Suspension of disbelief is crucial in theater and media, without it the amusement thatviewers desire and expect would not be possible and their existence would be futile. Inthis essay the suspension of disbelief will be defined as the willingness to suspendone’s critical faculties and belief; the sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake ofenjoyment and further exploration. This act is pivotal in the creation of new knowledge,especially in elements that are considered outside of scientific realms. However, it iscontroversial in areas like religious knowledge system, where it can serve to reinforce orcreate derelict concepts.
The two AOK’s considered will be Natural Sciences andReligious Knowledge Systems.The importance of suspension of disbelief is critical when learning in an academicdiscipline. Taking the discipline of chemistry, I have seen the development of the sameconcept through consecutive grade levels. In grade 10, we learned how an atom wasperceived to be, through the Rutherford-Bohr model of an atom. Even at that time, itwas known that this model was not an accurate representation of the model, weaccepted it for the meanwhile. In grade 11 we were exposed to the actualrepresentation of an atom, where the motion of an electron is not on a single plane butin three-dimensional space, unlike the Rutherford-Bohr model which depicts electronsas traveling in circular orbits around an atom. Therefore after learning about the variousorbitals that an atom actually jumps across, the suspension of disbelief was offset asstudents started accepting the reality for what it was and not diluted concepts created tosustain and enhance understanding for younger people. In this case suspension ofdisbelief, initially, was necessary as it allowed strong foundations to forms and tenets tobe built for a deeper understanding of the concept.
Nevertheless, in IBDP chemistrythere are concepts which are swallowed by student’s without fully understanding,however, this is considered a process for the quest of knowledge. Therefore,suspension of disbelief does not play a role in it. The entirety of the learning processusually does not coincide with suspending disbelief, otherwise, it can hinder the processand possibly lead to fickle knowledge. The learning process can be described as theattainment of shared knowledge, knowledge and notions held by the majority of thepopulation as compared to personal knowledge, the possession of knowledge attainedby an individual. The attainment of shared knowledge requires one to have credenceand acceptance in the knowledge being absorbed Otherwise one would not be able toproceed with gaining knowledge in that field.The discovery of knowledge, out of the certain barriers placed by today’s beliefs, can becontrasted with the acquisition of knowledge.
Acquisition of knowledge is considered asgaining knowledge that is already present in order to further one’s avenues and for thepurpose of being well versed in a field. However, the desire to acquire knowledge isinnately driven by the desire to discover further knowledge, beyond the realms of thecurrent society. Generally, this is done by those who have acquired what one can say isthe utmost essence of knowledge in their respective fields. Despite innumerablediscoveries in the natural sciences made through serendipity, the discovery ofknowledge within this Area of Knowledge fits conjointly with the suspension of disbelief.A plausible example of scientific discovery assisted by suspending disbelief is thediscovery of ‘Jumping genes’ and ‘Prion theory’. Both Barbara McClintock and StanleyPrusiner were severely ostracized by their fellow peers when embarking on theirdisruptive scientific ventures.
Albeit, they remained steadfast and applied projectivethinking, generative rather than reactive thinking, to achieve their goals. Thesescientists were forced to suspend their disbelief regarding the accepted scientificliterature and theory of the time in order trail the path which lead both scientists to winNobel Prizes for their discoveries. The breakthroughs would not have materializedwithout the process of expansive thinking. Once an individual obtains significantknowledge in a discipline like McClintock and Prusiner, they have the ability to embarkand take on new ventures. This allows the ability to transcend current knowledgethrough suspending belief, and seeking personal knowledge through primarymannerisms, evident through discovery above.
Suspension of disbelief can both reinforce and disrupt religious knowledge. Firstly, thefortification of it will be discussed. I found an article by a Syro-Aramaic linguist,Christoph Luxenberg, which stated that the whole Quran was misinterpreted by Muslimsdue to its translation.
This was hypothesized as Arabic, supposedly, did not exist duringthe revelation of the Quran. If this were true then the whole essence of my beliefs, as aMuslim, would be obliterated and shattered. Hence, while reading the article, I wasforced to transiently suspend disbelief. The severe contradiction made me thinkreactively but in order to process the information, I had to consider somethinginconceivable. The acquisition of knowledge, in this case, was through an enforcedlense and in fact, this is needed when one has religious knowledge as there will bemany contradictions that can come up. It leads to the pursuit of further knowledge for anindividual.
In addition to this, there are many miracles that a believer in a religion hasfaith in which require suspension of disbelief. Taking an example from Islam, Muslimsbelieve that Prophet Muhammad rode the ‘Buraq’, an animal similar to a horse thattraveled at lightning speeds, to the 7 heavens. This is an essential belief in Islam.Thinking logically and rationally, according to recent developments and findings, thismiracle would be considered far-fetched and looked upon as a myth or a lesson bynon-muslims. However, Muslims believe in this with their utmost ability and thereforehave to suspend disbelief in the rational aspect of it. Without this sacrifice of realism,this concept would deteriorate and the faith of believers would be disoriented.Conversely, there are thinkers who oppose the suspension of disbelief in ReligiousKnowledge Systems and would condemn it. Clergies and theocrats would hold the pointof view that transcending the barriers placed by religion should not be crossed.
Thisexists as religion can be defined as deliberately acting on a belief which influencesalmost all outlooks of life. Therefore if the ability to outstrip those norms is provided,then the belief that one withholds can disintegrate. Imagination is a major way ofknowing in Religious Knowledge Systems and it is essential in maintaining a high levelof faith e.
g. In Islam you cannot see or create depictions of God or his messiahs butbelieve in them unquestionably. If critical faculties represent the belief in god and anindividual decides to suspend belief, for example, believe in a concept that refutes theevidence of God, central to all Abrahamic religions, then all tenets of the respectivereligion are destroyed as the systematic principle stabilizing the belief is eradicated.Therefore suspension of disbelief in this sense is trivial and might even havedeteriorative results, weakening faith. On the other hand, if this approach is taken,dogma invades the life of an individual and the knowledge that individual would be ableto attain would be limited as occlusion materializes from the ability not to suspenddisbelief.
This will hinder the ability to obtain further knowledge and furtherdevelopment.In conclusion, the embodiment and necessity of suspension of disbelief vary in differentAreas of Knowledge as depicted in the essay. It can be said that suspension of disbeliefis frivolous and perhaps detrimental due to its ability to hinder the growth of knowledgewhen gaining shared knowledge, but is critical and instrumental in the creation ofknowledge as it allows the seeker to go beyond the current realms of belief and doubtknowledge to form new knowledge. In terms of generating new knowledge, suspensionof disbelief is of paramount importance as it allows one to transcend current barriers,evident through scientific discovery. Moreover, suspension of disbelief also allowsimagination which plays a significant role in knowledge within religious knowledgesystems. Overall it can be said that suspension of disbelief is definitely important in bothnatural sciences and religions and it increases the knowledge base of the seeker.
Something ‘factual’, creates the lens through which we see and interpret our world, yetthis contributes to a critical and reactive orientation when new knowledge is created,compromising our ability to transcend. This can be overcome in any AOK bysuspending belief.