The Walls of Division: Just a Theory

by Caela

Introduction. I have decided to study our tribal mindset. In a series of articles under The Walls of Division, I will try to discuss the the human nature of belonging and the sense of group identities.

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like US, are We
And everyone else is They.

-Ruyard Kipling, “A Friend of the Family”

Just a Theory

As a little girl, we had homework about magnetism. We were asked to test several samples. It was a little boring because I knew what to expect. The magnet will attract metals and will not affect non-metals. And then on the list of things to test was a peso coin. I was sure that they will attract. How do I know? You don’t question self-evident truths.

When I placed the magnet over the coin, annoyingly, they didn’t attract. I remember thinking, hang on, there must be something wrong. So, I changed magnets. I have a little piggy bank back then. I opened it and started checking the coins one by one. Same results. What was wrong with this magnet?

The problem wasn’t the magnet or the coin. The problem was me and my confident and absolute certainty that they will attract. I had a basic choice: to trust the knowledge I was so sure of or trust the result staring me in the face. I had to trust the latter.

When I was younger I used to think of science as a constant thing, a universal truth. Being someone who studied in this field both applied and theoretical, I can truthfully say that this is not so. Today’s theories can easily be disputed by tomorrow’s knowledge and today’s knowledge can easily be disputed by tomorrow’s discoveries. No knowledge is set on stone, just theories to be replaced when more is learned. Perhaps, this is the reason why science could not be the basis of religious or political ideologies.

In science, truth and certainty and fact are not set on stone and must be subject to doubt. In science, our truths, beliefs, knowledge and theories are enough to understand our present reality but are continuously subjected to doubts and questioning putting aside assumptions and previously held knowledge and beliefs for it to progress. But this is not so for religion or political creed. We, as human beings, want our gods, our truths, our rights and our obligations to be right and good forever.

The Greek philosopher Xenophanes argued that “men create the gods in their own image. If cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the work that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves.”

In reality, beliefs, truths and our convictions, as it is in science, are just theories that can be changed over time. It can be proven or debunked. One may indeed argue that our values did not spring out of religion but instead, our religions sprang out of our values. Most religions preaches about responsibility, honor, love, respect for life, reciprocity and other fundamental values regardless of whether it is written or not, whether it is an order from the gods or not, we follow it because we believe that it is right and that’s why we do not question it. From the Secular Humanists to Existentialist to the Holy Catholic Church to Buddhist Temples to the Church of Satan and to Esoteric Orders, these fundamental values are upheld.

Innocent lives are rarely, if ever, taken in the name of science yet people easily do so in the name of religion or political creed. Honest and loving people who loved their children and respected their parents seem to have no qualm whatsoever in taking the lives of others’ children and parents. Why is this so? If our gods, rights, truths and obligations are right and good forever, how can one religion or political creed allow the free practice of others while another refuses to allow the others’ existence? Is blue really the enemy of red? Are colors and symbols really the reason?

What I know is that our biggest enemy is not each other but ignorance. They say all heroes need a monster to slay. They often find it within, if not without. But then this is just my theory and like all theories it may or may not be true or hold true forever.

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