avia: Two swans in a painted style, with a soft purple color effect that looks fantasy. (mysterious swans)
[personal profile] avia
[Public post.]

I've been reading this article which a friend showed to me, and finding it very interesting. It's a speech by Douglas Adams, and the idea is this: "there probably isn't a god or supernatural creatures, but strangely, some things work better when you act like this particular kind of god, or supernatural creature, is part of the situation".

I'm not talking about very general things like morality or being kind to each other. I'm talking about, and he's talking about, very particular situations where it works to assume there is a supernatural creature there for some reason. The examples that he gives are about the rice planting traditions of Bali, which are based on a very strict religious calendar, and Feng Shui, which is based on ideas like "how a dragon would move around this house, would they be comfortable here". And both times, scientists went in and said, we have modern knowledge now and you don't need this, you actually can be happier if you do it this modern way. And the modern way didn't work. For some reason, all the scientific calculations about how it was supposed to work, were not as good as the traditions that assumed there was a god or a dragon there.

And the point he comes to is this:

...as we become more and more scientifically literate, it's worth remembering that the fictions with which we previously populated our world may have some function that it's worth trying to understand and preserve the essential components of, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water; because even though we may not accept the reasons given for them being here in the first place, it may well be that there are good practical reasons for them, or something like them, to be there. I suspect that as we move further and further into the field of digital or artificial life we will find more and more unexpected properties begin to emerge out of what we see happening and that this is a precise parallel to the entities we create around ourselves to inform and shape our lives and enable us to work and live together. Therefore, I would argue that though there isn't an actual god there is an artificial god and we should probably bear that in mind.

I felt like something like this was happening when I read about Dr Ian Stevenson's studies on reincarnation. If you read a good summary of these studies, they are actually really powerful because they give strong evidence for a thing happening that is like reincarnation that you can't really explain in other ways, like people lying or having false memories. The evidence is just too strong that they don't. (And, often involves physical things that people can't fake, like a birthmark in the place where there was a scar on the person they claim to be in the past life, which has been checked by medical records of that past person, who did live. Sometimes there were several birthmarks and they all matched. This is as well as memories, knowing what items belong to that person, knowing that person's family and where they lived, etc.)

Well, we probably don't want to jump to the conclusion that these things are true right now. But, what we can say, is that if we assume that "something like these things" exists, then it gives us a good model for how to work with the world. It's a model that we can understand that somehow makes these things make sense. Of course, if we find out later that the model doesn't fit some other part of the situation, we can throw it away. But right now, it seems to predict things that the other models can't predict.

And that is really how science works. If the best model for the situation really is "imagine that a dragon has to live in this house", then you imagine the dragon. The dragon might not be real, but the point is that the dragon-shaped model works for some reason and you use it as long as it works. You don't just throw it out because "dragons aren't real". It doesn't matter if dragons are real, it matters that the model works. And that doesn't make "common sense", but, it is how science is really done. A lot of things that are good science don't make common sense.

That's what I feel is also true about being therian or otherkin. On the chain of events that made me, I can't say if there is literally a swan at any point. That's why I don't base my therian identity on reincarnation. I also don't base it on the idea that I "really" have a "swan-like brain".

But, what I can say is that if I act like I have a swan-like brain, if I assume that I "am" a swan in some way that has a human body that was raised human, even though this doesn't seem to make any sense, it works. That seems to be the model I need.

And that's the important thing. That's the only thing. I don't want to throw away a model that works. And that's why I'm a therian.
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little swan child

May 2013

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