Doubt is the basis of all scientiﬁc progress. Without doubt, there is no enquiry, and without enquiry, there is no progress. Every scientific advance we have made is because of the spirit of enquiry.
We have to question ourselves constantly. Even with an expected result in an experiment, the scientist thinks, “Perhaps this is not true. Perhaps I should investigate… Let me ﬁnd something wrong, maybe an inconsistency, and look for another answer.”
Imagine if things were different. Imagine if scientists just had faith in their results. Imagine vehicles built by engineers who put them out to the public without any testing because they had faith in their designs.
I know that you are thinking now about disaster, multiple pile-ups, cars going through bridges, cars out-of-control. Cars cutting out in the middle of freeways.
But we are not just talking about engineers and cars here. We are talking about anyone who puts faith over reason; faith that claims superiority over other beliefs; that claims superiority over those without faith; that claims superiority over fact and evidence, because that is so definitely wrong. Without questioning, without doubt, without the spirit of enquiry, using faith instead, there can be no progress.
Assume you believe in one or other religion. What you have assumed to be true may not be true at all no matter how much faith you have.
The worst that can happen when questioning any belief is that we ﬁnd we were previously wrong. Ask the same questions of yourself as the scientist: Perhaps this is not true. Perhaps I should investigate… Let me ﬁnd something wrong, maybe an inconsistency, and look for another answer.
In a scientist, this involves perhaps submitting a paper to a peer-reviewed magazine where people will look sceptically at the conclusions of the scientist, follow the data sets and follow the reasoning before deciding whether to recommend rejection or publishing.
For someone questioning their own religious beliefs, perhaps they should start by reading the works of people who can expose the fallacies behind religious belief systems, not merely reading reinforcing works by others of the same faith. Tough questions are needed.
Of course, some people are scared to ask themselves those questions because deep in their hearts they know that their beliefs have no basis in reality, but to quote Socrates, in Plato’s Apology, who took great pleasure in exposing people who pretended to know things that they could not possibly know, such as the mind of a god, ‘The life which is unexamined is not worth living’, and (paraphrased) ‘Áll that I know is that I know nothing’.
Philosophy, in general, has a lot to teach us. I’m not of the opinion that most philosophy is a waste of time. Deep thinking is involved, and there is often a thin line between philosophy, psychology and science. For example, the question, ‘Do we live in a nested simulation?’ involves all three disciplines.
A philosopher might consider whether or not it matters if we live in a simulation, reasoning that we must nevertheless act as if the world is real, and act in accord with the principles of civilised society. A psychologist might consider how the possibility of our existing within a simulation can cause existential angst, and what is the effect of that angst on the state of mental health on the individual who believes it. A scientist would perhaps be looking for the core programming behind the simulation and how that could affect the chances of us being able to reconcile quantum mechanics with general relativity.
Don’t think I am digressing here. There is a point to this.
Look at simulation theory from the perspective of someone of deep religious belief, their religion says nothing about simulation theory. It is therefore not a part of their reality. There is no spirit of enquiry there. It would probably be horrifying for them to consider the subject matter. It would mean that the god they imagine to be the supreme entity in the universe could merely be a fourteen-year-old girl in the year 2030 playing a simulation game on her AI-powered smartphone. Because she is the one who created this universe. This simulation. Unacceptable to the religious, although possible.
Currently we can already create and evolve simulated universes on powerful computers in the lab, testing out different starting conditions and galaxy, star and planetary evolution. We can create a million universes simultaneously and compare them. Our current computers are just at the beginning of computer power. Astrophysicists are fond of telling us that we each have more power in our smartphones than the Apollo astronauts had in the entire mainframe room-sized computers supporting them.
Does it not seem strange to you that at this same time, here and now, astronomers and other scientists are coming to the majority view that our universe is just one of an almost infinite number of universes in the multiverse of almost all possible universes. These people, coming to these conclusions, are not people of faith.
Stuff worth thinking about!
But those with the Spirit of Enquiry, the courage to question themselves, to question their beliefs, to question what other people say; to think, unbounded by religious ideals, may be surprised by the light that comes into their lives. Instead of the fear of God, people can have the beauty and wonder of the entire universe, the unanswered questions of science, the investigative urge to discover strange new worlds, strange new elements, and new concepts.
That religion quashes and crushes the spirit of enquiry, is definitely a Bad Thing About Religion!