Reason & Superstition
I’ve always enjoyed taking in a good battle between reason and superstition. They’ve been going on regularly now for quite some time, dating at least since Francis Bacon threw down the gauntlet with "Novum Organum" in 1620.
The battles seem never ending and that’s just fine with me since they provide loads of entertainment value, particularly when the waring parties find themselves at the end of their arguments and, surprise, the opposition is not convinced. And even as we sit back and watch the world views flail at each other, we need to be prepared to be enlightened.
Today, we get to see these battles played out in diatribes issued forth in service of Intelligent Design or natural selection, in the occasional news story on psychotic mothers and fathers wed to the faith of Christian Science and the death of their children, in ancient battles between peoples who claim god gave them the land, and in rancid and acrimonious debates over life, death, sex and birth.
I recently came across a writer of fiction who trades in explorations of the intricacies and absurdities of the battle between reason and superstition. James Morrow is hard to nail down. His early work appeared mainly in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines, but this seemed only the case because the focus of his short stories had no better place to appear, not because they were stories of ray guns, alien worlds or nanotechnology run amok.
His most recent novels, "The Philosopher’s Apprentice" and "The Last Witchfinder" are both satire and social commentary wrapped up inside the ongoing Reason V. Superstition war. And they are terrific books. However, it’s his collection of short stories, "Bible Stories for Adults", that truly makes one laugh out loud as well as feel a pinch of embarrassment for the ugly truths of western civilization we all must live with…and a bit too comfortably at that.
But here’s the point: Having delved into Morrow extensively of late, I’m left thinking about where wine works itself into the battle between superstition and reason; where the myths we winos carry with us are too easily allowed to slide around reason and keep moving.
I think they number in the many…
…that quality in wine is definable and objective
…that terroir comes from the soil
…that wine can be judged with a number assigned by a single person and have meaning
…that the "great wines of the world" are few and far between
…just to begin with.
It strikes me that these and other such issues provoke in winos similar battles that can be described as reason v. superstition. Happily for us wine lovers, the outcome of our disagreement over these and other thorny issues rarely if ever lead to burnings at the stake, volatile school board elections, putting children’s lives at stake or losses in personal autonomy. Instead, they merely lead to another glass of wine and maybe a blog post or two.