Why I am a Possibilian

Why I am a Possibilian Christine Tremoulet

In my opinion, our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story (say, a man with a beard on a cloud) is true or not true.

So I call myself a possibilian. Possibilianism emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story. If you want to know more about this point of view, see the Wikipedia entry on the topic.

Here are a couple of photos from my TEDxHouston talk, "On Uncertainty". In this talk I argued why possibilianism is not only a hopeful position, but the most rational one.

photo courtesy of Blue Lemon Photo
photo by Blue Lemon Photo

And here's a talk on possibilianism that I delivered at the School of Life in London.

Not everyone is a fan of possibilianism. After possibilianism began to spread widely on the web, the neo-athiest Sam Harris wrote to ask me if I would like to publically discuss the idea with him. I had read some of Harris' writings and quite liked them, so I agreed. I was interested to understand where our positions were compatible and where they differed. But Harris' response (in the form of a letter to me on his blog) attacked possibilianism on the grounds that I was "confused", an "accomodationist", and "intellectually dishonest". I took the pugilism of his opening salvo as a indicator of the utility that I would get from attempting a meaningful back-and-forth dialog with him. (Strangely, as indicated by a later blog of his, he seemed surprised that I hadn't taken the time to write him back.) It's not that I don't admire his writing (I do), or that I don't value public debate (I welcome it). It's simply that, in this case, Harris' braggadocio appeared to be emblematic of the neo-atheist posture, and confirmed why I don't feel completely at home in that camp. In other words, when I received his overly-aggressive opening shot, I thought: "Tada. This is precisely why a third voice is needed."
 

Leave a comment

From the Blog

  • David appointed Fellow with Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
    David appointed Fellow with Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

    Posthumanism asks what happens when our technologies allow humans to enhance intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities beyond what biology can give us. Think bionics on crack.

  • Will Self
    Will Self

    The author Will Self and I appeared on stage together to discuss life, death, and what makes good writing.

  • Brain Time
    Brain Time

    The days of thinking of time as a river—evenly flowing, always advancing—are over. Time perception, just like vision, is a construction of the brain.

  • CNN's Next List - video profile
    CNN's Next List - video profile

    I was recently named a CNN Next List Fellow. Watch two clips from the show.

Newsflashes

Science Educator Award

David has won the Science Educator Award from the Society of Neuroscience.

NY Times Oped

Read David's Op-Ed piece in The New York Times regarding time and Obama's withdrawal plan.

Possibilianism at PopTech

Click here to watch David's talk on possibilianism at PopTech. Executive director Andrew Zolli wrote: "This is one of the best talks ever at PopTech. Everyone should watch this."

You are here:   HomeBlogWhy I am a Possibilian


Coming in 2014