Music was such a smash hit (don't check just trust me) that I thought I would hastily follow it up with a second-rate, sold-out, and watered-down post that will fool only my most pathetic groupies. But instead of simply rehashing the old themes of music's effect on plants; on non-human animals; and on human intelligence; I have, at the very least, come out with a brand new ditty.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
"[People] are wise in proportion, not to their experience,
but to their capacity for experience"
- James Boswell
One night, when I was about ten years of age, my mom decided to play a game with me and my sister. She had us create fantastical characters (I think I was an elf), and she mapped out a little network of caverns for them to explore, full of treasure and monsters. Then, after describing the surroundings that our characters found themselves in, she asked "what do you decide to do?".
It was basically a crude version of the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons ("D&D"). I must have had fun that night because for years afterward I was obsessed with D&D: I played it with my friends whenever I could; I taught myself the official rules; and I even read D&D novels. I don't regret going through this phase (indeed, since an alternative was video gaming, I think that it was decidedly healthy), but I am also amazed to recall how it influenced my view of reality. For example, I remember lamenting how comparatively 'boring' the real world was, and wishing that my life was as exciting as those of the characters in my books. And at one point, I remember flirting with the idea that the gods of the D&D world were real. I even sent little semi-serious prayers to them for a while (don't laugh too hard: one of them was apparently answered).
I like thinking back to this slightly embarrassing point in my life because it reminds why I ought to be truly glad to have aged: although I now live a more stressful and complicated life; although my body has since begun to deteriorate; although nostalgia has become increasingly harder to resist; at least I am no longer quite so naive. So far, this trade-off has proven more than compensatory, if only because the accumulation of knowledge has allowed me to much better appreciate the jaw-dropping nature of the reality that comprises me, and surrounds me in both space and time. And I cherish this savvy all the more for it being the one of the few intrinsic properties I posses that does not face an inevitable decline going into the future.
My love of accumulating knowledge has meant that it was natural for me to develop an appreciation of its most prodigal wellspring - namely: science. And my love of science has, in turn, meant that it was natural for me to take a science-based view of reality - in other words: to become a "skeptic" (for a better feel for the term, watch Micheal Shermer's TED talk On Strange Beliefs).
But skeptical thinking, it seems, does not come so naturally to everybody. In fact, in merely letting science shape my view of reality, I have apparently set myself in philosophical opposition to many of the people I know and meet. Indeed, many of you have openly and vehemently disagreed with me over my philosophy. So, for both our sakes, following are the top three fundamental problems people seem to have with my skepticism, and my official responses to them.