Humans are honey badgers… well, some of us

As much as I love geeks, occasionally their lack of whimsy or imagination can be painfully frustrating. When things don’t fall squarely within the confines of logic or science, they must be denigrated and/or mocked until they fall into line.

Except that sometimes logic and science isn’t the point.

Sometimes there are things both fascinating and powerful that fall very much outside the realm of logic and science, and the human mind couldn’t give a shit that what it believes isn’t technically “real”. (And no, Lord praising will not be occurring in this blog post.) šŸ™‚

Sometimes, where the inexplicable is concerned, humans are veritable honey badgers. Make sense? Replicable? No. And we don’t give a shit.

Over the past week or two, I’ve shared a couple of stories from others on the social webs, both of which I find fascinating for that reason. The geeks were all over the lack of science, which, given that one of the stories involved dead people, seemed kind of irrelevant.

In this story: The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills, over 100 southeast Asian immigrants to the US died in the early 80s. From nightmares. Now, of course, the story isn’t quite that simple, but I recommend giving it a read. Fascinating stuff. A really interesting illustration of the power of belief, community, and ritual.

In this story: The Truth About Hair and why Indians would keep their hair long, during the Vietnam War, Native American trackers whose hair had been shorn when they joined the military lost their skills. Is hair really an extension of the nervous system, or just an easy event to latch on to when the answer is more psychological?

Some things will fail testing. Some occurrences don’t fit into neat boxes. And hey, there’s always the observer effect.

And yet, we live with and are affected by the inexplicable every day. Doctors can tell an infertile woman that they can find no medical reason she can’t get pregnant. Doesn’t mean she’ll just say, “Oh, okay…” and conceive the next day. Or would it convince a suicide bomber not to detonate if an atheist pointed out that there is no proof of a G/god or afterlife? Doubtful.

As cool as science is, the power of belief and the inexplicable can be far cooler. Because you don’t have to stop where science has to. The imagination can take over and “what if” becomes your set of parameters. Of course, we’re humans, and I’m a realist, so I’m aware that we’d be as or more likely to use that to hurt people as to help them should we achieve miraculous abilities or understanding, but isn’t it the rule-bending and -breaking “what ifs” that give birth to true innovation?

I guess there is a branch of science where that stuff fits. It is called theoretical physics, after all. But of course it’s often not our own minds that hold us back, but the words from the ones around us. Kids are wild and creative and adventurous and not the least self-conscious… up to a certain age. That’s not accidental. Happens to grown-ups, too.

As noted, I’m not terribly religious, nor am I a patchouli-scented hippie, but imagining is interesting. Simply believing without having to tear things apart to determine how they tick is often a pleasant way to live. And horror movies would be rather few and far between if the existence of monsters had to be proven before they could star in films. There is plenty of ground between believing everything and believing nothing.

And besides, as Arthur C. Clarke told us, there’s a pretty good chance the magic is just technology, anyway. We just haven’t caught up to it yet. And this honey badger is okay with that, too.

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