Sunday, December 22, 2013

Empiricism vs. authoritarianism

Who do you trust more, someone who says "this is what I have observed through a series of careful experiments" or someone who says "this is how it is because I say so"? Do you feel more comfortable with someone who says "I can show you how I reached this conclusion" or someone who says "I'm related to the man at the top, so trust me"? Who's the bigger asshole, the person who says "we have no clear evidence to go off of, so I wouldn't be so sure" or the person who says "God told me personally, so I'm right"?

As odd as it may sound, I never really thought about these questions until my early twenties when an email from a disaffected sibling mention the conflict between empiricism and authoritarianism. To my embarrassment, I wasn't even entirely sure what empiricism was.

It got me thinking. Perhaps not surprisingly I thought of Alma 32 and the request that the reader "experiment upon my words". I really wanted faith to be an empirically testable thing, just like the seed analogy. Did this experiment of faith work the same way as planting seeds in various soil? Was it reliable? And what about verse 32? "Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away." How many people have not experienced any growth from their seed of faith? How many people have experimented only to watch the experiment fail?

I began to think about my life a little differently. How did I want to see the world? Who did I want making decisions for me? Who could I trust most? How could I trust myself? Was I going to behave in a certain way simply because someone told me that that's what God wants me to do? Wouldn't it better to weigh all my options carefully and trust collective experience?

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