“Seven Rules for Believing”
by Chet Raymo
“I was reading again recently Richard Dawkins’ letter to his daughter Juliet on her tenth birthday, urging her to avoid tradition, authority and revelation as reasons for believing. Ask for evidence, he writes- evidence that is at least potentially available to all. Good advice, and I wouldn’t mind passing on Dawkins’ letter to my own children or grandchildren. But there is further advice I would add.
A week or so ago I proposed here Four Rules of Rational Thinking, and had some savvy comments by readers. Let me now propose Seven Rules of Believing that I would offer for the consideration of young people.
1. Respect what your parents and teachers tell you, but keep an open mind.
2. Be skeptical of anything told you by people who are themselves not a little bit skeptical. Be especially skeptical of anything told you by people who believe they know the mind of God.
3. Trust science as a reliable guide to truth, but attend to poets too. Every “fact” is an open door to mystery.
4. Be willing to say “I don’t know.”
5. Don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong.”
6. Keep a sense of humor.
7. Respect the beliefs of others, in so far as they are willing to respect your beliefs.”
“The 4 Rules of Rational Thinking”
“Brownie, dwarf, elf, Zeus, enchantress, crop circles, genie, gnome, goblin, gremlin, hob, imp, leprechaun, UFO, mermaid, seraphim, unicorn, nymph, puck, siren, angel, sprite, demon, phantom, Osiris, poltergeist, virgin birth, spoon bending, Bigfoot, revenant, shade, shadow, Leviathan, levitation, soul, specter, spirit, ghoul, vampire, wraith, zombie, astrologer, seventy-two virgins, Athena, streets of gold, banshee, augur, auspex, miracle, clairvoyant, diviner, limbo, druid, dowser, fortuneteller, Beelzebub, dryad, haruspex, pyramid power, horoscopist, magus, medium, Thor, tarot, oracle, palmist, card reader, seer, sibyl, griffin, soothsayer, sorcerer, tea-leaf reader, witch, wizard, astrologer, augurer, answered prayer, Eros, clairvoyant, werewolf, transubstantiation, conjurer, diviner, enchanter, dragon, god, goddess, fortune teller, alien abduction, magician, ESP, magus, Cupid, alchemy, necromancer, Grendel, fairy, thaumaturge, warlock, witch, Elysium, Shangri-la, Holy Trinity, dreamland, perpetual motion, enchantment, fairyland, crystaline spheres, pearly gates, promised land, the Rapture, voodoo.
• Do not use more when less will suffice.
• Prefer the probable to the improbable.
• Do not evoke the exotic when the commonplace will do.
• Be prepared to admit you are wrong.”