You could be a possibilian... - Daily Monitor

You could be a possibilian...

Sunday January 10 2010

By John K. Abimanyi

This is probably the latest human belief, choosing to fall short of the boldness of atheists and the religious and instead taking on a neutral approach, writes John K. Abimanyi

For as long as man has lived, two opposing views have lived in infinite enmity of each other: that God really exists, and, that no such things as spiritual beings (God inclusive), actually exist. But if you have been bothered by the sheer shortage of options in the eternal debate about this planet’s origins, brace yourself because here is the third option; one that will discard both the above by the wave of the hand, as highly inadequate.

While theists and atheists will strongly assert that God does and does not exist respectively, possibilianism opts not to believe in any of the two. It instead keeps its mind open to all possibilities, not locking itself to one specific ideology, but testing as many avenues as show up.

Spearheaded by an American neuroscientist, David Eagleman, possibilianism now seems to offer a fresh avenue of debate in the controversy that is the existence of God to anyone who is not satisfied with the other two. It is based on a fiction book he wrote, Sum, which explores a wide range of possibilities of what our existence here is really about and what the afterlife could be.

He recently delved into the world of his new “creation” when he was hosted on the BBC World Service’s The Interview Show by Carey Gracie. On the show, he said the world or existence in general is too dynamic for mankind to limit herself to beliefs that close the debate on the existence of God or not.

Mr Eagleman stated that the best option was for man to choose to be ignorant, and by that, not lock out key bits of information or views about the world. His stance pointed to the notion that both the religious and atheists assumed a know-it-all superiority, and yet they cannot have answers enough to the questions about earth’s origins.

Possibilianism believes that man is too limited in the scope of events happening around him to lock himself to a specific religion. “...With possibilianism, I am hoping to define a new position - one that emphasises the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story,” Wikipedia quotes Mr Eagleman.

His disagreement with either atheism or religion is that so much is declared in respective books with so much certainty and yet we are only human and cannot really know the answers to the questions therein. His book is thus “a celebration of the vastness of our ignorance...and the one thing we are really ignorant about is what we are doing here and what our purpose is...if anything happens if we die...if there’s any sort of higher intelligence. Instead of being assertive, I shine a light around the possibility space.”

Mr Eagleman says most teachings discourage us from going out and exploring the possibilities surrounding the mystery of our existence in the world, and yet the very teachings are not authority enough to close the debate. “Atheists and religious personalities tend to give the impression that they have got it figured out and that there is nothing interesting going on in the outer spaces...and yet we do not know enough to commit to the thought that there is nothing interesting going on out there,” he told the BBC.

In his book therefore, Mr Eagleman took a dive into his possibility space by creating 40 fiction tales, making suggestions of what God could really be and what the afterlife could really be about. In one of these tales, he points to the possibility that God could be a married couple, and in another that God is a committee or as minute as a bacterium. Another of these tales creates a possibility that during the afterlife, we all get to choose what breed of beings we would like to be after death, whether it is horses, or termites among others.

Mr Eagleman believes that the absolute certainty concerning God with which religious people have lived is the very engine that has fuelled some of earth’s biggest and bloodiest conflicts. He explains that by choosing to believe that Islam or Christianity for that matter, are the only absolute truth, and that the rest are worthless, is the very cause for war as we try to get what we have chosen to believe and from then on, we fight our way into making our beliefs legislation over others’ beliefs. “That hence becomes the creed for people to go and kill,” he says.

By taking on a more cautious stance and leaving room for more possibilities as to who is the true God and whether he exists in the first place anyway, he seems to state that we could have had a safer earth than we do now (that has been affected by radical religious views). Possibilianism also creates space for more education on things concerning the spirit world and our earth, as one would forever be in constant school, learning the many possibilities out there.

Quoting such great philosophers as Voltaire and Socrates, he lays down the principle of ignorance. The greatest wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing, as Socrates said, and, as Voltaire said, the best position is to say “I don’t know” and “What if”?

Possibilianism thus seems to be a new sort of religion that seems to meet all the needs of the religion-less. Its propelling force says, “We do not subscribe to any dogma,” and hence would seem to be an opening for anybody seeking a belief that at the least has no such limitations as stringent rules as is common in virtually all religions world over.

Because possibilianism harbours no beliefs, it would thus border on the lives of the faithless, by being open to any possibility that came their way, and then, not particularly believing in it but staying open to more as they come along.
Stepping into the shoes of religious teaching, Mr Eagleman’s teachings can only be blasphemous, even downright treasonable. But his views stand directly in line with most of the post modernism thinking that takes away from morality, or religious teaching, the right to determine right from wrong and instead place it in the hands of human reason.
Possibilianism also seems to join the long queue of people who question the authenticity of any of the holy books like the Bible and Quran as they go on to assert not only the existence of God but also, the certainty of a court-session-like afterlife. Mr Eagleman’s view is that the Bible or Quran just cannot have knowledge enough to assert, with even the slightest form of certainty, that God exists, or that there is heaven or hell.

When Mr Eagleman went public about his belief on radio in February last year, he says hundreds emailed him after the show, telling him they are possibilians too. You too could for ages have harboured strong disagreements with the established religious teachings around. You could after all be a possibilian.

life3: Mr Eagleman, opposite, is of the view that the Bible or Quran just cannot have enough knowledge to assert, with even the slightest form of certainty, that God exists. Therefore to him, creation story, above, is a lie, as is heaven, extreme right.