Last night, as we were preparing for our 4-hour return trip to Baltimore, Ann and her brother got into a debate about the meaning of life. The specifics of their claims are pointless, since these are the kinds of arguments no one ever “wins.” (If anything, they just irritate both sides — just like a debate about health care, abortion or why Twilight is overrated.)
But as I vacated the living room to continue packing — thereby leaving Ann (an atheist) and her brother (a spiritualist) to their mutual refusal to find a common ground on which to base an argument in the first place — something he said invalidated their entire venture:
“Science is all bullshit.”
See, as an atheist, Ann opts to view the world through the lens of science. She’s interested in what’s provable, what’s measurable, and what she can logically refer to when making decisions.
Her brother, a spiritualist, is focused exclusively on finding deep existential meaning in life, and refuses to believe that anything can ever be measured or quantified in any reliable way. To him, numbers are just numbers, and they can be used and abused to further someone’s agenda, but personal experience is immeasurable and therefore infallible.
(You can see where this argument is going, and that destination is “nowhere.”)
But as a way of expressing his disdain for science (and for those who rely on it as their primary reference point), Ann’s brother stated that “science is all bullshit.” That’s because “scientists claim they know everything, and that if they can’t prove it, it doesn’t exist.” (Which, Ann pointed out, reputable scientists don’t actually say, but that’s beside the point.)
The problem with a statement like that is this: when you write off science, you write off logic, and you write off the concepts of evidence, proof, facts or measurable truth. And if all that goes out the window, then everything is just as valid as everything else — which means even if your opposing point of view was “right,” you could never prove it because you just refused to believe in measurable proof, so why should anyone else?
By the time they wrapped up (because we had to leave, not because they’d reached a consensus of opinion), I think I was the one who learned the holiday’s real lesson:
Yes, there was turkey. Yes, there was pie. Yes, there were ice-skating kids whizzing by.
Thanksgiving is friendship, and family too. But when family starts arguing, here’s what you do: