Monday, April 26, 2010

Give me Reason over superstition any day

It's a delicious April autumn evening and I've had a beautiful stroll under the waxing gibbous moon, which will be full the night after tomorrow. The stars are bright, and I've been admiring Mars, and Orion's Belt, and the Southern Cross. And I walked with many things that are in my thoughts, and one of them is Reason.

Reason's a beautiful thing: it's given us transport, democracy, medicine, and the eradication of smallpox from the world. No praying nor mumbo-jumbo have ever worked such wonders. In recent months, a few people have disputed this with me, saying, "But Shakespeare said, 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy'". But Shakespeare didn't say this ... these are words that he put into the mouth of Hamlet, one of his characters. Hamlet said it, not The Bard. I'm no Shakespeare, and never will be, but I've written stuff that I've put into the mouths of characters, some of it total rubbish. And who says Shakespeare is the decider of what's true or not anyway? He was clearly a fallible man -- his plays abound with errors of fact. In 'The Winter's Tale', for example, he speaks of the coast of Bohemia. Though some might dispute it, Bohemia has no coast. Even if Bohemia did have a coast, there would still be dozens or hundreds of errors one could point to in Shakespeare's works.

Some people also refer to certain other writings and people, all supposedly infallible. Scriptures and popes, for example. I don't have confidence in such things. Give me Reason any day, because I've consistently seen over a lifetime of observation, and trial and error, that Reason and logic actually work. Now, I agree with Rabindranath Tagore, another bard with whom I'll never compare, that "A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it". But that still doesn't reduce my faith in Reason, logic, science, and a skeptical brain. I think they are wonderful tools, and I'd rather have them than any knife, or any superstition.

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