Good And Bad Reasons For Believing

The famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote a wonderful letter to his 10 year-old daughter Juliet on good and bad reasons for believing. “Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority, or revelation?”

I found myself involuntarily cheering: “Yes, YES!” while reading it this morning. My thanks to Jason Kottke for the heads-up.

1 thought on “Good And Bad Reasons For Believing”

  1. The letter is an excerpt from Dawkins book, “A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science and Love” (Houghton Mifflin, 2003). I too cheer its content and wish that more people would adopt the kind of critical thinking it promotes, in all realms of life. I see a lot of the authoritarian, traditionalist dynamic still at work in the Yoga world, with many teachers citing definitions of sutras as if they were gospel and not subject to interpretation, and explaining the meanings of various practices as if they were finite. These same teachers would recoil if someone suggested that the Bible is historical gospel, so why the double standard? I also see a lot of teachers telling students what is happening in their bodies physically and energetically during asana practice instead of letting each student find their own truth. Rather than encouraging (subtly or unsubtly) our students to trade one belief system for another, we ought to be helping them widen the lens through which they view and interpret their own experiences. We can continue to plumb the ancient practices for their wisdom while at the same time encouraging critical thinking about their origins. Uncertainty is a necessary component of a conscious and intelligent life — we can use it to sustain a vital, evolving approach that remains relevant and responsive to our ever-changing world and needs.

    Om shanti.–>

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