I believe in Tolerance and Understanding

Author: Corey Landers, TCU Student, Marketing Major, Published Fall 2012

My life was changed the day I first moved. I had been living in Louisiana for practically my entire life when my father told the family that he was being transferred overseas to Great Britain. We moved to a small village called Lea that was just two hours away from London, and I went to school surrounded by people who had funny accents and strange habits. We also went to a different church, an Anglican one I suppose, but honestly I could barely tell the difference then from the Methodist church we had attended in Louisiana.

Church was never a big part of my family’s life. We arbitrarily went from Methodism to Anglicanism simply because it was convenient (the Anglican Church was right down the street). And when we then moved to London itself, we stopped attending church for a year because we could barely find a school for my sister and I, let alone a place of worship. But none of this was a big deal because religion and spirituality never really entered my life in England.

It only became an issue when I moved to Texas. I started noticing how deeply people held their religious beliefs, and how open they were to talking about them. All through high school I was surrounded by people who would mention God or Jesus whenever they got the chance, and I always got offended by it. I just always believed that religion was a private matter, and definitely not something you just openly talked about in class. And when I got to college things just got worse. Now I was living with people of all different faiths and ideologies, and so naturally clashes occurred between the intolerant people.

I hate intolerance. Living in England taught me that people can be different from me, but still be great once you get to know them, and so when the intolerant people in my dorm would go about preaching their beliefs I just couldn’t believe it. Did they not realize how rude they were being? Did they not understand how offensive they were? After a few heated arguments, I realized that the people who are the most intolerant happen to be the most ignorant of other people’s beliefs. These people practically refuse to accept that their religion maybe isn’t the only correct belief out there, so they attack anything they don’t understand.

I believe in understanding. I believe in empathy. I believe in tolerance and freedom. But I also know that some do not. I know that some refuse to learn about “the heathens”, that some hate those that are different simply because they are different. And I know I can’t do anything to change that mindset. So instead I choose to take the higher path, to not hate them because of their hate, their ignorance. I believe in empathy, they believe in intolerance. But I hope that just as racism has slowly began to die away, so too will the last vestiges of all intolerance. I hope I am not wrong.

I believe in thought and the quest for truth

Author: Jenelle Salisbury, TCU Student, Neuroscience major, Published fall 2012

When I was stopped at the “This I Believe” tent at TCU, they said all I had to do to win a prize was to write down one thing that I believe on a note card. Sounds easy, right? Not for me. I wanted to write something that I truly, actually believed without a doubt. However, for me, doubt seems to be intrinsic. I considered just writing something cliché to get the prize, but decided against it. Another part of me wanted to just lay the card and the pen back down on the table and say, “I’m sorry. I just don’t believe in anything.” Why couldn’t I think of just one thing that I believed? I believe in skepticism; I believe in questioning everything in one’s external and internal realities on the quest for truth. But does the quest for truth really lead anywhere, or will I always be left not knowing? Epistemologically I have always felt that the one thing I can know for sure is the simple fact that I am conscious, so on my note card I simply wrote “thought.”

This is not to say that I don’t have beliefs in relation to my own life. I believe in love, I believe in family, I believe in honesty. I believe the things I do in this world matter and I love to help people. I have all of these beliefs in the moral and social realm. However, as a philosophical thinker, I am hesitant to say that I believe them 100%, i.e., that I know them. This is because I think that the only things that can truly be believed or known are things that are true in every possible world, not just the one we are in. Why? Because then the beliefs are fully general and thus relatable to every situation, even a situation that I cannot comprehend. Every belief I have is relative to the human brain, and who am I to say that this brain reflects reality? Some people think that skepticism is a sad and ignorant mindset to have, but to me, nothing else makes sense. Moreover, I am not a classic skeptic – I have one strong foundational, Cartesian belief that I feel is enough to live a bountiful life.

If one wanted to fully doubt, he/she could ask the question “How do you know that you are conscious?” and to me, this is a question that simply does not make sense. To illustrate, imagine a possible world in which we are not actually conscious. Instead, we just “invented” the idea of consciousness when in reality it doesn’t exist. However, in order to “invent” or “imagine,” one must in the first place have some form of consciousness. Whether all humans that have ever lived are one collective consciousness, or whether we are indeed in the matrix and this is all in our heads, consciousness in some form must exist because thoughts, although difficult to place one’s finger on, are undeniably real.
Well, okay. So we know we are conscious. What then? Even if we are bacterium in jars cultivated by an alien species we could still possibly have consciousness, so how does the knowledge of this fact benefit us at all?

I also believe one more thing, from which I feel I can derive all the knowledge I will ever need. I believe consciousness is a physical entity or collection of entities in the human brain. This is why I chose to become a neuroscience major. I believe we can know nothing of the true nature of the self or of reality until we know everything about the mechanisms with which we perceive and process it. I believe the human brain is this mechanism and thus the study of which is our portal to truth.

I suppose to most people I sound like a person with no direction, no beliefs, no happiness – nihilistic perhaps. I cannot emphasize enough that this is not what I am or the point I am trying to make. I love the processes of life, and I believe what I do matters. I just think to say that I know anything in any sort of absolute sense is illogical given that I have only experienced the world I am in, and only experienced it through the senses I developed as a human. I love these senses and I love this world, I just hesitate to relate it to any sort of absolute truth. I find comfort in the absolute truth that is consciousness. I am passionate about defining the physical bases of this phenomenon and ready to dedicate my life to it. This is my quest for truth.