A debate I’m having with a commenter on one of my blog posts has got me thinking about the nature of inquiry. Is it possible to simply stop inquiring when you believe you have found the right answer, and is it desirable?
When does one stop inquiring about stuff? When the answer makes you feel comfortable, or satisfies a need? What if someone comes along with a different answer or shows you another way? Would you shrug it off, because you’re quite happy with what you have found already? Is comfort better than the disquiet of being doubtful? Would you rather shoot yourself up with some drug because it makes you feel safely exhilarated, or would you rather experience the natural thrill of sky-diving. Both is probably going to kill you, but wouldn’t you rather fly, before you die?
Remember when as a child you constantly peppered your parents and others with those why questions? Why is it when you grow up, you stop asking why? Why do you settle for easy answers? Is it possible that a child understands the nature of inquiry better than an adult?
M, the young [I assume] and no doubt bright women who stirred up all these questions, posed the following:
I’m puzzled by the fact that if a discovery or inquiry leads to anything other than Christianity, it is accepted and applauded. If the road of inquiry ends at the cross of Christ, it is argued that you need to keep searching until you find the truth..Here’s the big question. What does one do “IF” this is the truth…
What I’m curious about is her starting point of inquiry? Did her questioning take her through a gamut of scientific literature, before she settled for the answers provided in the realm of the supernatural, or did she start at the bottom end of the supernatural and settle for the most pleasing or needs-satisfying version? Just a question mind you, not an allegation.
When it comes to inquiry, I would rather have ten different scientific suppositions about something, which leads me to more inquiry, than have one neat, comforting, but supernatural explanation, that stops all enquiry because it relies on the authority of someone you can never question. The end to questioning whether it be self-inflicted for comfort, or enforced through coercion and fear, pronounces the death of human intelligence. When inquiry stops, you might as well be dead.
I have been following the discussion you are referring to here and I have to say you have so many great points. I used to be very religious, believed only what was in the bible, and never questioned anything. It was only when I was about 19 that I started to break myself out of that spell and learn to think critically. I think with most people that believe in Christianity, as it was for me, you just convince yourself to believe all that stuff and block out all reason and logic. You get not only comfort believing like this, but also the sense that you doing good in the eyes of the Lord. Resisting the secular world and giving yourself to god is rewarding to many christians. A real education is the only thing that saved me this mindset.
But I also wanted to say that I love the last line of this post… reminds me of one of my favorite Einstein quotes: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Sadly, most Christians eyes are closed as mine once were.
You’re right on the mark with your observations. It seems to me a whole lot of people have this constant craving to feel secure and comfortable. Things that can’t be explained immediately, seems to bother them immensely.
That discomfort leads unwary people into accepting the first explanation for what’s bothering them, if it makes the feeling of discomfort go away. The extreme version of this syndrome is blissful ignorance. There can be nothing worse than that.
Doubt is a wonderful thing; I wish more people could understand that.
Whenever I look up at the sky or around me, I am always in awe; at the workings of nature, and how it all evolved, even all the blatant imperfections. I am also fascinated by the workings of the scientific mind that produces the marvellous technology all around us.
Thanks for the kind words
Hi again Lenny,
I fully appreciate the point you are making about inquiring with the end view of “feeling comfortable” and perhaps settling with what one believes answers the most basic questions. I think it is more complex that that. Personally, I believe we are all born with the capacity to understand, and question about the purpose of our existence, the orgin of the universe, etc. You are right when you speak of a child with countless questions demanding answers. I was one and continued in that mode as an adult. I did read scientific books as well as books on philiosophy and religion. Exhaustively? no, that’s not possible because we have human limitations..seasons of our lives, jobs, etc. My question is, “Do think that in ones’ search for truth, it’s possible we don’t have the mental capacity to understand all truth, so it becomes easier to choose to believe in something that we can explain. For example, the theory of evolution moves from simple to complex. But we have to agree that science has not explained what preceded the universe absolutely. It’s very interesting to look at science and view the possibilities, but how does one make sense of the things we are experiencing in the here and now. I began my search in my younger days with a preconceived idea of God. I’m just suggesting that inquiring minds not dismiss the belief in Christianity because it seems to be out of the natural order of things that can”t tangibly be explained. It’s not that I stopped questioning after becoming a Christian because I felt I had what some might call “easy believism”. On the contrary, I didn’t need to invoke a God to make a good explanation for things. My search took me to that place and and changed the way in which I viewed the world, myself and others….more to come:) Thanks Lenny
Do think that in ones’ search for truth, it’s possible we don’t have the mental capacity to understand all truth, so it becomes easier to choose to believe in something that we can explain. For example, the theory of evolution moves from simple to complex. But we have to agree that science has not explained what preceded the universe absolutely…
From a scientific perspective, I don’t think scientists sit dowm and say “today we’re going to search for the truth.” They search for answers to the puzzles that confront us with respect to the universe. And during that search they subject hypothesis’ to extensive scrutiny and testing and re-testing and if it passes scrutiny the result is a “truth of some kind”, if you will. So, you see that the “truth” is understood because it was subjected to scrutiny.
When it comes to religion, people are taught what the clerics call truths, but these so-called truths have not stood up to scientific scrutiny. The clerics therefore resort to calling them divinely-inspired truths, which is an easy way to abbrogate the responsibility of providing the truth, to some invisible cosmic presence or authority figure, which nobody can question. All rather neat and easy, don’t you think? So in this sense, religious “truths” appeal to those who seek easy answers and a level of comfort, and are not prepared for the REAL TRUTH.
BTW: The theory of evolution does not explain what came before life started, or how that event occurred. That field of science is called abiogenesis, and yes there are a few theories about, most (or all) of which have not been satisfactorily explained to date. But that does not mean that hey will not be explained satisfactorily some day. The thing is I would rather have a hundred possible scientific explanations for the mystery of how the universe started, than the mentally unchallenging god-did-it anwswer. I would rather not know, than live with a lie.
Enquiring minds have dismissed the belief in Christianity because it does not stand up to rational scrutiny. If you’re really desparate to believe in a god, maybe it’s time to find a religion that stands up to scientific scrutiny.
P.S. I probably need to proof read after writing later in the evening:) I still do read books on science, philiosophy and many other subjects and have a deep curiosity about all aspects of life. I didn’t mean to imply that what I spoke about earlier was all past tense. After becoming a Christian, I have not resorted to a robotic, non questioning state of being. My life is richer, fuller and more exciting than ever.just wanted to add that to my former comment. Thank you
I’m really glad you do continue your reading, and scientific texts too. I’d just like to know the titles and authors of some of these texts. Not everything that claims to be scientific, actually is. There is a o whole bunch of writers who indulge in pseudo-scientific writing; I hope you have not been misled by these charlatans. They rely heavily on the confirmation bias fallacy.
Couldn’t agree more with regard to comment #6. The same goes for texts and books on Christianity. There are a whole lot of writers who also indulge in psuedo-Christian writings. I suppose we could debate religion forever, but the most interesting search for me personally began when someone challenged me to look into the life of Jesus. As I embarked on that challenge, I discovered there are some,(not all, of course)”Spin Doctors” in the spiritual realm. They are better know as Theologians, gurus, religious teachers..on and on. They try and interpret who Jesus Christ was. Their conclusions present a teacher, possibly a crazy religious zealot, a philosopher, a maybe just a good person or even a figment of one’s imagination. I have shared where my search led me in a previous comment so I”ll refrain from repeating myself, but asking questions is a passion of mine, so here’s one; If 2000 years ago, Jesus, the leader of a small band of men who followed his radical teachings for a few decades, lived on this earth. Then why the big deal over Him today? Why do people discuss, argue, write books about and conduct symposiums on this man? The question begs, what if he is who he claimed to be? and that is, God incarnate, breaking into history to bring back a straying humanity because of his love for us. I think that Science answers questions of the intellect but not so much questions of the heart. We can deny the existance of those questions,as I did, or begin to entertain the thought that maybe there is more to our lives than just confinement to a material world, grabbing all the gusto of an unpredicatable amount of time on this spinning globe. I am not putting Science down. In fact, I have a close friend who works at Fermilab and we have great discussions connecting Christianity and Science. But on the other hand, just as we have great scope in searching for and discovering the findings of science. I believe we ought to include a search for answers to the spiritual part of our existance. Just more thoughts:) Once again thankful for the opportunity to speak my mind!
Hi again Michelle,
The reason for the big fuss two thousand years later is that the Jesus figure is still controversial after all this time. Contoversial, not for his supposed teachings or claims to divinity, but because apart from mention in the bible (contradictory mention at that), there is no corroborating contemporary evidence for his ever having existed.
If it was not for the church’s often violent agenda over the years to push for the Christian belief system, he would be all but forgotten today; consigned to the scrap heap of the many fictitious gods and prophets before him.
At best Jesus was morphed out of the many other so-called prophets of the time to become the sole representative of the church’s political and power-mongering agenda.
The big deal is that people wnat to believe desparately that it is all true, because it makes them feel better about their oft miserable lives. The clerics have pushed their agenda for thousands of years, because it keeps the ordinary folk chained and enslaved to the church for ever. That’s what the fuss from free thinking individuals is all about. We want to see everyone freed from this bondage.
Until substantial undisputed proof is provided, that there is more to to our lives than the material world, I’m just punch-drunk-happy to just live, and marvel at the natural beauty of the world, and the extraordinary power of the human mind to create the technology that makes living easier. Time spent wondering about after-life without any evidence for it, is time wasted on living the life you have at present.
Once again, I think we may be at a respectable crossroads. Speaking personally, when challenged to look into the claims of Christianity, I was not living a miserable life, nor looking for anything to make me feel better. I honestly believed that I had denied something I had not put to the test. (very unscientific:) Would you agree that if we are to use our logic and the sciences to make new discoveries, that it’s possible that there is a spiritual reality to be discovered as well? My question to you would be, where is the evidence that “Jesus morphed out of the many so-called prophets?”.. I would encourage you to look into the writings of C. S. Lewis, Philosopher Professor Francis Schaeffer, deceased but his writings still well read and respected by many. I do think that if Jesus Christ appeared in person on this planet, it would not convince skeptics any more than it did during his time on earth. The only evidence that starts one on this road of inquiry is to encounter someone who has been freed from the tyranny of religious dominance and is now living a life of contentment and peace, found in this relationship with Jesus.
I too, love to ponder the natural beauty of this world and modern advances in technology. I would challenge you respectfully with your last statement about “wasting time wondering about an afterlife without any evidence for it”, with a question from a scientific perspective…Would you agree that pondering is often the first step on the road to scientific inquiry, which leads to the pursuit of scientific experiments, resulting in knowledge? Why not travel that road of inquiry in the spiritual realm? Let me know when you grow tired of these discussions and I will respectfully withdraw..but until then..Thank you
Logic and science does not point to anything spiritual; logic and science points to cold hard reality. Not comforting, but real nonetheless.
Please explain in what sense you use the term spiritual. Many people (some I know) can be spiritual without being religious or believing in any supernatural deities. In fact I have a friend who smokes a lot of weed, and he clams to be very spiritual.
On the odd occasion I have smoked weed,I have felt something that could loosely be described as spiritual. And science has already explained why narcotic stimulants induce these feelings. Perhaps Christianity is a drug-free narcotic?
Have you never met anyone who is living in contentment and peace and is not a Jesus follower, or of any religious persuasion for that matter? You must live in a small world? I know many.
There is reason to ponder because evidence points to something tangible; and which needs further investigation. The afterlife? Maybe worth a little wondering about; but certainly not worth re-arranging your entire life around an unproved, unsubstantiated belief system, for.
Scientific inquiry concerns mainly tangible things; things you can generally touch or feel or see, or are implied by something tangible. When you delve into the realm of the spiritual or supernatural, science falls away, and psuedo-science enters the fray…
You have a liking for pseudo-science; that’s great, no problem. Many people do; that’s why homeopathy is a booming industry.
But don’t let my dislike for pseudo-science chase you away from our interesting little discussions.
BTW: C.S Lewis is yet another religious apologist. Confirmation bias is not a good thing…