The Black Box of Religion, Spirituality and Faith
There is no absolute knowledge. No complete formula, that describes in perfect and unchanging detail the complexities of life, and the universe.
Scientists like Richard Feynman know this, and this humble attitude is the hallmark of science, really. A scientist will speak of “evidence”, not proof. Evidence can be strong, supporting a hypothesis, or it can be weak. Even if the evidence is strong, no good scientist will claim to have complete proof. They speak, as Feynman, in terms of probabilities.
When a scientist sets out to produce evidence, he will do his best to disprove his hypothesis. Let’s say, for instance, that a scientist wants to investigate the hypothesis: “Drug “A” lowers blood pressure to a safe limit, in patients with high blood pressure”. Then he will have to take in to consideration the psycho-emotional factors that have been proven to also have an effect on high blood pressure, and other health benchmarks. Factors like belief, authority, etc. Or, what is more commonly known as the “placebo-effect”.
He does this by designing a controlled, randomized, double-blind study.
Controlled means that every step of the process is described in detail, and replicable for others if they wish.
Randomized means that you test two group of people: those who get the drug, and those who get a “placebo” drug (non-active ingredient). The two groups are comparable, and people are assigned in to the groups at random.
Double blind means that neither the test person nor the scientist knows whether the person gets the real drug, or the placebo.This to eliminate “bias”, the possibility that the test person or the scientist will act differently or interpret the results differently, if he knows who gets what.
A good study tests enough people to minimize the possibility of chance. There are some very complicated statistics involved in this. Science have agreed on some standards that must be met, in order for the study to show statistical significance, and thus be “strong evidence”. The evidence becomes even stronger when the same experiment is repeated, and the same result shown. But you never get 100% proof.
This is the scientific ideal. Let us compare it to spirituality.
Most spiritual theories/hypotheses are put forward by individuals who claim to have special, Divine insight. Prophet speaking with God. Son of God. God Incarnate. Through their alleged connection with the Divine, they claim authority: You Should Listen To Me, Because I Speak With God. When asked for evidence of their claims, they will refer to:
- Scriptures. Again, just because something is old and believed in by millions doesn’t make it evidence.
- Personal, Divine insight. Have Faith in Me, I Know the Way.
In other words, spirituality is all about confirming the hypothesis in stead of disproving it. No effort is put in to really questioning the hypothesis. Those who do -and there are a lot, until they are conditioned to stop asking “stupid” questions- are asked to “have faith”.
Faith is the Black Box of spirituality and religion. Faith is abused, to justify any weird acting and belief. Faith is the reason that superstitions and destructive beliefs are allowed to survive and prosper, because every time you ask a question in to the Black Box, all you get out is “Just Have Faith” or some other bullshit, and the process of how this answer was derived is completely invisible.
I am not saying: Don’t have faith. By all means, have faith in things, I too have faith. All I am asking you to do is:
- Recognize that faith has severe limitations as a way of interpreting the world. Your faith could be wrong, as it has often proven to be in the past. Look at faith as “hypothesis generation”, and then rely on your reason to decide whether you should stick to this particular faith, or not. Weigh the evidence.
- Be wary of those that claim a particular insight or authority, that cannot be put to the test. The will pull their answers to you out of the Black Box of Faith, and if you buy their answers without reflection, you have lost yourself.
Religion is basically just an authority providing you with cheap, faith-based answers. A Guru is even worse: he is the ultimate, religious authority. His power over his followers is complete, and unsupervised. That makes him very dangerous, as history has repeatedly shown.
When a Guru goes Bad, his followers suffer. Apparently, they all go bad with time.
Reclaim you reason, before it is too late.