Brain Fat and the Metaphysical Nickel

Your Rent a Friend is listening to: Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

His Mood is: A little frazzled, a little swingin’ (Which is better than just frazzled)

In order to wrap up our journey across the Metaphysical Map, it is time for us to take a walk around Belief and Knowledge. Get your metaphysical shoes on, strap on your backpack of previous knowledge, and bring some philosophical bug repellant. When we get there, we’ll make hypothetical S’mores!

Let’s recap where we’ve been: GOD creates reality, which includes rubber ducks. I see the rubber duck, and I see it as yellow, which it really is, so what I see is the truth. I have “The Rubber Duck Experience,” which I think was the name of a Jimi Hendrix album. Or it should have been.

My experience of the ducky is now processed in my mind. My experience is chewed thoroughly by the teeth of reason. Reason asks WHY? and HOW? And if it’s classically trained and well versed in Shakespeare, Wherefore art Thou? And then my logic licks the sides of my experience for those tiny flavors of intangible truth which can be discovered with WHAT IF? And then, when I have made connections and met categorical boundaries and defined things according to context and previous experience, my brain takes the step of Faith and swallows my experience so that it can be digested in my memory and metabolized into the muscle of intellect and the fat of useless knowledge which only gets recalled while playing Trivial Pursuit.
If you’ve heard this metaphor word-picture before, I’ll give you a dollar. Suffice it to say, I could continue the metaphor, but let’s all be glad that I did not. It would have used the phrase “Brain Fart.” But I have more class than that.

You may be asking, “Once my brain has eaten all of the experience I give it, do I have knowledge or beliefs?” and I would reply that it is impossible to have one without the other. They are two sides of the same coin, The metaphysical nickel (which would be a cool name for a band or a coffee shop).

To Believe is to have confidence/faith in the Truthfulness of information one can recall and understand.

To Know is to be able to recall and understand that which is believed to be true.

If you do not BELIEVE an idea to be true, you will not say you KNOW it. And if you cannot remember or understand something, you cannot BELIEVE it to be true. Heads or tails, it’s still a nickel. For example, you would neither say you KNOW 2+2=7, nor that you believe it, unless you attended a Chicago public school (rim-shot).

At this point you may seek to differ with my definition by pointing out that we all KNOW things that we do not BELIEVE are true. For instance, I KNOW Darth Vadar’s light-saber is red (in the original trilogy, thus excluding Episode III). But I do not BELIEVE that Darth Vadar is real (He’s a fictional character in a movie), and I do not BELIEVE that light sabers are real (They are just a cool special effect). Does this not work against my definition? Nope, and the reason why is CONTEXT. Those pieces of information in my mind are connected to the larger context of the film as fiction. My brain will then process and record this information like this: “I recall and understand that Darth Vadar’s light-saber in episodes IV-VI is red in the context of the movies and the fictional world therein, though I know further that neither Darth Vadar nor light-sabers are actually REAL but are fictional elements which are part of a series of films.” Thankfully your brain does most of this without telling you, or you’d be listening to amendments like this all day long. That would be worse than public talk-radio.

And if I just broke your little hearts with the revelation that neither Darth Vadar nor light-sabers are real, all I can say is, I’m sorry. And, there is no Santa Clause either. Seriously, the guy’s been for nearly 1700 years. You better pray that doesn’t come sliding down your chimney. Though if any of you makes a Zombie Santa film I want credit. But, again, I digress.

Anything you believe, you also know. Anything you know takes belief. But it gets weirder. In modern culture there has been a great deal of hoopla about the fight between belief and knowledge, or as it’s applied: religion vs. science. Those on the side of “science” try and stir up this fight to accuse religions of all being based on the blind, unsupported acceptance of ideas that cannot be verified. Science, they will tell you, is superior because it can be proven with the five senses (And expensive equipment, some of which gets shot into space!), where as religions are all the subjective opinions of unscientific men, almost all of whom are DEAD. Granted, when they put it this way, you can see why popular opinion tends to stray toward science.  Shot into space vs. dead guys. You have to admit that it sounds kinda heavy in their favor.

The Pro-Science/Anti-Religion crowd will look at a rubber duck and say, “A rubber duck is comprised of the sap of the rubber tree, formed in the likeness of a species in the Anatidae family of birds.” They will measure the wavelength of light reflected from it to verify that it is yellow, and they can measure it to accurately find its weight, density, and size. Religion, they will say, can only claim that rubber duckies make bath time lots of fun, which cannot be quantified, thus it is only a subjective experience and not truth. These guys are great fun at parties, let me tell you. You’ll be all, “Have you tried the dip?” and they’ll start rattling off the nutritional information until you’re sorry you asked.

Now, the flaw in this theory is not in valuing science. The ability to measure things and observe the laws of nature are tremendously valuable. Science has given us things like anti-bacterial soap, power steering, the microwave oven, and duck-tape (or sometimes, duct-tape). The first flaw in the pro-science/anti-religion movement is simply failing to see that ANY knowledge will require a component of belief. You have to believe that your discoveries are true. How far would Copernicus have gotten if he had said, “I have used science to prove that the earth travels around the sun, but I do not believe it.” You don’t get a line of educational products named after you with an attitude like that. You have to believe your discoveries to be true, and this means you have to believe your logic to be sound, and you have to believe that your evidence is valid, and you have to believe that your equipment is trustworthy… It just goes on and on like this.

Not that this means evidence is of little value. Reasonable arguments based on sound evidence help us have faith in our beliefs. Faith without reasons to believe tends to be pretty shaky. But the idea that fact, perception, and knowledge can exist separate from belief or faith simply isn’t true.

To sum up, as we walk about the metaphysical map, we see that Knowing is to Believing what North is to South- not because they are opposites, but because you cannot have one without the other. They are two sides of the Metaphysical Nickle. Whichever side you flip up, the other side is still there. Science is good, and evidence is our friend, but it is not the end of reason and logic. Next time I will give you a personal exercise through which you can discover vital methods of discovering truth which are beyond science. I will also make you wonder if your parents are liars and kidnappers. I know they are, though I do not believe it. Maybe that’s a little hard to swallow. My brain rejects it too. Sorry… excuse my brain fart.


About rentafriend2000
Rocking my 40's with a heart full of love and muffins, science and technology. Jesus loves me and wants me to totally rock! And I am here to help.

4 Responses to Brain Fat and the Metaphysical Nickel

  1. Pingback: Nachos with Non-Believers (Or Defining the Deniers of Divinity) | Rentafriend2000's Blog

  2. Maria says:

    Thank you for directing me to this post you wrote! And I’m glad you found my site. In reading what you wrote a couple of times, I think these pro-science people have created a false dichotomy. You explain that nicely with your rubber ducky example. A toast to Truth!

  3. Pingback: Atheism and the Return of the Metaphysical Nickel | A Bit of Orange

  4. Pingback: Buying a Toaster at Walmart (or, WHAT’S IN THE BOX??!) | A Bit of Orange

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