God Does Not Need You to Believe

Food for Thought

Aaron asked me, “Do you believe in it?” Be it astrology, acupuncture, or knocking on wood, I’m not sure why I have to “believe.” The expression “believe in yourself” never made sense to me either. Where is this requirement coming from?

A visitor to Niels Bohr’s house noticed a horseshoe hanging above the entrance, so he asked if the renowned physicist believed it brings good luck. “No,” he replied, “but I’m told they bring luck even to those who do not believe in them,” which is the most rational response I can think of.

Aaron’s question implies whether I believe it’s scientific or logical, but if science or logic has to motivate us to do anything, science couldn’t make any progress. During the pandemic, there were no scientifically proven treatments for COVID-19, yet doctors had to try something.

Science is a type of game like chess. We can logically answer questions like, “Can this bishop take the queen?” because of the rules, but “Can a bishop move diagonally?” is a different type of question. If we wanted to, we could define bishops to move horizontally. The fact that they move diagonally was not determined by logic. The same holds for science; its rules must be accepted as self-evident. From this perspective, belief in science becomes as superstitious as a horseshoe.

Einstein said, “Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature.” Why does he have to believe that to be true in order to do science? In fact, I’d argue that such a belief is unscientific. Scientists can simply be curious whether it’s true and remain unbiased.

Do horseshoes bring good luck? Is there any urgent need to settle this question now? If not, the most logical response is to try it. There is no need to believe in anything. Beliefs only introduce bias in your mind.

Bohr’s attitude is prevalent in Japan. Most people are not religious but partake in religious rituals. Whether you believe or disbelieve, what is irrational is the attachment to the game. Can’t curiosity be sufficient?