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Discussion 7 to Meditation 299
The Need for Proof.

by Loren Taylor

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For me, the most important word in these discussions is "proof". Like many discussions about the existence of god(s), the central issue is finding an objective standard by which to judge Belief with the same criteria as Fact. And because even the definition of words can be interpreted in different ways, most arguments do little to dissuade (so-called) believers or non-believers from their points of view.

We can re-examine these issues within a cultural context, something that I've touched on in a previous essay (see Buddhism Explained). The need to prove the existence of a god, much like the origin of the universe, is very much the product of a Western mindset.

While commerce is not unique to Western culture, it could be said that the advent of industrial capitalism (and its attending consumerism) makes commerce THE primary consideration for living in a Western society. Modern commerce requires that all aspects of living be quantified. The need to quantify is obvious for commodities and means of exchange (money); the concept of "services" extends this notion of quantity to human interaction. The (inexact) science of economics contains many theories that seek to explain human behavior with elegant mathematical equations---we even have "marketing psychologists.

Likewise, a Western mindset will usually approach any issue involving mysticism in one of two ways:

  1. seek a rationally-based argument that can assign a value---this is, in fact, what those asking scientific verification are seeking. (I'm quite sure the announcement of any discovery of an artifact that could prove Jesus' existence would quickly be followed by speculation of its' market value).
  2. develop an elaborate system of rationalizations to explain the contradictions of a given theology, and why scientific proof doesn't exist. Quite often, this takes the form of assigning an omnipotence to whatever deity is being discussed.

By contrast, many non-Western philosophies do not require such rigid standards, nor the need for material manifestations of all aspects of existence. For example, Buddhism says quite simply that the universe has always existed in one form or another, and always will. In this context, even modern science retains a mystical quality, as the process of discovery uncovers ever-more wondrous details of the universe.

This is also why I find the Apathetic Agnostic point-of-view so appealing. Information, communication, and exchange of ideas are endlessly fascinating for me--finding the Ultimate Answer is not.

Loren Taylor
Zurich, Switzerland