20 February 2010

Why Do We Need Proof?

In the Western world, where science rules, we demand proof of everything, except the Divine. Or, is that really true? I think we do seek proof in religion through rewards and punishment. Is it not true that people of faith often look upon fortune, luck, destruction, and chaos as divine intervention? Are these not the proof we need to abide by the rules of the various good books?

We've relied upon the burden of proof for many decades, centuries even. In science, law, business and education we rate, analyze, score, record and survey the heck our of everything in the never ending elusive search of progress, the ultimate proof of success.

Where has our fixation on proof led us? Down a rabbit hole. Our mathematical, scientific thinking capacity is relatively immature in the long history of humankind, a mere infant to the evolution of our unconscious reasoning; yet we interpret our world through facts and figures. We manufacture our world.

Let's look at this through the analogy of math. As we developed into a 'modern' society (the industrial world) we learned how to add and subtract. We added (created, populated, grew, nurtured, developed, invented, produced) and subtracted (destroyed, warred, enslaved, imprisoned). Then, as we continued to develop, we learned how to multiply and divide. We multiplied (mono crop culture, assembly lines, economies of scale, mega-cities, nuclear proliferation) and divided (nuclear fission, quantum chemistry, astrophysics, cosmology). We've divided, sub-divided, categorized, classified, organized, drawn arbitrary boundaries, built walls and dividers and compartmentalized our world.

So, now that we've added, subtracted, multiplied and divided our world, what next? How long will we continue to endeavor to formulate and equate a world that is not designed to be equated?

We need to get out of this rabbit hole. We don't understand our world. Science and metrics can't explain everything. I don't know if we understand even 1/4 of our world. On the upside, we should be smart enough now to know what we ought not to do. (sigh, we don't have a good track record of learning from our mistakes).

Think about this for a moment. A Historian Lewis Mumford once wrote about the industrializing society, "In such grim conditions, the meaning of life becomes less important that the means of life." I think relying too heavily on science and metrics has led us to where we are now because we're blinded, we can't see our world any other way. When we think about who we are, we define ourselves by nationalities, cultures, religions, territories, clans, families, loyalties, languages, professions, classifications, job descriptions, salaries, property, schedules, etc. Given the demands we've placed on ourselves to multiply and divide at an ever increasing rate, how can we get off this course of self-destruction?

Try to imagine writing an accounting exam and an art history exam at the same time. It won't be easy. It will take conscious effort to shift back and forth from linear thinking to risky creative interpretation, but we have to make this change and we have the ability to do it. We just lack awareness and will. I think the first step is to recognize our compulsion to organize our world. The next step is to start to look at our environment and each other through a different lens; as a collective, interconnected web of life in which we are reliant on the success of all parts of nature, including those which can be proven and those which cannot.

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