I have a tendency to get attached to my beliefs, because in a very real sense they’re the only possessions which can’t be taken from me. I’ve poured countless hours of effort into them, whether I derived the belief independently or found them in another person’s writings. I find it easier to be an intellectual parasite in this sense, because independently deriving beliefs is much harder. But some beliefs can’t be easily falsified, so critically examining them is often just as difficult as independently discovering them. Either way, the prospect of abandoning any of my beliefs is painful because it involves admitting I was wrong. I always find that difficult; the shame of admitting my mistake and the difficulty of re-aligning my worldview pose serious challenges.
I’ve come to see my beliefs as priceless glass sculptures; I instinctively treasure them but shouldn’t hold them so close that they’ll hurt me if and when they shatter. As a result, I’m suspicious of all my beliefs to varying degrees. I hug beliefs in lower, less doubtful levels closer to my chest, but only after examining them carefully for cracks. Beliefs in higher, more doubtful levels remain at arms’ length in case they shatter.
This strategy helps to avoid pain, but I suspect it also makes me more intellectually… nimble. Less attachment to any particular belief makes it possible for me to change my position with greater ease when new evidence is uncovered. If new evidence is never forthcoming, that’s either because I completely understand the universe (which is a “problem” I’d really like to have) or because I’m ignoring evidence that I simply don’t want to see.
I can’t conclusively tell the difference between those two possibilities, which terrifies me…Last modified February 6th, 2012