Putting the big B in Believe

Language sucks.


I love it, I love it as much as possible. As my linguistics teacher put it, what makes language amazing is that it has infinite creative capacity. That is to say, a new thing is being said every day, we are always creating new meaning just by running our big fat mouths.


That said, sometimes we use that infinite creative capacity to recycle the same trash over and over.


Recently I’ve had this feeling about the word “Believe.” If you’ve had enough conversations about humanism and religion, you may know the problem I’m talking about already.


When you speak with a ‘Believer’ (big B) about their Belief (big B), you find yourself confronted about your belief (little B) in science. Example:


“I truly think atheism is its own religion now, they just Believe in science.”


I could write a book about all the reasons that is ridiculous, but I’m pretty sure Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins beat me to it.


For most people, that is non-crazy-internet-people, there is no confusion here. When I say, “I believe that works.” That doesn’t mean that I’ve built a church around it, and I want to have my child’s foreskin removed in reverence of its divine law. When I say, “I Believe in god.” That is a different statement, with unrelated baggage and weight.


See, ‘I believe’, as a package, has gained definitions that stand so far apart from each other, they can’t even call each other without an international calling package.


I believe (little B), is a tentative statement. It says, “I am pretty sure, but don’t hold me to that if I’m wrong. I mean, totally run with it for right now, but feel free to call me a dick if someone contradicts me immediately.”


I Believe (big B), is a definitive statement. It says, “I know this for a fact, to the point that I’m willing to waste a large amount of life resources on it, ostracize others socially over it, and if my holy book is any indication I’m even willing to kill children over it. But only if my god is totally pranking me.”


I believe in science, until a piece of science is proven wrong, then I’ll go with the new prevailing theory. It isn’t really that big of a deal, except those times where it is (like when someone dies a terrible death because a theory is wrong). But the wonderful thing about science, is that it admits it was wrong. Oops, turns out that gives you cancer, sorry about that, someone forgot a 1 in the equation.


It is easy to see how someone would consider the two similar, would imagine that humanists/scientists/skeptics are somehow worshipping science like some deity. The men in labcoats as infallible priests, with some vague equation god as the head. Personally, I don’t care about scientists, and if you ever see scientists go at each other in scientific journals, you would see that scientists don’t care about scientists. What is important is being right, and they wouldn’t miss the chance to rip a well known scientist to shreds if their theory turned out to be wrong, that’s how you make it on the mean streets of science.


That is something I can Believe in, humans motivated by being dicks.



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