Gregory Clark seems to make us uncomfortable, and for that I congratulate him. The responses to his frequent op-ed pieces on religion and belief are always interesting, but no more so than Clark and his pointed, bare-fisted and often troubling articles.
I really don’t understand the problem. He has his beliefs. And, being a scientist and a humanist and a nonbeliever, his beliefs, theories, philosophies and ideas are also often just unproven guesses. Assumptions in science are often part of an exploratory process, and even then they should be just temporary and used simply as “best guesses.” Any assumption over time must become hard science or disappear. This causes that, or it doesn’t.
All Clark appears to be saying is that if something can’t be proven, please stop presenting it as a truth. But he states his beliefs in a way that makes many of us uncomfortable.
The only thing in the universe that can turn an unproven assumption or myth or illusion into something we consider real is the human brain. And I believe this stated assumption/idea can be proven through scientific exploration.
The human eye evolved with a blind spot. There is a small area in the retina that gathers no information. It shows as a blank spot in eye exams and, without some form of scientific testing, we’d have never known it existed. But the human brain developed a way to trick itself into believing the blind area didn’t exist. The brain used sensory color and data patterns of what surrounds the blind spot to create a “best guess” whole image.
We each have the ability to fill in the blank, and we do. But we are influenced, I believe, during the process, not only by the surrounding data but also by how comfortable we are in using information to actively interact with the world around us. You might say that each of us adopts a “best guess” philosophy that mirrors how we engage with what we don’t understand or see, and what we don’t understand or see is the future, or what created the past.
Did God create this process, or was it simply nature doing what nature does?
And if either or neither, why not just state we don’t know? Or is this lack of knowledge very similar to the blind spot itself? And if it’s simply an extension of the idea that the original blind spot created strong negative stress/fear reactions in the brain, strong enough to trigger a fight-or-flight response with each step we took, perhaps creating imaginary images was a necessity. Maybe it, the imagination, played a necessary role in the evolutionary process.
Humans learning to move without fear may have been a necessary requirement in learning to interact with our environment.
What I’ve stated is an unproven assumption that “I believe” is true.
My wife and I created Understanding Us to test unproven assumptions about how the human brain functions. We are working with diverse populations dealing with a number of mental-health conditions: schizophrenia, PTSD, children on the autism spectrum, severe depression, suicide and addiction. Our Street Tai Chi program in Salt Lake City is an extension of this effort.
If an assumption has merit and you apply the assumption, this will happen. And what happens will happen over and over again. Or it won’t.
If God-based philosophies have merit, please put them to work solving our human and environmental problems. If scientific assumptions are getting the job done, please continue. If not, I wish we could all consider looking for more effective “best guesses.”
Dr. Clark, thank you for starting this discussion.
Bernie and Marita Hart are Salt Lake residents exploring a number of “new assumptions” about how the human brain functions. Both are too old to waste time on what doesn’t solve real problems.