More Hubris

Hell's teeth now Christopher Brookmyre is at it, attempting to disprove the existence of God and all things spiritual in his latest novel. Or at least that's how the Scotsman and the Beeb reported it. So maybe I'm maligning the man. But why would a writer of fiction assume that he was going to make any converts?
What is it with these people? Can it be that they overvalue the real scientific world in which corruption and bigotry sit side by side with the 'scientific method'. My late dad was a distinguished biochemist, so I write with the benefit of his experience. Scientists are as prone to all the faults and foibles of humanity as the rest of us. The best of them are open and imaginative. The worst are blinkered and self seeking. We are all of us looking for ways of describing, of coping with the world. And for sure, all things come to sadness in the end. But many people, perhaps a majority (and it is often, though not invariably, women) have an inkling that there is much more to life than meets the eye. Sometimes it can be an experience such a bereavement, which should be embittering, but isn't. Sometimes it comes as a side effect of a lifetime's observation of how people interact. But most of all, I think, I object so strongly to the assumption that spirituality is a sticking plaster which we poor blinkered souls use to protect ourselves from the more unpleasant aspects of life. And again I say hubris. Overweening pride that subsumes any sense of humility in its own certainty.
The person in my life who was perhaps the most 'spiritual' was the most generous person I have ever had the good fortune to know. Her faith was simple and uncomplicated, but she herself was not. She never proseletysed, and didn't even attend church very often, but simply lived her own beliefs. She had overcome more of what life had to throw at her than most, yet had no bitterness. She was perceptive and full of the wisdom of her years . She was a truly 'good' person, with a warmth that defied the world's sournesses, and to categorise her as among the deluded is to wilfully misunderstand the limitless potential of the human spirit.


PTET said…
Nowhere in Chris Brookmyre’s book does he attempt to "disprove the existence of God and all things spiritual". All he says is we can’t prove them. Do you believe in the tooth fairy, Allah, reincarnation or ouija boards? Of course there is more to life than meets the eye... But isn’t it hubris to pretend that our own pet beliefs about “spiritual things” are true without evidence while rejecting other peoples? All he is asking, surely, is that we don’t open our minds so much that our brains fall out. And what shows "arrogant certainty" more than rejecting idea that evidence and reason might prove what we believe to be wrong? At least Brookmyre has the wit and wisdom to accept that he can be "self-indulgent and whiny". Were that religious types did that occasionally...
But that's the problem isn't it? The heavy sound of grinding axes. I may not believe in the Tooth Fairy, but I'm willing to concede that there are many millions of wise and intelligent people out there who do, for example, believe in reincarnation. And I'm not prepared to admit that acknowledging the fact constitutes keeping an open mind until my brains fall out. How do you define 'evidence and reason'? Even these words begin to slip slide away once you start to pin them down. There are western scientists who dismiss acupuncture as some weird chinese fad. Meanwhile a whole vast country is using it as an adjunct to conventional medicine with enormous success. Dawkins 'proves' that dowsing for water doesn't work. Meanwhile multi billion dollar companies employ dowsers because the technique works. I've seen it in action, as used by one of the least religious guys I've ever met. I wouldn't presume to argue that either of these phenomena are 'spiritual'. It's just that closed minds are not the prerogative of the religious among us. Scientists such as Dawkins would get more respect if they were really prepared to examine these issues, instead of going for scoring cheap points.
PTET said…
Who is grinding axes here, I wonder?

If there is evidence that something works, it doesn't matter if we know how it works. Evidence and reason say we should accept that it has an affect, and that we need to modify our understanding of nature if we want to examine how and what it does what it does. (Of course, that won't necessarily be what people claim for it). Acupuncture is a very good example. But where is the evidence for dowsing? Scientific studies show its no better than chance. Maybe "dowsing" helps people focus on finding water, in the same way as tarot cards help "cold reading"?

"closed minds are not the prerogative of the religious among us."

I completely agree. So why the hostility? Feeling threatened, perhaps?

"Scientists such as Dawkins would get more respect if they were really prepared to examine these issues, instead of going for scoring cheap points."

I completely agree. But reincarnation? Where's the evidence? Millions of people believe that daughters are worth less than sons. Does this belief make this true too? Many churches preach that condom use must not be taught when combating HIV & Aids in Africa. Does it not matter that the evidence shows this teaching to be disastrous?

You swing your axe at Christopher Brookmyre, who writes funny books. Does it not matter to you that he doesn't say anywhere that he can "disprove the existence of God and all things spiritual"? Or are you just trying to score cheap points?