More rambling thoughs: the limitations of knowledge
A contributor to the 'Friendly Christian' blog recently made the following comment:
Christians claim to know what happens after they die, even though they haven’t been dead yet. Atheists claim to know nothing happens even though they haven’t been dead yet. Christians can spend hours explaining why they just know there’s a God, Atheists can spend hours explaining why they know there isn’t.
Now... it's possible to spend hours – if not days – debating what exactly we mean by “know”, but I think it fair to say that the above strongly hints at a certain absolutism in the views of both theists and atheists: It's not just that we can justify our beliefs, we're almost (if not completely) positive that they reflect the way the world is.
Such absolutism is rife: How many times have you seen people dismiss opposing views not because they disagree with the arguments put forward, but simply because they disagree? It's a familiar scenario – a contrary view is offered and rather than consider it honest we simply try to prove the other person wrong.
As the US economist John Kenneth Galbraith once eloquently put it:
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.
But for me, atheism has to be almost synonymous with uncertainty: Without access to an omnipotent being what could ever be the basis for absolute claims?
(Not that theism necessarily entails absolutism either – humility is a universal virtue)
Though I believe that the mind deteriorates along with the brain, I ultimately don't know what happens when we die.
Though I consider the evidence for the supernatural to be lacking, my knowledge of the universe probably extends to no more than a minute percentage.
In the last few thousand years – a mere cosmological blink of the eye – our knowledge and understanding of the universe has changed dramatically. The world we live in is vastly different to one our ancestors inhabited. The world our descendants live in will most likely be equally unrecognisable.
The beginning of wisdom, as the saying goes, is the admission of ignorance.