Friday, October 19, 2007

Nothing is as it Seems

I am continually amazed at how quickly we jump to conclusions and make false assumptions on imperfect data. It's been a bit of a bad habit lately, giving someone less information than usual and watching as they walk down the path of least resistance. We innately follow our worst fears and skepticism. I don't fully understand why people don't ask more questions when they don't understand something.

For example, I attended a seminar where the students sat around a large circular table. The instructor placed a small candle in the center, a candle much like a tea light. He instructed the students to make observations and write down everything they saw. Then, he lit the wick. The flame started small and grew as the lower end of the flame engulfed the wick down to the wax where it held steady and burned for ten or fifteen seconds. The professor blew out the candle and removed it from the table. Not two seconds later, he popped the candle in his mouth and began chewing as if he was chomping down half his lunch. He swallowed it wick and all. We were stunned. He ate a candle! He seemed to enjoy eating the candle...

I thought long and hard about that candle for the fifteen minutes of writing time afterward. What does candle wax taste like? Can a person digest a wick? How much carbon was on the wick? Didn't the instructor get burned by the hot wax? I hadn't smelled any burning wax. I didn't hear a candle. I saw what I perceived to be a candle. We turned in our papers, and he read highlights off each one aloud. People made the same guesses and questions I did with one exception: I never used the word "candle" to describe the object I'd seen. It was simply referred to as "the object." My first statement was, "We cannot conclude based on evidence presented prior to this experiment that the object is actually a candle."

I've always been that kind of person. I question everything. I question myself more than anything, wondering if I'm making assumptions and presuppositions about people and events. This can, at times, make me socially awkward (among other things). I ask people to clarify more than I ought to. I restate myself more than I should. But I really don't like assumptions.

Then again, stating all of this may have lead you to believe I have no faith in things I cannot see. Even though I am a firm believer in the scientific process of evolution (and studied it both through genetics and philosophy), I am not denying the possibility of Creation. I believe in ghosts and angels. I believe in the powers of Native American healers. So many things I do not fully understand, but I have unending faith in their existence and processes.

That juxtaposition of ideology is precisely what makes me terribly unique. Think of me as you will, but make no assumptions about me. You will likely be incorrect.

For more information about the candle experiment, comment me and I'll send you a link.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right.We must have a doubtful spirit.

elle said...

The candle experiment sounds fascinating and just the kind of hook I might need in a bag of tricks as a teacher. May I have the link pretty please?

Jeff said...

What was "the object"?

Jaggy said...

Anonymous: please explain?

Elle: Google search for "potato candle" and you should have your answer.