What is the meaning of Wonder? That is, why do I use the taunt about “superstition”?
I have a very pragmatic attitude toward belief. I test all things by their results. This attitude is in opposition to beliefs that are based on untested theories, social conformity, magical thinking, or ideal circumstances.
Imagination is a great thing, and ideals are arguably necessary for motivation. However, a lot of people argue, promote, and defend ideas that don’t have a basis in reality.
Such ideas may not be derived from observed phenomena, or even social realities. They may have literally no consequences in the real world. They may not even provide a useful model for representing reality or working out some practical problem.
Often, they are nothing other than complex systems that occupy the time of a few specialists in working out the details, filling in all the tiny little spaces that haven’t yet been painted. Other people are impressed by the complexity of the ideas and all the handwaving of the specialists, without really understanding the details or the theoretical basis for the system. At best, such systems are internally consistent; at worst, no one is able to understand them well enough to know whether they are consistent or not, and in practice they turn out to mean nothing at all.
Sometimes the specialists are admired because they are obviously smart, and then the idealists start to romanticize their systems of thought. That’s when the real trouble starts, because then the fantasists who admire the idealists start thinking of the specialists as godlike.
The superstitious fantasists don’t really understand the system of the specialists, and they don’t really understand the enthusiasm of the idealists, but they understand that they need something, and they believe that they are not smart enough to come up with something, so they put their superstitious trust in a complex, transcendental, manmade system that they don’t really understand or intrinsically care about:
- The Scholastic theology of the early church fathers
- The mysticism of Hindus, Gnostics, or any of a thousand New Age incarnations
- The philosophy of Hegel, Marx, or any of their ideological descendants
- The psychology of Freud, Lacan, or any other unscientific theorist
- The political philosophy of the universally sovereign metastate
- The educational philosophy of mandatory, universal, institutional education
- The theory of humans evolving from animals by natural selection
- The theory of life originating from non-life
I won’t even bother to list racial, feminist, and queer superstitions. They aren’t part of any system; they are just collections of random feelings and slogans.