DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET
Virginia, your little friends are right. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe on faith. They do not blindly trust stories that don’t comport with their daily experience. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insignificant spec, as compared with the incomprehensibly vast universe we inhabit, but we struggle to comprehend what we can, face the unknown, and hold out hope that with honest and brave exploration we can push aside what we might wish were true and come to a better understanding of the way the world actually is.
Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. There is no reason to believe a man in a red suit comes down your chimney to leave you presents for Christmas morning. It is most likely your parents who leave you your presents. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were a Santa Claus. To be subject to constant surveillance and to have an entity with the pretense of objectivity judging children’s morality who apparently bestows the best presents for children of the wealthy while bestowing more deserving children lesser gifts because their family is poor. It would be a world of deep injustice and arbitrary morality by a capricious being.
Believe in Santa Claus! You might as well believe in fairies, Big Foot, homeopathy, astrology, alchemy, and every other woo or contradictory nonsense. There is an asymmetry between proof and disproof. Some will say we cannot disprove Santa Claus, and this is true. Similarly, we cannot disprove that a being exists in the universe such that, if Santa Claus exists, this being would cause the universe to implode. Obviously, Santa Claus and this anti-Santa Claus are mutually contradictory by definition, we cannot disprove either, but at the same time, logic demands that they cannot both be true. So, what is important is not what we cannot disprove but rather the positive, objective evidence we have for believing something is true.
Positive evidence, observation, experimentation, skepticism, logic and reason, these are the tools of science; our candle in the dark. Using these tools makes us truly open-minded, for it let’s us accept new ideas while filtering and discarding bad ones. Faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance all have their place. But, Virginia, when it comes to understanding what is real, science is the undisputed leader.
No Santa Claus! This is merely one conclusion. The conclusion is not the important part, it is allowed to change and refined as one’s understanding develops. What is important is the process. There is no shame in being wrong for the right reasons, perhaps because you were told by someone you trusted. However, there is a shame not being willing to change your mind, or misleading others even if you have noble pretensions about a greater good.
I assure you, there is a grandeur to this scientific view of life; to see the world as it is, instead of how we would like it be. To love the lily for the color it is, as opposed to being so petty as to paint it. With this view, the world can be cold. It can be cruel, but there is a beauty to it that no myth can compare. Men’s imaginations, like our minds are small. There is enough true mystery in the universe, beyond our imagining, to explore for thousands of years, nay ten times ten thousand years. We have little need conceited tales of imagined self-importance. So, go out, explore, there is a whole universe waiting to be understood.