Saturday, February 09, 2008

Are you a believer? You must be if you think that the future is real ...

In an interesting article in Canada's National Post, Charles Lewis introduces a point so obvious that many miss it:
"I presume that you assume that the future is real," said Prof. Peterson, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto and has studied the impact of belief on society. "The future is an immaterial entity. It's composed entirely of possibility. So your belief in it is an axiom of faith."

At its most basic level, belief acts like a set of headlights to guide us through a foggy universe that "is far more complicated than we are smart." So belief is eradicable, he said, because there will never be a time when we know everything.
"Ignorance is a condition of human existence and belief is a necessary means of coping with ignorance," he said. "The assumptions we make about the world directly regulate our emotions and they provide hope and inhibit anxiety."

In a time when some are looking for the brain glitch that causes people to believe that there is an order to the universe (they call it "promiscuous teleology"), it's good to see some common sense injected into the discussion.

I cannot, for example, prove to you beyond any reasonable doubt that democracy and intellectual freedom are better social and constitutional policy than strong-man rule and witch hunts. After all, someone can always find examples of failed democracies and faculty lounges that hosted a mass murder. However, it is reasonable for me to believe what I do on the balance of the evidence - accepting that I do not have time to research everything, some information is not available, and some concepts are beyond my grasp.

If teleology is promiscuous, well, materialism is infertile. And I know where the future lies ...