Yesterday, a woman friend of mine sent me a sneak-peak at an article she had written for "The Humanist News." The article, due to appear online next Wednesday, concerned the world's burgeoning population and the inevitable and equal burgeoning of dead bodies.
The article concluded with a series of options -- good and bad -- for what to do with all the dead bodies, but before its conclusions were reached, the article addressed the matter of apoptosis, the built-in cellular capacity to kill itself off. Cells are programmed to die ... often for the good of the organism they inhabit.
But the use of the word "programmed" in a humanist-publication article meant that the author felt duty-bound to address the god-inclined believers who might pounce on the word and ask gleefully, "programmed by whom or by what?" The answer to this rhetorical thrust, from the believer's point of view, lies in "god" or something similar and no self-respecting humanist is going to take that lying down. So the article set up its bulwarks against the invading horde of believers and religious enthusiasts.
It was a nice little article, but what it brought to mind may not be what it had intended.
What it brought to mind was the human capacity to rely on the agreement of others as an adequate yardstick for measuring the truth. If lots and lots of people say there is a god, I can be content and convinced. If lots and lots of people say there is no god, I can be content and convinced. Of course applause is not the only yardstick for reaching a conclusion, but it is a forceful one.
And interesting to notice -- those who are convinced by whatever means (applause or otherwise) of whatever persuasion, seem to feel the need to share and sometimes impose their conclusions on others. In this regard atheists fulminate against god-enthusiasts and god-enthusiasts fulminate against atheists, dread humanists and others. The battle is joined. It is delicious and energetic and heart-felt and it's ever so nice to have someone on my team.
But my guess is that this is a misapplication of conclusions, however heart-felt, however intellectually-sound, however digestible.
The upsetting part about conclusions is that they deem themselves to be conclusions...and desire company into the bargain. I would say that the most fruitful use of a conclusion is to see it as a starting point... god or no god... just a starting point.
Sticking to the narrow focus of atheists and/or humanists vs. believers, and leaving aside other similar heart-felt conclusions in other fields, my thought is that the trouble with either is that it simply does not go far enough. It's fun, sure, but still, it doesn't go far enough. On whatever its own terms may be -- believer or disbeliever -- not far enough to guarantee a relaxed peace. Agreement with others can assure no such peace since it it constantly shoring up its walls with more explanations and meanings. A Band-Aid lifestyle.
So ... for someone who has a credible structure within which to refute a "programmer," let him not stop there, but go forward courageously with his own argument. If there is no programmer, what's this need to assert that there's no programmer or overarching program? Books or friends, intellect and emotion cannot answer this question. Only individuals can... assuming they have the nerve and don't just fall back on facile philosophies.
And for someone who has a credible structure within which to assert god, let her not stop there, but go forward courageously with her own argument. If you assert god, who or what are you asserting? Books or friends, intellect and emotion, cannot answer this question. Only individuals can ... assuming they have the nerve and don't just fall back on facile philosophies.
Don't stop. Don't rely on others if a credible peace is your desire. Just take what you find around your own good house and stop being a wuss about it. Follow it. Follow it honestly and without asking anyone else. Don't ask a whine ... just look and see.
Do you know anyone who runs around saying, "I can ride a bike?" Maybe five- or six-year-olds do this, but that is just because their conclusions seem new and novel. People who know how to ride bikes just get on and ride when they feel like it. And the same is true for conclusions ... they don't require applause or grasping when they're any good ... you just ride them when it's appropriate.
Of course, this is just my conclusion and does not need to concern you in the least.