The problem with certainty

I recall being certain that God existed, that he loved me, and that he was embodied in a set of books we call the Bible. I was so certain of this that I would have said, without any question whatsoever, that I even knew these things. Certainty, according to many Christian presuppositional apologists, is the cornerstone of the Christian worldview because it and only it provides any way in which to ascertain truth.

I remember the first time I became uncertain about my faith like it was yesterday. It started with the first in a series of questions about some doctrine that I’d now say is insignificant. It was the first time since I had given all of my life to my god that I considered the notion that perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I had been worshiping him incorrectly, perhaps something I believed about him was out of line with the Truth, perhaps the elders in my life were not as wise as I thought, perhaps even god’s very character was in question.

I know of no fear more all encompassing than that which came with my first experience with uncertainty.

If you don’t know it; this fear seeps from the marrow of your bones, it crawls in your skin day and night, and it greets your dreams with terrible visions of the consequences that all these “what if’s” might bring to bear.

The problem of certainty is that it fails to provide a framework for change.

Unchanging people stagnate, fester in ignorance, and never consider the possibility of their own wrongness.

Certainty is comfortable, yes – it risks nothing and it gains nothing but what good is that life? Steeped in arrogance and assurance but never gaining knowledge through experience, never leaning over the edge of the canyon of doubt. Eyes closed. Leaning further forward. Free-fall.

I’ll take doubt – at the risk of eternity.

I’ll take questions – at the loss of simple answers.

I’ll take skepticism – at the risk of suspicion.

I’ll take uncertainty – at the loss of comfort.

Now, tasting doubt and all the comes with it – I don’t think I can ever be happy with certainty again.

I’ll close this with a quote from the internet’s favorite scientist of the day – and I think he put’s it well for those that misunderstand what science is – it’s everything but certainty. Science is constant doubt. It’s constant question. It’s constant skepticism. It’s constant uncertainty. Anything less isn’t science at all.

“But you can’t be a scientist if you’re uncomfortable with ignorance, because scientists live at the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos. This is very different from the way journalists portray us. So many articles begin, “Scientists now have to go back to the drawing board.” It’s as though we’re sitting in our offices, feet up on our desks—masters of the universe—and suddenly say, “Oops, somebody discovered something!”

No. We’re always at the drawing board. If you’re not at the drawing board, you’re not making discoveries. You’re not a scientist; you’re something else. The public, on the other hand, seems to demand conclusive explanations as they leap without hesitation from statements of abject ignorance to statements of absolute certainty.”

― Neil deGrasse Tyson, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

Question. Everything.

Related Post