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penrose-impossible-triangleRecently I have been pondering upon thinking. Even more so upon dangerous thinking. Specifically about beliefs and faith. I do not believe in God, not in any separate, or higher power sense. But recently, I have come to question the vague beliefs I do have. Questioning is always good, in my opinion, but that is not to say it is easy to handle. There is no point to questioning anything if you are not ready to replace a certain belief with one that makes more sense. Without being ready to do that, questioning becomes redundant. As useful as ordering a big mac with a diet coke, in order to lose weight. The idea is there, but the execution is silly.

I have a fairly logical belief structure. And after a recent run in with the idea of empirical evidence and really intelligent opinions, I really began questioning my beliefs. I have spent the better part of the last ten years with an infallible faith in “the Universe” and how it works. I would travel at a whim, follow intuition and the ideas it creates, and act accordingly. There is no empirical evidence in any of that. Some would say it is a destructive and dangerous disregard of consequences. I almost agreed with that, rendering my mind mush. What if I was wrong? What if there is no grand thread that runs through everything? If that was the case, I would have put my life in danger recklessly. It made me feel sick.

And what of coincidence? I read an interesting book by Derren Brown (Tricks of the mind) recently, brilliantly written and putting forward a challenge to many of these dangerous thinking patterns. He explains that people have a very skewed concept of probability. If you can get your head around the fact that coincidence is merely a function of more factors than we care to consider, you will begin seeing that the chances of something unlikely happening, is very likely. It challenged my beliefs, at their foundations. It shook me up. But as I said, without considering the possibility that you may be wrong, you are destined for stagnancy.

It got me to review many events in the past, surely it can’t all be coincidence. Surely there is more to this than logic in it’s modern sense? And, if I have been incorrect, what now? How do I go from having unshakable faith in the unknown, and in the statement “everything happens for a reason” to well there is no supporting evidence so lets begin again? With difficulty. But I stepped back, and reviewed all that I believe. An interesting thing occurred. I came to the conclusion that the thinking behind interpreting evidence is subjective. Perception is subjective. If perception is subjective then understanding is too. Now here I get to the edgy stuff. Basing a belief system solely on evidence and how people interpret evidence is as dangerous as blindly basing it on the unknown.

I am not saying that one should not consider the evidence. Not at all. One should just consider the evidence, but also the fact that evidence can be misinterpreted (not to say it has or not to belittle scientists at all) and the concept of possibility. We need to always take into account that there is a possibility that we are incorrect on both levels. The realm of the unknown is just that, unknown. The ‘impossible’ should be considered with an understanding that it, although improbable, is possible. Nothing is completely impossible. Getting stuck in that mindset will hinder growth.

Again, I am not saying you should live impractically. If something is highly improbable, it is unlikely to occur. But that is not to say it won’t ever. Live practically, but disregarding the possibility of the improbable is as dangerous as living with blind faith in the unlikely.