I Am Human

Trigger warning: suicidal ideation

So this may come as a shock to all of you but I am in fact a human being and not a robot. Because of this fact, there are certain things that I mess up on, have emotions about, and respond to in biased and sometimes irrational ways. There have been a number of people who have been pushing my buttons lately, and I apologize to people that I went off on, but there is something that I need to address, which I will try to do in a series of posts today and possibly into tomorrow to explain my reaction to a particular mindset.

This is the mindset that truth is all important and that we must never ever let ourselves be irrational or think things without evidence. I think this can be a toxic mindset for a number of reasons. The first I’m going to introduce in this post is extremely personal, and so I may end up disabling comments on this post if things get out of hand at all. This is not meant to be much by way of an argument, it is not meant to be rooted in any deep or intellectual philosophy. It is rooted strictly in my personal experience and what I perceive to be the experiences of others.

So last night after feeling frustrated about this mindset for some time, I finally realized something and I sat down and wrote this:

The temporary suspension of the need for evidence is so important to me right now that it feels like a punch in the gut when someone tells me I should always look for evidence and only believe based on evidence. Right now, I have suspended judgment on something very important: whether or not I deserve to live. I don’t think the evidence points in life’s favor, but I have decided to trust those around me when they say I do deserve it, and take it on faith for now because it’s an incredibly important conclusion and because I know that others believe I’m wrong.

I don’t have enough evidence yet, and I don’t know how to get enough evidence to prove to myself that I deserve life. I’m trying to have faith in the people who tell me that they have enough evidence, or that they can interpret the available evidence in a way that’s better than what I can do.

When someone tells me that all faith is wishful thinking, I can’t help but hear “You deserve to die and anything else is wishful thinking”.

You may not like the language of faith, but sometimes we need to recognize when we are not in a position to survey the evidence, and on occasion we might need to abdicate that responsibility to others for a while. I know that my brain cannot accurately survey the evidence around me right now, and so for the moment I am asking others to do it for me. That is faith for me. It’s trust. It’s why I’m alive, and it is far from irrational. On the contrary, it’s the best kind of rationality I can muster when my brain refuses rationality.

 

After writing this, I am certain that I’m not the only one who has to sometimes abdicate rationality to others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like sometimes the only way to get through my life is to trust someone else when they say something kind, even when you firmly believe it’s not true. While I strive for rationality as an ideal, we are all human beings, and we all have emotions and difficulties that make pure rationality impossible, and sometimes harmful. Sometimes the most rational thing we can do is recognize our emotions and then trust others to help us see around them. I see that as a form of faith, and I think that it’s beautiful. If you have a problem with the word faith, then just replace it with trust, and I think it’s just as wonderful. We can’t always know the evidence for everything. We can’t always see it correctly or interpret it correctly. Oftentimes our brains or our senses work against us. We need help. We need to rely on each other to see the world as correctly as possible. This intersubjectivity is the faith that I believe atheists need.

10 thoughts on “I Am Human

  1. Greg Laden says:

    These people who insist in Rationality, Evidence, and when all else fails, Links are pseudoskeptics.

    I had never paid attention to the JREF forum. One day I went searching for information on cranberry juice and UTI’s. One of the first hits I came up with on Google said, and I paraphrase:

    “Several peer reviewed double blind studies have shown that cranberry juice does not cure bladder infections; the women who think this works are irrational.”

    By the time I was done with my research I found that zero peer reviewed studies of any kind had ever been done to test whether or not drinking cranberry juice cured bladder infection. But that guy had heard about studies that failed to show that CB juice prevented (not cured) UTI’s, not because the studies seemed to show that it didn’t (they seemed to show that it did!) but because each of the half dozen or so studies was an inadequate pilot study.

    So what you say? SOme idiot on the internet is wrong!

    But the truth is that the vast majority of the EVIDENCE??? LINKS??????? crowd is FOS, ignorant of most of the they are talking about, and mostly draw conclusions not on science or evidence but mainly on exactly two sources of information:

    1) Their own brains. If their own brains had not seen or though something before, they don’t think it is likely true;

    2) PZ Myers’ brain, or NdGT’s brain, or some other person’s brain who told them what to think.

    And that’s even before we look at how anoying they are in most other ways. And yes, I’m generalizing, obviously. But if the shoe fits 80% of the people who come in the shoe store, it’s time for a big sale on shoes.

    We human beings don’t usually act without faith and belief. No matter who you are. The fact that so many people are also religious, and that this jams up their brain and behavior so much, is a huge problem. But taking presumption, assumption, faith, belief, and guesswork out of the human equation in order to jettison religion is an unworthy program.

    Scientists create hypothesis, and the observe and evaluate data to test the hypotheses within a hypotheco-dedctive framework. Notice that it starts with creativity. And that’s not the only creative part of it. Hypothetico-deductive frameworks do not generate solutions to methodological problems, they only help evaluate the solutions.

    But that is not why you should seriously question whether or not you should keep your life. You should keep your life because I love you and I am not alone. There are a lot of us.

    But it is one reason for you to feel OK about being very annoyed.

  2. Barrett Vann says:

    *hugs* Not really being a part of the atheist or sceptic community, I don’t see as much of that as you do, but I think after a certain point, insisting that that there must be EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE FOR EVERYTHING, that you’re not allowed to intuit or make jumps of logic or hope, falls into the self-defeating trap that it is impossible to have empirical evidence for everything we believe to be true. I mean, I believe that, say, Sierra Leone exists. It is a country that exists in the world. But I have never met anyone from there, I have never seen it; the only proof I have for the existence of Sierra Leone is that I have seen a blob on maps labelled ‘Sierra Leone’, and that other people claim it exists.

    And that, frankly, is a stupid fucking argument to make, because what does it accomplish? It doesn’t hurt my belief in the existence of Sierra Leone that it depends on trust of secondhand information.

    It is simply not possible to be rational and collect evidence about *all the things* Or even some of the things. Nor is it a weakness not to try to do so. Insistence otherwise is the kind of ridiculousness you get with a philosopher so caught up in academics that he can argue himself out of his own existence.

    I am not entirely sure of the point I am attempting to make here, but I hope you will take with irrational trust that I love you and think you more than worthy of your life.

  3. edgyhedgy says:

    I can’t speak to faith, but I can speak to trying to decide whether or not I deserve to live. I’ll do the same thing I wish someone would have done for me and offer you a big fucking hug and share how I’ve managed to stay here despite my similar feelings of evidence not being in my favor.

    Once upon a time, a wee trans boy loved a tragically tortured girl. For years they kept each other floating above water, and the girl seemed to be doing ok so long as the boy was there. Then one day, the boy got a message. The girl was dead, suicide. That girl felt the same way, that she didn’t deserve to live and that she didn’t want to. What she didn’t see was how horribly important she was not just to me, but to so many other people. The night of her funeral, after seeing what I thought was her ghost but could have been my vivid imagination, I decided that I didn’t have the ability to decide what my life means to the people around me. Sometimes I feel insignificant, sometimes lonely, and when I’ve gotten really low, I always remember that day.

    I don’t like feeling like I can’t make that executive decision on my own either. In some ways it makes me feel incompetent. However annoyed at this I might be, sometimes it’s good to acknowledge that there are things you can not possibly provide yourself enough evidence to decide upon.

    As far as your life is concerned though, the only thing I can really provide you is to say that you are important to me. I don’t know you well and I haven’t known you long but I do know that you are very important to me and it would be a tragedy if you ceased to be. Evidence or not, that’s a stone cold fact in favor of your continued existence in the world.

    • oj27 says:

      You almost made me tear up at work. Thank you so much. I’m trying so hard to trust you all, I promise I’ll keep trying.
      I also had a dream last night that you were home. I think this means I miss you.

      • edgyhedgy says:

        I think it means we better plan something for that week I’m home before I run away again. I miss you too.

        Oddly I also had a dream that I was home, but it was far less fun. It was actually a bit of a nightmare.

  4. […] This is part 2 of a 3 part series addressing why I get extremely pissed off at certain commenters/tropes in the skeptical community. Part 1 can be found here. […]

  5. […] is the third post in a series of posts about evidence. Here are parts 1 and […]

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