My Letter to My Daughter pt1
My Dearest Sariah,
I am writing this letter to you to pass on information that is important to me and has proven useful in my life. I write to you in hopes that you find it useful and heed the information for your life. The inspiration of this letter, the very backbone of it, has been taken from a letter Richard Dawkins wrote to his little girl. In some places I even use his words. I do not see this as plagiarism as he has so eloquently described in a few paragraphs what would take me much longer than is feasible. I am using it to inspire and enlighten the next generation; I do not believe that Mr. Dawkins would have any problem with that.
Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we know? If two views of the world exist how are we to know which is correct? What makes something, anything, true? The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’. Merriam-Webster defines evidence as an outward sign or something that furnishes proof. Sometimes evidence is actually sensing (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting) that something is true, this is called an observation. Other times evidence is the observations that lead to the answer. An eye on the stove turns red when it gets hot to warm your soup, but your soup can come out just as warm from the microwave which gives no outward sign of warming up.
How do we know, for instance, that the earth is in fact a sphere rather than a flat disk, as it was believed to be for so many years? How do we know, as opposed to the belief that the sun orbits the earth, that the earth orbits the sun (geocentric vs. heliocentric)? How do we know that the stars, which look like tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like our sun and are just very far away?
The evidence! Astronauts have traveled far enough from the Earth to observe with their own eyes that it is round. Often enough our imperfect senses require assistance. Scientific instruments have been invented to aid in the observation of our universe. The ‘evening star’ looks like a bright twinkle in the sky but with a telescope you can see that it is a beautiful ball – the planet we call Venus. The telescope has allowed scientists to observe the sun, the stars, other planets, other galaxies, etc. The microscope has allowed us to observe the very building blocks our bodies. Computers aid in solving complex mathematical equations and the storage of information we have gathered through previous observations.
Scientists – the specialists in discovering what is true about the world and the universe – often work like detectives. They make a guess (called a hypothesis) about what might be true. They then say to themselves: if that were true, we ought to see so-and-so. This is called a prediction. For example, if the world is really round, we can predict that a traveler, going on and on in the same direction, should eventually find himself back where he started.
When a doctor says that you have measles he doesn’t take one look at you and see measles. His first look gives him a hypothesis. Then he says to himself: if she really has measles, I ought to see… Then he runs through his list of predictions and tests them with his eyes (have you got spots?), his hands (is your forehead hot?), and his ears (does your chest wheeze in a measly way?). Only then does he make his decision and say, ‘I diagnose that she has measles.’ Sometimes doctors need to do other tests like blood tests or X-rays, which help their eyes, hands and ears to make observations. This is what I do as a Medical Laboratory Scientist. I use instrumentation to run tests to aid in making the diagnosis and ensuring the correct treatment is given and said treatment is working.
Be careful. A single piece of evidence can be misleading; many pieces that point in the same direction must be used for a reliable solution. For example:
There is an old parable about six blind Hindus touching an elephant. One blind man touched the side of the elephant and said it was a wall. Another blind man touched the ear and said it was a large leaf of a tree. Yet another blind man was holding a leg and thought it was a tree trunk. Still another blind man took hold of the elephant’s trunk and said it was a snake. Someone else was touching the elephant’s tusk and believed it was a spear. Another blind man had the elephant’s tail in his hand and was calling it a rope. All of the blind men were touching the same reality but understood it differently. They all had the right to interpret what they were touching in their own personal way, yet it was the same elephant.
The way scientists use evidence to learn about the world is much cleverer and more complicated than I can say in a short letter. In fact most of it is much cleverer that I can even understand. I want to move on from evidence, which gives us the best reasons for believing something and warn you against three bad reasons for believing anything. They are ‘authority’, ‘revelation’, and ‘tradition’.
Posted on April 3, 2013, in Christianity, Coming Out, Mormon-isms and tagged atheism, atheist, book of mormon, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, evidence, faith, faithless, free, free thinker, free thinking, free thought, freethought, LDS, Mormon, open. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.