I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth. – John Keats
I’ve recently been reading through a few books on the rise of Terrorism in the west and the declining influence of the UN and I had this thought;
Whatever Happened to Humility?
Everyone assumes they have the answers. Nobody stops long enough to think that maybe, just maybe they might be wrong.
What these recent books have been alluding to but never really admitting is that the rise of fundamentalist thought has paralyzed growth across a broad spectrum of disciplines and has coincided with the decline in broad based “liberal” education, not just here in North America but all over the world. In short; the Renaissance man is dead, killed jointly by the nuclear physicist and the fire and brimstone preacher.
In the west the result has been the rise of atheism while in other parts of the world it has led to militant forms of tribalism. We see it here in Canada very clearly. The most recent census data shows 23% of Canadians claiming “no religion.” That’s an increase from less than 1% as recently as the 1930s. In that same time span fundamentalist views of Islam in the Middle-East and around the world have similarly increased.
When you look at the numbers in terms of educated professionals they tell an interesting story. A western trained scientist is more likely to claim atheism while a Middle-Eastern scientist is more likely to adopt a fundamentalist view of Islam. By comparison the more educated you are in the arts and humanities, regardless of where you come from, the more tolerant you are of opposing viewpoints. The reason seems clear to me; when we train people to think in terms of black and white, they tend to view the whole world that way and can’t tolerate ambiguity. Tolerance lives in shades of grey.
Most of the more militant atheists tend to claim a monopoly on reason with a zeal that rivals that of any religious leader. But that reason goes out the window when a theist enters the conversation, the contempt goes beyond all reason. By the same token religion has a bad track record of denying proven facts when the truth of the matter is staring it in the face.
I blame the education system. Simply put, a system that is married to facts above all else kills tolerance and mortally wounds creativity. What we need isn’t more reason or even better proof, what we need is more humility on all sides.
The definition of humility is to know, what you don’t know. Humility loves questions, searches for answers and is always open to new ideas. You would think that professions that seek answers like scientists and preachers would both be among the most humble and open minded people on earth but they have been taught to be closed minded and arrogant. If our society is to evolved beyond sectarian violence and intolerance it will be the humble that lead the way.