When push comes to shove, as the saying goes, we are faced with a bare, ugly, barbed-wire truth: in a universe based on chance, there can be no absolute certainty.
Random fluctuations may give way on the large scale to reasonable predictability; the motion of each individual electron isn't known, but the table still stands, holds our plate, our fork, our beer. Statistics begins to dictate at the level we perceive daily, creating the generalized physics with which we are familiar: forces, accelerations, momentum and energy and the other well-known namesakes of kinematics. But it is still built upon one basic, fundamental fact, something that quantum mechanics taught us well: the world is unpredictable.
Faced with a world ripe with such possibility, the human mind - so far as we know, the only thing capable of having even a hope of coming to grips with this unpredictability - does quite the opposite: it copes. We search desperately for some word of certainty, and find it wherever seems fit: God, friendship, even a guarantee from a retail store. We force predictability and certainty into a world without such guarantees, either dishonestly, or through hope, and this, in a sense, is faith.
Our lives are spent doing a rationalization of predictability versus unpredictability, chance and likelihood. If we give up one side entirely in favor of the other, we're not being fair to the human condition. Blind faith, the "bad" kind of faith, results in the dishonest forcing of a certainty which is, in reality, unlikely. Conversely, a phobia would be understood as the one case where a person's rational balancing act of predictability and uncertainty are skewed toward uncertainty: it is the unlikely outcome which is expected.
So do we seek certainty because it is out there somewhere for us to find, or do we seek it merely because we need it to exist, regardless of whether or not it does? Is this search for certainty in an uncertain universe at least a part of what makes us human?
6 days ago