September 15, 2014

We all would like special powers or miraculous helpers

I admit that I'm generalizing, and it's technically a fallacy, as there are a few contented people outside the "all," I'll bet.

But, just as Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis gets comfort from this:
I’ve long believed in angels on earth, in a higher power, in moments when someone or something comes into your life out of the blue and saves you from the dangerous path you’re on.
As do many other "spiritual but not religious" types,

And, just as Albert Einstein went to see, and believed in the powers of (yes, really) a psychic, so I think most people in the world would like to have some sort of "special powers," whether we technically call them "supernatural" or not. (I still don't think Einstein believed in a personal deity, but, per his famous "dice" quotes, it is interesting to think that this opens new cans of worms as to just what sort of God = Nature of Benedict Spinoza Einstein did believe in, as for how "active" this capital-N Nature might be, etc.)

Athletes want to believe God is on their side. Taken to an extreme, an Adrian Peterson wants to believe God is OK with him abusing his own son. (Last paragraph of story.)

Per my admitting this is a generalization, yet, in informal versions of classic logic, still "inductively valid," I include a lot of people who might even be atheists. Even Gnu Atheists.

If we peeled beneath their surface objections, I suspect many a naturalist would admit they'd like special powers, or another shot at life, or similar.

I know I would.

Even though I see very good evidence that such things aren't possible.

Throwing aside the attempt to self-justify one's behaviors, as with Adrian Peterson, or the trivializing of god, common with athletes in general, and there's still this will to believe?

Is it a mix of our old evolutionary history as pattern detectors plus agency imputers, that most people, even intelligent ones, can't shrug off, especially here in the U.S.?

Or is it more or different? With a Wendy Davis, are most people simply unable, or perhaps more unwilling than unable, to accept major fear-inducing events in a naturalistic and existential way? (I once got lost, way in the backcountry of the redrock desert of Canyonlands National Park, start of August. Ran out of water, before remembering that there was some back down the trail in a tinaja. I recited, almost by rote, the names of several deities, before calming down a bit, then accepting that life "is," existentially, period, then remembering the tinaja and getting water.)

I'm still not sure what explains an Einstein. First, I'm doubtful Spinoza would have believed in psychics. But Einstein, from the link, it seems clearly wanted to believe.
According to Upton Sinclair, Professor Einstein has long been concerned with psychic matters and has done some investigation in the field.
The story doesn't say what type of investigation, but it very clearly seems this was not Harry Houdini (or James Randi) skeptical, scientific investigation. (I wonder if there's any stories about him seeing other psychics?)

This was 1932; Germany was stormy, but Hitler was not yet in power. Einstein arguably had no huge fears he faced, no existential crisis.

Back to the main point. His, or Davis', beliefs aside, both engaged in selective perception.

Why didn't Davis' "higher power" give her a healthy baby in the first place?

Why didn't Einstein's psychic foretell the Holocaust, World War II and atomic weapons?

Because, there was no real higher power nor any real psychic foresight, of course.

I had briefly wished for the same, in Canyonlands.

But then, I "accepted."

Now, many us might like the miraculous helpers or special powers on less onerous terms than fundamentalist Christianity or Salafist Islam requires. Hence, Wendy Davis with her higher power (and similar "fuzzy Christianity" or outright New Age beliefs). Hence, still shockingly, Einstein with his psychic. (Knowing the future's a pretty big special power, and, from a psychic, on relatively easy terms other than, perhaps, for your wallet.) Others might think such special gifts only via mental gymnastics such as the "submission" that is Islam's name, or the "believe because it's absurd" of traditional Christianity.

But, neither an easy way, via the power of belief itself, or the hard way of mental sacrifice, makes this real.

As for the "all"? Yes, I think even many a Gnu Atheist, after becoming or accepting that he or she was an atheist, has still wished for "something" on occasion. Maybe the thought, even under duress like mine, was fleeting.

I certainly would consider Ray Kurzweil's singularity in particular, and transhumanism in general, to be just such a wish.

No comments: