Lessons from Doctor Who

Doctor Who is probably my all-time favorite TV series.  My dad really liked it, and recorded just about every episode that was ever aired in America.  I remember one time (probably around the time I was in middle school) I went on a Doctor Who binge and just watched tape after tape of these recordings.  I've always been interested in science fiction and in fantasy.  I love Star Trek and Star Wars as well (I think it's silly that so many people feel like they have to choose one or the other--I like both equally well).

At any rate, I have to admit that as fun and exciting as the old Doctor Who series were, I really like the new series.  My favorite doctor is, of course, David Tennant (the only other option for real Doctor Who lovers being Tom Baker).  Just the other day, Conrad and I were watching the two-part episode which are the last that the Doctor spends with Rose Tyler.  Near the beginning of the first part, the Doctor made a statement that caused me to reflect.

When the Doctor and Rose land back in Rose's time, they find that there have been "ghost" appearances all over the world.  These mysterious human-shaped blurry objects appeared in random places.  Rose's mom Jackie had one that would appear in her kitchen.  She was absolutely convinced that it was her dad. When asked how she knew this, she said it was the smells--the cigarettes.  Of course, none of those smells were real.  Neither Rose nor the Doctor could smell them.  But, when they informed Jackie of this she only replied with "Well, you've got to try harder."  Then the Doctor said it.  "The more you want it, the stronger it becomes."

So, I've thought about that.  I mean, it's no secret that all throughout its history Doctor Who (and many other Sci-Fi shows, for that matter) ridicules religion and touts the superiority of science.  So, I have no doubt in my mind that this was meant as a jab toward religion.  Of course, the first time I saw this episode, I was a totally believing Mormon, so I just chalked it up as another one of the silly things skeptics think and say.  But, I've really thought about it a lot since I'm now a skeptic myself.

When I was Mormon, I really wanted it to be true.  I wanted it so badly.  I wanted to be the really spiritual guy.  I wanted to be the one who always "knew" that the Book of Mormon was true--that the church was true.  I always wanted to be the missionary who could convert thousands of people to Mormonism.  I wanted it all so much.  And so it was really strong.  I believed it so much because I wanted it so much.  Mormons have a vested interest in their church being true (if for no other reason than that they pay a tenth of their income to the church) and therefore they want it to be true.  Wanting it to be true makes the belief all the stronger.

But, the same is true for every other religion.  Baptists want their church to be true, and so they are convinced that it is.  Muslims want their church to be true, so they convince themselves that it is.  And so on.  I was always taught that the way to determine that Mormon commandments were truly commandments from God is to live them and see how happy they made me.  Well, this only compounds the want/believe cycle.  I study my scriptures because I want to have a testimony, so I believe more strongly, so I want to read my scriptures more.  It's a perpetual cycle set up specifically for the purpose of instilling loyalty into the members of a church.  That's why all religions use the same tactic.  That's why it works so well.

Being a skeptic is much less addictive.  I have no particular attachment to one philosophy or another.  There isn't any specific version of the truth that I want to be true.  My only desire is to learn what the truth is, with no preconceived notions about that truth.  I don't "want" Mormonism to be true, nor do I "want" it to be false.  I do remember when I had my first college math course and I simply couldn't accept the fact that the set of real numbers and the set of natural numbers weren't the same size.  I "wanted" them to be the same size, but eventually gave in to the reality that the former is much bigger than the latter.  I was humbled.  But, I really think it's easier to learn the truth when you do so objectively, merely trying to seek out fact and eliminate fiction.

So, aside from being highly entertaining (and, oh boy is David Tennant ever entertaining--especially with how tight his pants are), Doctor Who can also be very educational.