The Very Hungry Skeptic
Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses art, poetry and literature as an entree into skepticism and critical thinking. As an historian of science, she contrasts the poetic stance with the scientific worldview. She talks about temporal biases within science, and urges scientific humility, as opposed to scientism. She criticizes some forms of skepticism within the humanities that consider science to be just one mythic narrative among many others. And she explores how poetry and ritual may enrich the skeptical life.
What I wanted to focus on was the last part of that–“how poetry and ritual may enrich the skeptical life”. Often it is said that skepticism is empty, that it fills no void in a person’s life. Yeah, I suppose that is true, or can be true. The skepticism that is prominent is very Science-y, and while that can be very intellectually satisfying, it is not, perhaps, so “enriching”. It certainly is not emotionally satisfying.
It was thus very interesting to listen to this woman talk about skepticism from the point of view of Literature, and esp. Poetry. I used to love both those things back before I lost my faith, and listening to Ms. Hecht reminded me that I have, apparently, been “too busy” debating, looking at evidence, etc, to get back to it. Yet poetry and literature are very important human endeavours that add value and meaning to the Human Experience.
These are just some thoughts connected with listening to this particular podcast episode. I’m not trying to make a “point”, other than to say that if Skepticism seems all Dry and Humourless and just a bunch of old Science types trying to prove gods or ghosts don’t exist, and you hunger for something to fill the, shall we say…soul…try some literature and poetry. According to Jennifer they are full of skeptical goodness!
Here, have a listen!