Believing Nothing

Don’t ever think at any time that you believe(d) nothing. That is impossible. We are walking around in the everyday world with a thousand assumptions at any given time. Some are useful, some are not, some are true, some are false. They don’t have to be true to be useful, but generally, you’re better off believing things that are true. Science is a way to organize beliefs in such a way that one tries to weigh them according to evidence. Science also believes things, some things useful, some not, etc., etc. There is an art to science, and many who believe in science miss this. But one piece of advise: believe in something that is science over something that is not. This is prudence. And if you want a challenge, try to believe nothing, and end up with something. This is the most basic desire of science.

Descartes said that it is useful at some point in the history of our minds to doubt all things. He actually didn’t go far enough, in that “I think therefore I am” lends a certainty to basic logic. Logically, if I were not, then I could not be thinking. Substantively, as far as we are used to very fundamental things behaving, it is irrefutable. But if we do not hold that this is sure, that things could possibly behave in ways they never have, not in any case we have studied, we come upon a very interesting viewpoint. It is to say that we do not notice that miracles happen every day, simply because they happen every day. If we do not take for granted things holding together: solidity, cause and effect, motion itself: we may begin to see how awesome is the most common of things. How magnificent the verymost mundane. We may begin here to make sense of things. And wonder.

We are born wired in the ways of space and distance, and the ordering and passage of time. We are born knowing an astounding number of things. How is it we first grasp at anything with our hand? That we imitate a sound we hear? To think of one thing as tasting different from another, to look and to comprehend size, more than one vs. the one; spectacular is such faculty. Now this is astounding, too: we are born knowing how to learn. How much effort has been put out to make our machines do so? Pleasure and pain we are born knowing, play and boredom. And yet this is nothing close to what we need as tools to live in this world. What does that speak of?

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