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serving jesus christ the king

Examine your disbelief

I’ve just finished Wilful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan—a superb book dealing with many of the factors which cause us to fail to see what we should see. It might be biases, an overloaded mind, emotional involvement, fear of change, money, the blind hope that a problem will just go away if we don’t look at it, failure to think outside the box—whatever the reason, there are many ways to miss the things we should otherwise see.

One of the most illuminating chapters was the final one entitled “See Better”. In it Heffernan seeks to outline steps we can take to counteract this tendency. Earlier she had told of Alice Stewart, a doctor who discovered a link between childhood cancer and x-raying pregnant women. Due to the medical establishment’s blind faith in this new diagnostic method they refused to accept her findings for 25 years, causing needless death and heartache to many. In the final chapter Heffernan identifies part of the strength of Dr. Stewart’s case:

‘When Alice Stewart conducted her survey on childhood cancers, she worked with a statistician named George Kneale… What is most interesting is how Kneale himself thought about his job. “It’s my job to prove Dr. Stewart’s theories are wrong. I am, in effect, trying to disprove her. Hence the strength of our long association.”’

Heffernan continues, ‘In his seeking for disconfirmation, Stewart knew that Kneale protected her from potential blindness in her own thinking… Kneale and Stewart understood between them that the risk of losing their theory was outweighed by the danger of being wrong.”

We need to seek disconfirmation of what we believe if we want to guard ourselves from blindness.

I was struck by this recently as I surveyed my father-in-law’s bookshelves. He had recently passed away and had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. Yet his bookshelves displayed the most interesting range of books. About a third were to do with his faith; a third novels; but the remaining third were across a wide variety of topics—from history to politics to biography to science to mathematics. In this section were a host of books hostile to aspects of Christianity—from just about everything Richard Dawkins had written, to Christopher Hitchens, Stephen J. Gould, Stephen Hawking, the Gnostic Gospels, the Lost Gospel of Judas, and many others.

Here was a man who actively sought disconfirmation—not because he didn’t want Christianity to be true, but because he wanted to be sure it was. His faith was not a blind faith, but an informed faith.

I suspect that there are many who naively believe—both in Christianity and in scepticism. You need to seek disconfirmation. I find many Christians don’t actually know what they believe. And I find many sceptics equally guilty. Ironically sceptics can be just as guilty of blind faith. Will you take time to examine your belief or disbelief, rather than persisting in wilful blindness? For one there lies the risk of a wasted life, and for the other lies the danger of a lost eternity.