Last Updated 20 Apr 2022

Doubt Is the Key to Knowledge

Category Engineering, Faith
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Doubt is the key to knowledge” (Persian Proverb). To what extent is this true in two areas of knowledge? Firstly, to understand fully the proverb, definitions should be given. Doubt is the psychological status of being stuck between believing and disbelieving, involving uncertainty and distrust in a particular situation or issue or when there is lack of hard evidence and facts to support the alleged information, action, motive or decision.

When you question a notion or you are open to inquisition or reassessment of it, you are having doubt. Only when you can find the justification for your doubt, one that satisfies whatever convinces you to think otherwise, then you will no longer have doubts. To have knowledge is like to have an explanation, understanding or reasoning  to things in the world. Knowledge can be both personal and collective, and not all knowledge is a fact. The big bang theory , the theory of relativity, and the string theory etc. rovides us explanations and reasoning to why the world is the way it is. These theories are what we know but are not necessarily the fact – we do not know if these theories are correct, but still knowing these theories count as our knowledge. Knowledge can come from our personal experience as well. This essay will seek to address the extent to which doubt is manifested as a key to knowledge regarding two areas of knowledge, Science and History.

According to Academic Press Dictionary of Science & Technology, science is the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts and also the organized body of knowledge that is derived from such observations and that can be verified or tested by further investigation. There is a view that science is seen as provisional, which means that it is subjected to being falsified.

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In an ever-developing world were new discoveries are made all the time leading to new theories and realizations, older theories are always at the threat of being falsified. Even the new theories, the scientific community will vigorously doubt and criticize any ideas until enough evidence is produced to back them up. It is without ground to say that the basis of scientific growth is on inferred or even imagined hypotheses by scientist in an attempt to create or explain something new or unexplained.

Experiments are carried out and positive results can turn these hypotheses into theories and possibly knowledge, of course until they are doubted and contested against by new theories that explores the opposition of the theory in question. Throughout the history of Science, knowledge has been derived from the selfsame processes. In early Mesopotamian study, the Earth was believed to be a flat disk with a dome, until Ferdinand Magellan managed to prove that Earth was spherical after successfully circumnavigating the Earth in the 15th Century.

Another example would be of the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei who, despite the endless controversy, criticism and denouncing made against him, proved false the long withheld notion of the geocentric view that the Earth was at the center of the Universe. Thus, it is evident that through the use of scientific theories, unless disproved otherwise, knowledge is updated and will remain as such through continual doubt. Hence we can see that as long as there is doubt, new things will be explored and old laws might be disproved of although it is perceived as knowledge to everyone.

Although doubt leads to more and more correct viewpoint of an issue, we can never be certain that what we think of as knowledge now is definitely the real truth and can never be disproved. However, with that being said, I believe that doubt and doubt alone cannot be the sole key to gain scientific knowledge, but continual doubt can actually leads to wasting of time and effort and worst is to eliminate the correct fact that is suppose to be true which can lead to a regression of knowledge.

Firstly, there are many theories in science that remain in the gray area that cannot be logically proven with our current knowledge, like for example the existence of black holes. No scientists have been successful in proving its existence. However, one of the many theories of the black hole might actually be true but as nobody can prove it so, scientists in the field may invest pointless effort into developing new theories instead of directing that effort into proving the theory, which is actually true. Also there are truths that can never be doubted or proven otherwise like the fact that the Earth orbits around the word.

Thus, although doubt lends to the progress of science and hence knowledge, it also has limitations which might prove detrimental to the growth of knowledge. The next issue is that of religion. Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. According to New York Times writer Peter Steinfels, published in July 19, 2008, religion is no longer like it was in the past when religious faith was present in everything people do, even for oubters. Nowadays it is almost inevitable that believers must live in a condition of doubt and uncertainty. We often think that there is no room for doubt within faith, that doubt is weakness. Even worse, most conservative faiths regard doubt as something to be battled against because it is dangerous to one's faith. It can lead to heresy, doubting the existence of God, and, according to their belief, perhaps loss of salvation and eternal torture in the fires of Hell.

Of course , it had been pointed out by religious thinkers a long time ago that being doubtful about a religion is not the opposite polar of the religion but it is actually the better way of having faith rather than blind belief. Personally, although I am a devout Buddhist, many a time I have found myself doubting my own religion. For example, I sometimes question whether there is such thing called karma or does everything just happen by chance and karma is just a way to scare believers into doing good deeds for they fear of having to suffer the consequence afterwards.

Ultimately there are people who are kind-hearted and yet still suffer every day. I found my answer not long ago about how it is related to another issue of reincarnation and bringing over karma. I did feel guilty of doubting Buddha and his words but then I learned that he said: Do not accept any of my words on faith, Believing them just because I said them. Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns, And critically examines his product for authenticity. Only accept what passes the test By proving useful and beneficial in your life.

The Buddha (Jnanasara-samuccaya) Doutb, to Buddha is necessary because there is no point in following a religion blindly. According to the Buddha, religion should be left to one's own free choice. Religion is not a law, but a disciplinary code which should be followed with understanding. That’s why the Buddha told his disciples not to blindly follow his teachings but test them and verify them through their own experience like a goldsmith tests the purity of gold. However sometimes fir belief in the spiritual side of things can be necessary or at least comforting.

In the book : “The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty”, an example of a 20-year-old boy was given. He is of an agreeable and intellectual appearance," but he's soon beset with existential and religiously-inflected questions, tied to his faith, that he feels compelled to ask his doctor: "What am I? What are all these things that are made like me? Why am I? ". "Why am I? " is perhaps the most remarkable of these questions, with religion offering an answer more confident and comforting than science perhaps ever could.

But as his doctor explains, the patient finds no comfort in theology. He is in one sense suspended between two options, greater faith and firmer uncertainty, yet neither strikes him as possible or appealing. Ultimately religions are spiritual havens that most followers take refuge in; and by constantly doubt its truth, it defeats the purpose of having religions as people are always have this insecurity that what they are doing, adhering to may not do any good to them despite what their religions says.

In conclusion, due to the broadness and ambiguity of the knowledge areas of Science and History, it is impossible to accurately evaluate doubt and its ability to present itself as the key to attaining knowledge. Nonetheless, through careful study and research on these various areas of knowledge, this essay presents the stand that doubt, to a large extent, is an indispensable and important factor as the key to knowledge. 1505 words ------------------------------------------- [ 2 ]. Sharpe, Alfred. "Doubt". The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 5 (New York: Robert Appleton). Retrieved 2008-10-21. [ 3 ]. http://blogs. yis. ac. jp/13hwangj/2011/09/05/definition-of-knowledge/ [ 4 ]. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Religion#cite_note-0 [ 5 ]. http://www. nytimes. com/2008/07/19/us/19beliefs. html [ 6 ]. http://viewonbuddhism. org/dharma. html [ 7 ]. http://www. budsas. org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/277. htm

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