Thursday, June 9, 2011

Macrame Metaphor

Recently, I've been addicted to making these macrame bracelets:

Now these are definitely no where near elaborate as it gets with this kind of art. Still, when my grandma saw what I was doing, she said that it was "miraculous" that these designs were appearing as I weaved the thread together. As soon as she said that, I knew I was one the brink of the dorkiest analogy I might ever use.

If my grandma had not seen me making the bracelets and instead only seen the finished product, she might assume that I had bought them somewhere, perhaps even that such seemingly complex designs could not have possibly been made without the help of a machine.

Obviously, these bracelets required no mechanical assistance and the designs are nothing more than patterns of knots. When she saw what I was doing and called it "miraculous", I proceeded to show her, step by step, how I made the bracelets. she was still impressed, but no longer convinced that there was anything especially impressive about macrame. At least, not miraculously impressive.

Theoretically, I could have gone a step further and heped her learn how to make the bracelets herself, but she had neither the time, nor the patience.

What on earth am I actually saying here?

Well, a macrame bracelet is really a small matter, but the reaction that my grandmother had to my project is identical to the one that most people have when observing reality. They see it as being so complex that there must be something "more" to it. Simple forces couldn't possibly have brought all of this together. They may assume that a God was responsible for our existence, just as a person might assume that the neat patterns in the thread were machine made.

Once we do some investigation, however, we find that the world, like the macrame bracelet, is complex, but not supernaturally complex. We can explain how it came into existence without the help from a machine, or, in this case, a God. Just as the pattern of knots is sufficient for creating an impressive design, natural forces are sufficient for creating a universe. In fact, it might be useful to not that the blue and gold bracelet, while it has a distinctive pattern to it, is indeed the result of almost random chance. I followed no blueprint to make it.

Now, I would be satisfied if most people understood the above statements. However, in an ideal world, everyone would be taught, not only the facts of how the naturalistic universe works, but the way to find more facts using evidence and critical thinking. Here, I make an analogy to learning to make ones own bracelet. This equips us with a skill that may prove useful in the future. Critical thinking is a skill too. It is a skill that is all too often overlooked.

Before we close up this geeky extended metaphor, let me ask you a question. Now that you know exactly how and where those macrame patterns were made, do you enjoy them any less?

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