Thursday, November 3, 2011

(Ir) Rational Musings!!!

A few days ago, I watched the documentary, Enemies of Reason, written and presented by Richard Dawkins. Of course I found it very informative, perfectly lucid and intelligent (as Dawkins' writing and talks always are), but found one very witty statement he made in it very interesting, and I posted it as my facebook status update; it read "We constantly create false positives; we touch wood for luck, see faces in toasted cheese, and fortunes in tea leaves. These provide a comforting illusion of meaning. This is the human condition. We desperately want to feel there is an organising force at work in our bewilderingly complex world. And in the irrational mindset, if you believe in the mystical pattern you have imposed on call yourself spiritual!!!" I did get some interesting responses, mostly trivial remarks, but one in particular (from one of my closest mates) that somehow, I felt, echoed the thoughts of most people around us on anything connected even remotely with religion, god, or "spirituality"...thoughts like it is an area of ambiguity that is best left as is because it is (somehow) beyond the realms of rational thinking, and again the allusion to an idea that I have always found quite strange, to the point of being absurd, that rational thinking makes our lives dull and boring and could potentially lead us to anarchy. It evoked am almost immediate response from me. I found our discussion fairly interesting and felt that it deserved a more serious platform than a comments box in Facebook. My friend's comment on Dawkins' quote was, "Think of a world which thought and reacted only logically! As rationals are relative, it could be anarchy. Then, you wouldn't have the cushion to sit on and philosophize. I respect your observations. At the same time I admire all these different schools of thoughts and beliefs, in it's diversity keep our world going, relatively peacefully. I salute the worlds big heart to take in the likes of you and me, along with our views!" And my response, "What you have said, I feel, is fundamentally flawed. To understand that all you need is to take a look at the world we are living in at the moment. I don't see the "relative peace" that you've mentioned. Instead, what I see is what you have mentioned in the beginning, our heading to anarchy. This whole thought of moving to anarchy and a guiding/organising force that pulls us back from that is propagated and instilled in our minds by the religions that we have been brought up in. What we sadly fail to see (or are taught to ignore) is that we live in the 21st century, a time when science has eradicated many diseases, created manned space stations and understood the universe better, and has made such awe-inspiring advancements in almost all fields, so much so that it is on the threshold of creating life in the lab and even conquering death. These stupendous achievements that have made our lives simpler and better have only been achieved through rational thinking (I hope you would not disagree that scientific knowledge is based on evidence and not on superstition). Religion on the other hand pulls us back from reason. And, by the way, if you consider it just a little, you will understand that the very thought that rationalism/reason is against creativity, philosophy, imagination, et al, has been instilled in us by the very religions whose slaves we have been from the time we were born. Religion, to quote Dawkins, "ceaselessly attempts to fill gaps in human understanding with fabricated meaning!" Without doctrines that are glorified as true (without even a shred of evidence) and without using peoples' ignorance and fear to make them believe, religion cannot exist or for that matter survive; in other words, religions across the board thrive only on dogma and superstition. Why do you have to think that what we understand or have understood about the world makes it dull, or that rationality makes you have a dim outlook. No scientist would dare say that. On the contrary, science shows us how wonderful the world is, and it is sheer foolishness to think that irrationality in anyway nurtures the intellect. And again, it would only take a look around us to understand the damage it causes. Think of it, think of one religion that is tolerant or understanding as it claims to be. Guess this quote from Carl Sagan would sum it up; "In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded," "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way!"