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Comfort Sometimes Triumphs over Fear

kgrass's picture

 In the book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dennet brings up an idea that I had pondered in my first web paper. The idea that there are observations, revelations, and discoveries that are out there that may be key to understanding or enhancing a theory, but no one has connected it yet. Dennet talks about Mendel’s pea plants and the idea of heredity, and how his paper had been published without much attention in 1865 and then was found to be a key piece to the theory of evolution in the 1900s (Dennet, 20). 

            Dennet also discusses how fear is a main motivator for ignoring or denying certain observations. Not just the fear of societal repercussions, but the fear of changing a belief that has been so fundamental for the person. For example, in Hume’s Dialogues, he demonstrates that flaws that can come with God as a designer for the Universe, yet ends with the idea that this must be the way because the intricate workings of nature could not be due to chance (Dennet, 32). He could not imagine the world any other way because it was not concrete enough. I think it is the thoughts that scare us most are the most important ones to investigate. We have to recognize that sometimes our most fundamental beliefs are subject to change based on new discoveries. If we deny new information, we cheat ourselves of a greater understanding of the world around us. Ultimately, this understanding is the goal of religion, science, and literature. 

            When I was very little, my understanding of the world had been turned upside-down when my dad and I discussed a simple object: a globe. I had seen globes before. I understood that the world is round, there are oceans and land, etc. I also understood the concept of space and the sun. What I assumed, however, was that we lived on the inside of the earth. When my dad pointed to the globe to show where I lived, right next to Lake Michigan in Chicago, Il, I got a little panicked. When I explained to him that we had to live on the inside of the earth or else we would fall off, he gave a little chuckle and explained that we were on the outside. At this point, I burst into tears as he attempted to explain to me the idea of gravity. I didn’t know the concept of gravity or that we had an atmosphere. I felt so vulnerable, so worried that I would float into space right then. At first, I wanted to believe my dad was lying to me. I wanted to only believe the story I had made up in my head because it made the most sense to me. After that, I had a new perspective on the world. Looking back, it is amazing to think about the stories I made to make sense of the world. Sometimes we assume one story not because it makes sense, but because it gives us the most comfort.    

Comments

OrganizedKhaos's picture

Good point!

 "Dennet also discusses how fear is a main motivator for ignoring or denying certain observations. Not just the fear of societal repercussions, but the fear of changing a belief that has been so fundamental for the person."

This part of your post can speak to so much of what I too have been wondering since we started class as well as through Dennet. I feel as though many children and even societies make stories up to make sense of the world. I went to visit the Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza when in high school and learning about the myths and traditions they used to make sense of changes around them was really interesting. It wasn't until now that I was able to make that connection. It must be some innate part of us as humans to want to make sense of the world. Something I've been told in many anthropology classes.

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