Removing the Leash of Dogma

dog·ma [dawg-muh, dog-]

noun, plural dog·mas or ( Rare  ) dog·ma·ta [dawg-muh-tuh]

1. An official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church. Synonyms: doctrine, teachings, set of beliefs, philosophy.

2. A specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption; the recently defined dogma of papal infallibility. Synonyms: tenet, canon, law.

3. Prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group: the difficulty of resisting political dogma.

4. A settled or established opinion, belief, or principle: the classic dogma of objectivity in scientific observation. Synonyms: conviction, certainty.

“The origin of the word dogma acts as a reminder to English speakers that now-established principals and doctrines were once simply thoughts and opinions of ordinary people that gained popularity and eventually found their way into the universal consciousness of society.”

 – via Dictionary.com

This post is going to get me into trouble, I’m sure.  I’m going to question what you believe, regardless of what you believe.  Not for the sake of being argumentative or that I want to ride against the current.  But I’m going to question it in hopes that you understand you should question it too.  Most importantly, I’m going to question everything you believe in an effort to illustrate the fact of perception.  There are two sides to every story…and then there’s the truth.

Let’s start with definitions.  We have so many.  So many definitions.  So many categories.  Everything needs to be neatly placed into a category and labeled.  Everything.  Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Imperialist…the list is seemingly endless.  We get so caught up in labeling things that we forget the important things, like living life.  Our views become dogmatic and we lose sight of our ability as humans to reason.  Isn’t reason one of the things that set us apart from the animal kingdom?  Would we know that to look at the world?  The clarity is getting kind of muddled.

Perspective.  Let’s try and remember that labels and categories and definitions are a relatively new thing in our world.  Our planet is 4.5 Billion years old.  Man is about 2.5 Million years old.  Our need to label and control everything in tight little packages is only about 5,000 years old – Dating back to the origins of civilization.  Once people felt the need to control other people, dogma, categories and labels started getting put on things.  Think about it…

I got started on this thought today because a good friend posted a banned TED talk online this morning.  I’m a huge fan of the TED conferences.  The ones that I’ve seen provide an invaluable insight to our daily lives.  They are often unique perspectives that help me challenge what I think and believe.  And understand, I’m open to that kind of change.  Just because I challenge my beliefs, doesn’t mean that I change them.  Don’t make that misunderstanding.  Philosophically I’ve held onto the same beliefs for years and yet I’m constantly reading and discovering new ways of thought.  My beliefs don’t change outright, but they might evolve.  And evolution is an accepted part of life, right?  I think evolution is healthy.

It isn’t semantics to say that my beliefs don’t change but they evolve.  My faith in my beliefs has never wavered.  But my beliefs can only be rooted in the knowledge I have at the moment, not in the knowledge I might have in the future.  As a result my beliefs evolve because I might learn something new tomorrow.  Remember that society once accepted and readily defended the theory this world was flat.  But it was just a theory.  And knowledge helped us to understand that theories can be disproven and thus our beliefs must evolve.  There is still an “end” to this world, but it isn’t the square edge of a flat surface.  If you start at one point and circumnavigate the globe you’ll return to the same spot.  You could walk eternally, but the distance isn’t infinite.  At some point you’d be covering the same real estate.  Our planet is neither flat nor infinite.  That is the knowledge we have today.

We can accept our world is not flat because we accepted that new knowledge led us to that conclusion.  If we had remained dogmatic, we would be kidding ourselves. Right?

So, this TED talk.  Dr. Rupert Sheldrake is a research scientist and author of “Science Set Free”.  In his book, he challenges the dogma of science.  He talks about this during his TED speech.  He states the Science Community’s dogmatic principles inhibit it from fulfilling its chosen purpose…That is to find truth.  In a nutshell what he is saying is that Science (I’ve capitalized it to denote it as a community) has laid down laws and principles that it blindly adheres to regardless of contrary evidence.  Instead of looking closely at anomalies in science and research for deeper meaning and answers, scientists are discounting and justifying such anomalies.

Science is the new religion.

Here is where I get into trouble.  I have a tough time taking overtly religious, dogmatic people seriously.  It has been my experience that overt religion shields individuals from having a logical conversation about the world as we know it.  The people that I’ve met that hold onto dogma like a life-raft on the S.S. Minnow aren’t interested in even accepting the possibility that the church or the Bible could lead them astray.  Whether the church or the Bible leads them astray is a completely separate conversation.  But the possibility that it could remains.  Whether one wants to accept it or not, it’s there.  And a truly intelligent debate has never been had.

Look, I read the Bible.  I collect Bibles, actually.  I have a Quran, I have a book on Buddhist principles and thought.  I have several research books on the origins of Christianity and Judaism.  I’m well read on the subject of religion.  Not to say that I’m an expert, per se, but I’m not just a hack with an opinion.  I think the Bible as a moral tale is an excellent one.  I think the Bible as absolute truth limits the potential of people.  I’m a firm, firm, firm believer in God.  But let’s face it, we don’t know enough about anything to really justify having the quarrels, wars and dogma that we have today.

Because as much as I believe religious zealotry is problematic and counter-productive, so too do I believe the same of atheism.  The belief there is no God is as extreme as the thought that one book of collected documents written by men hold the only truth.  They both lead us back to the dark side of dogma.  Neither belief system takes into account that there is no existing evidence to prove either theory.  There are two sides to every story…and then there’s the truth.

Which leads me back to science.  The science of our world has proven many things, but it has uncovered more questions than answers.  The things we accept as truth are more often than not merely theory.  Read renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings book “A Brief History of Time” and in it you’ll discover that scientists in fact know very little of our universe.  Oh, there are some great and wonderful theories to be sure.  But very little of it is proven.

And for all of the “truths” that science has supposedly revealed, for all of the answers it has supposedly given, the one question whose answer remains completely elusive to science is WHY.

Dr. Sheldrake’s discussion was banned from the TED main page because another scientist was offended by the thoughts and ideas that Sheldrake was presenting.  He felt the idea that the Dogma of Science was in fact keeping the community from seeking truth fell into the category of pseudo-science and not worthy of being a TED feature.  This “other-scientist” drummed up enough support to pressure the organization to remove the video from the TED website.  And as Sheldrake comments in an interview about the whole affair, doesn’t that sort of censorship by the scientific community kind of prove his point?

Question what you believe.  Not for the sake of changing or because I’ve challenged you but for your own sake that what you believe is true to your heart.  We had the knowledge to crawl which gave us freedom.  We gained the knowledge to walk, increasing our freedom.  When we learned to run, we learned the possibilities where endless.

When we forsake dogma and open ourselves up to new ideas, we open ourselves up to another truth.  Religiously.  Scientifically.  Philosophically.  When we accept the possibility there might be another truth, an intelligent conversation can begin.

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