Sunday, February 17, 2008


A credo, as I take it, is a set of suppositions about how things are that cannot be verified scientifically. Such things as we believe cannot be observed, tested and authenticated as can those things we know. Such scientific theories as human evolution and global warming are proving factual as our empirical investigations proceed. Whereas the existence of God, immortal souls, and destined human purpose remain subjects of our speculation and belief rather than of certain, objective validation—or knowledge.

Yet it is important to attend to both what we know and what we believe. The significance of knowledge to our survival and thriving is self-evident, even if some knowledge is painful and dangerous. Clearly, much of our formal and informal education involves increasing and clarifying what we know about ourselves, others, the world, and even the cosmos at large. But we also, for our better-being, need to cultivate a system of beliefs designed to benefit our psyches and to serve well the vital needs of other living beings.

While beliefs cannot, by definition, be verified and authenticated scientifically, they can be assessed pragmatically by their fruits. A belief is a good belief to the extent that experience shows it to serve us and others well. A belief in ethnic superiority and ethnic cleansing obviously leads to harming and killing human beings and must therefore be judged a flawed belief. Likewise we may all come in time to recognize the slaughter of animals for human food to be a flawed belief (as some already do). Human history can be written in terms of the evolution of our collective beliefs and prevailing ideologies, rising and falling over time, not necessarily in the direction of greater enlightenment.

Yet overall there seems to be more light in our present collective human consciousness than we have generated in earlier eras, and we are now better able to discern beneficial from malignant beliefs—good from bad, helpful from harmful. We are growing wiser in general. While we may recognize the rights of individuals to choose their own beliefs, we must deny that all beliefs are equally valid. A belief proves valid or strong not by logic but by effect: it serves life well or ill, as time and reflective observation will reveal.

It behooves us in our education ,then, to learn to discern what are the most serviceable beliefs we may adopt and live by: Which beliefs work best to benefit the biosphere, that interwoven matrix of all Earthly life, in which we live and move and have our conscious being? Together we must seek out such beliefs and make of them our sacred credo.