Uncertainty, anyone?

Uncertainty, anyone? February 8, 2021


Uncertainty is not our comfort zone.  Ignorance is NOT bliss; it leads to doubt.  

When we are doubtful we don’t know how to react for the best and we have to make snap decisions, some of which turn out to have been bad choices.  Consequently, most of us prefer a safe and predictable existence.  That’s why ‘jobs for life’ (as enjoyed by the clergy!) are reckoned to be a good prospect when they are available.  Oddly, though, even Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, admits to having doubts!  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29255318

There has always been a minority of the population who are more adventurous – those are the ones who sailed around the world discovering new lands while their more conservative friends joined the priesthood, but most of us are content with a more unvarying and mundane routine.  Minimising threats helps you to breed more!  Evolution in action!  Modern studies suggest that there is a personality influence underlying this…  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000rtzf

Death is the ultimate fearful trip into uncertainty, which is why most societies have invented an ‘afterlife’, often involving limitless celestial virgins and rivers of wine; this was obviously thought up by men!

The nearest we get to experiencing safe certainty is as children when we believe our parents will care for us and make everything better.  Do you want to grow up?  Me neither!  Pity we weren’t born on Feb 29th!

The crushing responsibilities of adulthood tend to make us wish to return to the blissful contentment of childhood.  Striving for that level of certainty may have stimulated mankind to abandon evidence and invent comforting stories of benevolent fathers in the sky.  It’s probably the major pressure that has led to the development of religions.  

Curiously, one of the accusations levied against Science by some religious people is that it is a smug dogma of know-all assuredness.  


Scientists have to learn to live with doubt daily.  Scientific facts are never proven.  All Scientific knowledge is founded on repeatable shareable evidence, and Scientists keep their minds open to the possibility that an even better explanation may come along and they will have to modify their views.  

This most famously happened when Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity which fits the observed data of light speed travel in large scale space slightly more accurately than Newton’s Theory.  

Scientists know they don’t know everything, in fact, they know enough to really appreciate just how little they know.  

The opposite condition is known as the Dunning Kruger effect – the state of being too ignorant to be able to assess the extent of one’s ignorance.

Do you think it would be better if we all adopted the scientific attitude of acceptance of doubt and ignorance?

Religions, however, being based on a ‘conviction’ rather than on evidence, do claim to offer certainties in the form of answers to prayers, forgiveness, absolution, salvation, heaven and explanations for the origin of everything! 

Can they deliver their assertions or are they ‘not fit for purpose’?

Do you think the Trades Description Act and the rules of the Advertising Standards Agency should apply to their claims?



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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