“Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.”
– Carl Sagan, Astronomer
(Photo Credit: jonmartin () via Compfight cc)
This keeps echoing in my mind – especially since the claims that mainstream science considers extraordinary (“extrasensory perception”, nonhuman intelligence and empathy, etc.) don’t seem extraordinary at all, simply on an empirical basis. Every mother has had “ESP” experiences connected with her child. Every person with a pet has had the opportunity to feel a deep connection with a nonhuman. Stories and anecdotes abound – and modern minds dismiss them, due to their anecdotal nature. Of course, unless we share them and explore them together, they can never escape the realm of individual anecdote and cohere as patterns of life. But we don’t talk about them, and so we don’t explore them together, and so they remain obscure and taboo.
Rarely can you find a family that wakes up, sits down for breakfast, and discusses and interprets each other’s dreams. But you can find this ritual, or something in the same vein, with long tradition in many indigenous cultures.
So we don’t do this, instead we invest our village and family inquiry, or rather our belief, in the institutions of science, since the members of this culture see science as the realm of academically trained experts who demand our trust.
This science, the science of the 20th and 21st century, seems just to drive us faster and faster to the precipice of the Anthropocene extinction. After countless millennia of human generations, on the contrary, the claims of the modern mind seem extraordinary.
Some extraordinary claims I hear all the time –
“I’m not racist.” Okay, white person, show me your evidence. The extraordinary evidence. We sit devouring the world, and we rely on brown people the world over to do the heavy lifting at gun point to make this happen. How can either of us claim ourselves free of racism?
“Civilization can be sustainable.” Okay, millennia ago, after we turned the first forest into the first desert (note the former Fertile Crescent became an array of famous deserts), we exposed the absurdity of this. Almost ten millennia later, where can I find the evidence – the extraordinary evidence, that explains all the other evidence pointing in the opposite direction?
“Animals don’t feel or think. Trees don’t feel or think. Only humans feel and think.” Modern science doesn’t even support this anymore – and yet we still experiment on fish, injecting them with acid to see if they feel pain, operate our nightmare factory farms and animal testing laboratories, our massive monocropped agricultural slavescapes, on these notions. We tear the bodies of forests apart, and then replant them with fragments of the refugees from other forests. We tear the world apart, demanding it prove to us that it deserves our pity or mercy, much less our courtesy.
“Facts are real. We can know things for sure. Some things are true, and some things are false.” Another one not even supported by science – and how many times can our experts’ foresight prove blind, really? Economic, scientific, pedagogical, political experts constantly propping up a collapsing house. Why would we ever undertake a massive one-size-fits-all program like fluoridation, vaccinations, education, or civilization itself, knowing that we will crush countless exceptions and contexts underfoot?
All the extraordinary claims rest squarely in the domain of the collapsing culture that has done its best to devour the world, and which will fail at even that – though it has done plenty of harm on its way down.
The everyday claims of what anyone can experience – empathy, spirit, personal observation and experimentation – remain the mastery of those who live close to the land, and do not relegate inquiry to an expert class of society. Sacred farmer-gardners, brilliant trackers, herbalists and grandparents.