Dichotomies are limiting. Also, unrealistic. Theist/atheist. Believer/skeptic. Conservative/liberal. Follower/leader. Human/animal. Matter/energy.
The world comes in a lot more flavors than just vanilla and chocolate. There's all sorts of shades of gray between black and white. Reality doesn't completely conform to how we Homo sapiens' conceptualize it.
Eagleman is a scientist. He recognizes that the scientific method is more than passively open-minded; science also actively seeks out new possibilities, creatively wondering "what if... ."
Yet this doesn't mean giving credence to every crazy notion that comes along. Possibilities are hypotheses. If a possibility can't be confirmed by solid evidence, it remains what it is.
I just watched a twenty-two minute You Tube video of Eagleman giving an entertaining talk at a TEDx, meaningTED-like, conference. (Thanks, Dogribb, for sharing this link in a blog comment.)
The guy is lively, sharp, humorous, and youthful-appearing. He's one of those doctors that I encounter more and more frequently now that I'm over sixty: looking like they're not out of high school yet.
I was inspired by David Eagleman's presentation.
His basic attitude toward life, reality, and the cosmos is pretty much the same as mine. Explore possibilities, but know the difference between what's only a product of human imagination and what's truly "out there."
Out there needed to put between quotation marks because everything we know and experience is in here -- within our brains. Eagleman, a neuroscientist, says that consciousness is one of the many mysteries which science hasn't yet been able to unravel.
And may never do so. Uncertainty almost certainly always will be part of the human condition.
We may never understand how our universe came to be or how our brains are able to experience it. As Eagleman says in the video, the human brain is the most complex entity we know about.
Maybe, he observes, one day we could put together a model of the brain akin to assembling a trillion piece Lego set. Yet at what point could we conclude that what we've constructed knows what it is like to taste some mint-flavored hummus?
(Not the example he gave, but I just tried some that my wife experimented with making. We both agreed that the experiment never should be repeated, as minty hummus turned out to elicit an ugh from us.)
This world is amazing.
Every day we should look upon life with wide-open possibility-seeking eyes, embracing both what we know and what we don't -- the latter being a much vaster portion of the cosmic ocean that we're floating in.
I liked how Eagleman ends his video:
Try to lead a life that's free from dogma, full of awe and wonder, and to celebrate possibility, and to praise uncertainty.
Religion, he says, can't be embraced because there's no evidence of a supernatural being or the many other sorts of divinities hypothesized by the world's religions. Yet a rigid form of atheism also isn't defensible, because we simply don't know what lies beyond the horizon of current scientific knowledge.
So that leaves us with possibilities, a great place to be. You can explore Eagleman's notion of possibility space via various links on his web site.