Monday, December 2, 2013

A Psychological Pillar

While traveling in Arkansas for the Thanksgiving holiday, I took my family to visit Bluff Dweller's Cavern in Noel, Missouri.  I highly recommend the cavern for a family tour.  It's not what I would call a spectacular cavern, but it is beautiful and very friendly on the legs and feet--a plus if you have younger children.

Among the things I found fascinating was the very last cavern room.  Our guide pointed to a giant pillar which had been constructed in the middle of that room.

"That is a psychological pillar," she explained.  "During the 1950's, when this cavern was designated a nuclear fallout shelter, the government wanted us to build that pillar in the middle of this room.  It is not necessary.  It doesn't hold anything up or bear any weight.  The government folks believed people would be freaked out at the size of this room if there wasn't something in the middle seeming to hold up the ceiling."

In some ways, it is rather head shaking since the roof of that particular room had been holding up just fine for tens of thousands of years.  However, there is no doubt that there are indeed people who need such psychological "pillars" in their lives--think Linus from the Peanuts comic strip.

Ideally, we mature and are able to one day come to the realization that those psychological pillars are unnecessary.  We come to realize they are simply an unneeded crutch which has given us a sense of safety and security even though it doesn't hold up anything.

Some people have called religious faith such a psychological pillar.

I have come to appreciate the criticism, and if religion is a human construct, then, indeed, it is a psychological pillar.

But that is a big, if...a monumental assumption.

For those of us of a religious bent do not assume that religion is a human construct.  We assume that God has brought us to believe in Him.  Some neurosurgeons have even come to the conclusion that the brain is hardwired for belief in God.  If the brain is indeed hardwired, then why?  It would seem "evolution"--in my opinion guided evolution--has brought humankind to a place where we naturally and instinctively believe there is something beyond our physical universe.  Would "evolution" produce such an unnecessary "crutch"?  After all, if you study religion and how it has been practiced throughout the ages, you would see that it consumes precious time and resources which should be used for survival and reproduction--the main pillars of evolutionary theory.  Surely, evolution would have naturally deselected this genetic wiring if it was unnecessary--at least in theory.

But it hasn't.  It's still there.  It certainly does not seem to be a human construct.

Perhaps indeed we are religiously wired to believe in God because there is a God.  Perhaps religious wiring is God's way of helping us to see and understand there is a natural law of justice and right behavior so that we may better know how to deal with one another and the world around us.  Perhaps our brains are wired in the manner for belief because this belief gives us a mechanism to overcome the selfish nature which resides in each and every human being.  Perhaps religious belief is not a crutch but the very foundation of how we must live and move and have our being.

There are those who disagree.  "A psychological pillar."  "A crutch."  This is religious faith for them.

However, please allow me to submit a philosophical truth or two.  Philosophy is a human construct.  So is science.  Both of these arenas tend to see religion as a "psychological pillar" or "crutch" or "human construct."  Why they don't seem to apply this truth to themselves is somewhat beyond me.  So, what is good for the goose is indeed good for the gander.  If these two items are human constructs, then are they psychological pillars?  Are they crutches which are leaned upon to help folks cope with the reality of the world?

Of course they are.  In fact, when one takes philosophy to its extreme (Nietzsche), there are no rules.  There are no absolutes.  There is complete relativism, and we are basically allowed to do whatever we want for there are no morals.  Science leads us to the same place.  Richard Dawkins even says so by concluding that at the very foundation of our species--there is no right, there is no wrong.  We are simply dancing to the tune of our DNA.

These human constructs basically eradicate any foundation for morality, justice, or right behavior.  They leave us absolute freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, especially if we can avoid anyone with more power or authority than ourselves.

In a very real way, they remove any sort of remorse or guilt for any particular behavior committed.  They remove any sort of real responsibility a person may have.

So, let's put this in perspective:
  • A human construct
  • Which removes any universal values
  • Which allows almost complete freedom
  • Which removes any sort of guilt
  • Which removes any sort of foundation for responsibility 
And this is not a psychological pillar?



Kathy Suarez said...

Science is not a human construct. It is based on facts and observation. It is admirable to try to prove the existence of God with arguments, but many very smart people have said that it is futile....

We walk by faith.

Kevin Haug said...


Obviously you have no experience with dealing with the history of science or the philosophy of science. Do some study in the area, and come visit this post in a couple of years.