Afraid to be wrong

Wandering around the blogosphere, I happened upon this profound question:

What are we most invested in and would have our realities shattered if we were wrong?

Danah Boyd (the author of that post), and the commenters to that post offer some very thoughtful, illuminating responses. I like the way she rephrased the original question of “what would we be most afraid to be wrong about” to avoid the term “afraid”, so that people can think about the most important truth(s) they depend on, without being distracted by worrying about whether they would appear to be uncertain about the truth, or “afraid” it might not be true.

One thing to note, a few Christians posted responses, and their answers were predictably (in a good way) “the truth of Christianity”. I also echo that sentiment. My specific take on the general truth of Christianity is this: can there be any truth more foundational to the worldview of a Christian than the fact of the Resurrection? (Again, not to say that Christians are “afraid” that it’s not true, but that falsification of it would have the most devastating impact on our worldview.) This is so critical, I’m not even sure it is constructive to try to stimulate a more interesting comment thread by asking for a runner-up answer.

Another interesting thing I noticed was a sentiment common to many of the (presumably secular) posters, who voiced some version of an underlying assumption that mankind is intrinsically good. I think I can even nuance Ms. Boyd’s response into that category. She said

All of my work, all of the work of those around me is deeply invested in the belief that freedom brings happiness and all sorts of goodness. What if freedom causes more harm than good? What if freedom brings social misery? What if people are better off being controlled? If so, I would be at a complete loss.

Whether “freedom is the answer” has a lot to do with what people do with their freedom; assuming that freedom enables people to live up to their true nature, the result of freedom would be goodness or badness depending on whether people freely do good or bad. Other versions of the same theme from various commenters include

…MOST people are inherently good when the crap hits the fan

…that people as a whole don’t solve slightly more problems than they create

…The issue I’m talking about really is the abuse of freedoms…

…I do sometimes worry that technology will not outrun human nature…Depsite all that, I still have hope that rational people will come together and beat the odds…

Never having been a non-Christian/humanist, I am suddenly curious about what reason anybody could possibly have for holding a fundamental belief that man is inherently good? Is it just akin to Pascal’s practical argument for the existence of God, i.e. if man is not inherently good, then we’re all totally doomed, so it is practical to turn hope into belief, and just try to make the best of it?

I really like this question. It made me think, it apparently made others think, and in a non-threatening way that invites honesty and true dialogue.

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One Response

  1. This exercise is similar to The Forester’s “Dangerous Idea”. Aside from being afraid about the truth of Christianity. I will say that I fear that I am not as good a person as I think I am. What if I really have to account for each individual sin that I though was not such a big deal. What if God views each cigarette I smoke as if I was trying to kill myself. My origional thought is certain sins are somewhat trivial and easily forgiven. what if I’m wrong?

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