Monday, January 12, 2009

What I believe but can't prove

A fascinating series on Edge in which intellectuals are asked, "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" (How do I get to be the kid of person who gets asked questions like that by prominent media outlets?) Some give technical answers from their fields, others are more philosophical. The answers are mostly three or four paragraphs long. There are several variants of both "there is a god" and "there is no god," but I found that none of the discussions added much to those four-word sentence. A sample of the other theses they take up:

we are all looking in the wrong place for long-term memory.

I believe that our universe is not accidental, but I cannot prove it.

Sometimes our folk theories are correct: Parents do shape their children.

What I believe but cannot prove is that no part of my consciousness will survive my death.

both cannibalism and slavery were prevalent in human prehistory

I can't prove it, but I am pretty sure that people gain a selective advantage from believing in things they can't prove.

I believe that life is common throughout the universe and that we will find another Earth-like planet within a decade.

I do not believe that people are capable of rational thought when it comes to making decisions in their own lives.

I believe, but cannot prove, that babies and young children are actually more conscious, more vividly aware of their external world and internal life, than adults are.

I believe that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness, but neither I, nor anyone else, has been able to prove it.

I believe, but cannot yet prove, that acquiring a human language (an oral or sign language) is a necessary precondition for consciousness

we're in for climatic mayhem

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