Beyond Objective

If you see the highest calling of a scientist to drive out ignorance and fallacy, replacing them with a sure and consistent view of the phenomena of the world, then why wouldn’t you see your calling to be ridding humans of any belief system that you cannot define as objectively evidence based?

A world where understanding is subjective, driven by deep seated belief systems, can seem terrifying to someone whose values are staked on a commitment to objective and rational view of what is real.   People are often motivated to rail against what they fear, so fearing a world of subjective views that do not align with what you consider to be objective reality is a very human response.

I understand how comforting it can be to believe that the world is understandable on a logical, categorized and rational level.    That belief can make us feel that we, as humans, have the power to comprehend and even control our world, snatching it from the wild and scary unknown and making the world subject to our own mental power.   Understanding the world completely would allow us to drive out superstition and fear, and more than that, it would give is the power to silence those who challenge us with pure and crystalline facts.

A world without gods should be a world that man can conquer and own, a world where it is the smart who rise to power, not those who can marshal emotion through potent stories.   A world without gods is a world where the human brain is god, extending understanding to comprehend a complex but objectively knowable world.

There is only one big problem with this model, this calling, this worldview.

The human brain has always been and will always be based in the subjective.   Objectivity is only something we struggle to create in our mind, not something that is naturally part of it.

This starts with perception, the fact that every human experiences the world in our own way.

It continues with the ways we can communicate that perception, which are limited by the shared cultural references we have learned.   There is a reason that scientists have to be trained, because until we are indoctrinated in the shared language and conventions of the discipline, we cannot participate in the shared quest for what we call objective knowledge.

I love the struggle to attain some level of objectivity, to create some shared concepts and constructs that we can agree on.   I know this to be a good thing, so I am always looking to what others share to help me clarify my own understanding of our common world.   When I get to experience the perceptions and ideas that others share, I get to see my own experiences in a new way, teasing out the threads of connection between us.

I have no illusion, though, that somehow, if I can just drive out the irrationality of deep seated and atavistic beliefs I can achieve some kind of perfect rationality, some kind of crystalline objectivity which will erase all the mysteries and magic of the universe.

I am human and I have a human mind, brain and emotion and experience all bound up into a bundle called me.    My own creation myth isn’t that I am just a package of ultimately comprehensible genes, rather that I also contain some kind of spark, some kind of acorn that seeded my spirit, which still is within me.    Sure, I have worked very hard to be rational and smart, looking for what is objectively knowable, but that doesn’t stop my experience of the world from being very subjective, driven by what I have come to call my feminine heart.

i know that in many circles, this belief in the unknowable, the spiritual, in the godhead is very, very unfashionable.    I believe it is unfashionable and loudly rejected with screens full of attempts at logical argument because the notion that anything in the universe, anything is the human experience is beyond logical comprehension is just plain terrifying to many people.    These people need to hold onto their own tenet that the universe is understandable and they do that by rejecting anything that cannot be quantified by what they find to be valid evidence.

“If we can’t agree on it, it doesn’t exist,” they want to tell us, “so you have no standing to hold onto it, no matter how much you feel it informs or enlightens your experience of the world.”

The history of science is the history of conflict, men fighting for the truth that they call objective against others who fight for their own objective truth.   Over time, common understandings have been built, and the result of that is a much broader and more useful set of shared knowledge of how the world works and how humans can use and control that function.

I’m really please this has happened, and I hope it continues to happen.

The belief, though, that because that process has gotten us this far in shared understanding it can somehow be used to quantify everything in the world, well, we aren’t there yet.  Sure, we have moved beyond mythic, folkloric understandings of the way the world works — floods aren’t directly caused by God crying, for example — but we have not moved to the point where symbolic stories are still needed to carry the understandings of our own subjective human experience and cultural knowledge.

I am in awe of the power of stories.    I understand the power of belief.

The belief that only objective understandings can save us from the fear of the human spirit, though, seems to me to be more a wish than a fact.   It is the vain hope of people who want to keep the truth of the subjective at bay, rejecting subjective reality and substituting their own  reality, one branded as pure, holy, non-suspect and objective.

just because you use scientific buzz words to explain yourself does not make your explanations scientific or even objective.

We are human.    The quest for objective, shared understanding is a useful tool in moving the culture forward and I delight in both the process and the rewards it has brought us.

I just think that believing that quest should drive out subjective and potent understanding is a form of wishful voodoo.

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