>> Monday, January 11, 2010
Soubriquet asked: How does a rocket-scientist reconcile Science with Tarot and Palmistry, and other mystical phenomena? It's a serious question. Do you believe that tarot cards can predict the future, that a person's fate is written in the lines of their palm?
I think it's an excellent question (though I've touched on it before). I actually thought I could do some searches and provide examples, but I probably didn't label it well. I rarely do.
What I've said before, and I hold by this, is that there is no conflict for me.
I understand and accept that data and facts are required, as well as rigid adherence to the scientific process, for something to be scientifically valid, to be science, whether it's a "fact" or a theory (which is subject to challenge). Reality is not forgiving and doesn't give partial credit. When someone says they "believe" something will be strong enough or powerful enough or reliable enough for human lives to depend on, they better have the data to back it or I'll be asking some hard questions and, on a few occasions, providing a formal protest.
But I'm also a living breathing person with imagination and feelings and all that goes with it. I dream. I envision. And I don't disbelieve in anything that can't be readily disproven.
Does that conflict with my scientist persona? Absolutely not! Why would it? The world is a fascinating and amazing thing. People do things no one could imagine. I'd be twenty times the fool thinking I know so much that, if I can't explain it or prove it, it can't be. I'm not that arrogant. And most of the good scientists I know are equally slow to discount something out of hand.
Some of the mystical things I believe, some I don't. But I don't disbelieve any of them. I, personally, believe in reincarnation and the potential for psychic power - or magic if you prefer -, a higher power or deity, souls and magic. I don't personally believe in heaven or hell, Satan, demonic possession or Santa Claus. I don't take the Bible as a literal translation of anything but the words of other people (and even that is doubtful). I don't believe in anything that argues treating others with hatred and fear.
I don't insist or expect anyone to share my beliefs. I'm perfectly satisfied with my beliefs as they are and, in fact, will discard one if it can be disproven. I don't discount the possibility that things I don't believe in to be true; I just don't personally believe they are. However, in either case, my beliefs and my what I don't believe, neither is fact and I'm careful not to let what I believe put myself and others at risk. I don't confuse it with science. Why would I?
I believe my children are wonderful. I love them dearly. Neither of those are scientifically derived, yet they are both true. By which example, I can demonstrate that what we have accepted as science does not encompass all that is true. I don't know what else is true.
Now, I don't hold with things that are demonstrably false and, therefore, potentially dangerous, such as anti-vaccine nonsense or that people have no appreciable effect on the climate. Others aren't potentially dangerous, like the lunatics who believe we never landed on the moon, but I don't see any reason to pander to them either.
The mystic, however, can neither be proven or disproven. I am an advocate of freedom of religion and/or belief as long as those beliefs harm no one else. I have frequently (but don't remember to on every post) encouraged people not to take tarot readings too seriously. Do I think they truly tell the future? Well, I don't know. I discount the possibility. It could be that, at best, you see what you already knew to be true in the cards whatever turns up. It could be more than that. Originally, I didn't think they could do anything. Now I'm not so sure. I do believe people can understand each other, communicate on some unexpected wavelength that allows one person to discern truths a person has not even acknowledged themselves, but I believe it comes the questioner. But it's a belief, not science, and I've never tested it and would never recommend anyone build their lives based on what a tarot reading told them.
People who refuse to have their children treated for treatable illnesses, like diabetes, I have no respect for. Pray all you want, have whoever you want put their hands on her, try any non-dangerous mystic cure you care to - but don't fail to take advantage of modern science while you're at it. If my child were in danger, I wouldn't turn my back on any solution that could help (as long as it did no harm).
Apparently, many people have a hard time with separating the two. I have to admit, that just confuses me. My openness to what hasn't been proven or disproven, I consider part and parcel with being a scientist. Many a great scientist was also a great mystic or deeply religious. After all, part of being a scientist is admitting what you don't know...