Thursday, September 10, 2015
There are two kinds of knowledge (at least). One is what's in your head, everything you know and / or believe, everything your senses are telling you, all your thoughts, all knitted together into one complex whole. It's what we use to make decisions, to run our lives.
Another kind of knowledge are factoids, small bits of knowledge about one specific thing. These can be communicated to other people, they are small and simple enough that they can be explained in a finite amount of time. They can also be stuck together to build bigger things, like ideas, plans and concepts. The are kind of like Legos (the small, plastic, toy building blocks) or bricks. You can stack them up and make things. They are also kind of like blueprints or plans. They can be used to guide the construction of some sort of thing.
Not all of this knowledge is true. Just as if you build a house out bricks made of dung, a belief system built on bullshit is liable to collapse.
Science is built on factoids, factoids that get tested. Some of them are found to be true and are kept. Some are found to be false and are thrown out. Some are true for a while, and then later on are found to be false, so we keep them around for a while, but when we find out the truth, we throw them out.
I suspect that a lot of religion is made up of stories to explain stuff that confused people, stuff for which we had no direct evidence. Stories are like strings of popcorn, where each popped kernel is a factoid, each of which may be true, or not. People's beliefs are based on the stories they have been told. While many religious beliefs are benign, some are not, and some only reveal their true character when pressure is applied. Killing people, for instance, is one of those issues. Some people think you should never kill anyone. Some people think they should kill everyone who is different in some specific way. Some people think there are times when killing is justified. I would like to think that if we could just show all the wrong-thinking people the error of their ways, they would reform, and start believing and behaving correctly. Unfortunately, I don't think there is enough time in the universe to do that. Lunatics seem to popping up with ever increasing frequency, kind of like if the dead were coming out of their graves. Is it just a fluke that Zombie movies and games are all the rage these days? I don't think so.