bump into it by way of a link or a referral. No wishful thinking involved.
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Yes, of course it makes a sound! It’s ignorant – not to mention arrogant – to suggest it doesn’t. Our ears do not create the sound, they merely interpret the concussion of the displaced air and the impact of the tree against the ground as the waves travel through the air to our ears.
Do you hear the falling sound in the same way that I do?
Who cares! As long as we can both hear it and agree what it is, that is most important. This is our interaction in reality. It is a wasted exercise to question the obvious – but this is exactly what New Age people love to do. It makes them feel somehow superior to the rest of us.
Every person can agree upon reality because it is that which allows people to interact. If people were all living their own reality, they could not interact and we would have died out as a species long ago. The philosophical theory of Solipsism would have us believe that there is nothing outside ourselves, that reality is entirely a figment of our imagination. If that’s the case, I didn’t even write this – you did! Therefore, you’re only having this discussion with yourself.
We will ignore this possibility since to agree with it renders the whole discussion moot; you’d be simply talking to yourself…or I’d only be writing to myself. If this is the case, what’s the point of anything?
Certainly, anyone can believe anything they want, but the fact remains that existing in your own little reality will have you stumbling around in a little padded cell all your own in a very short span of time….then you can believe anything you want, but you will no longer be a part of society or common reality. Anything you have to offer will never be heard – or cared about. Your new reality will not matter, making the whole question of whether you make your own reality a purely academic argument and of very little use to anyone who actually wants to make a change in their life or impact the world at large.
So the idiots in the movie can babble on about making our own reality, but the facts of observable life do not back them up. You can relax at home and wish your life away waiting to win the lottery. But the FACT remains that you will still need to go out and buy a ticket if you have any chance at all of winning.
So, too, with life. You can “wish” anything you want, but you still have to proactively make that wish a reality. “If wishes were horses, everyone would ride” is an old saying, and it’s as true today as ever. Making your own reality is a figure of speech used by the self-help gurus of the world to encourage people to take action, stop crying about their situation, and make their dreams come true. “Stop thinking and start doing” is the message.
This is a positive, proactive approach to taking charge of one’s life and reality. It’s not about mystically altering time and space, but about believing in yourself and your very real ability to change your life for the better – in this reality, not an imagined one.