When acquiring knowledge, it
begins to harbor skepticism. With doubt questions such as how certain one is
appear. For example, if one knew nothing then they’d build upon their knowledge
and if one knew some information then they could be susceptible to bias to new
knowledge. In other words, the more theories one attracts the more confused and
doubtful one becomes. Doubt rises without a criterion for certainty and
decreases when certainty is acquired. However, the larger amount of information
requiring confirmation begins to demolish certainty. This situation of a larger
acquirement of knowledge and an even greater amount of doubt follows is
extremely present in two areas of knowledge – religion and science. Considering
that knowledge is justified true belief and confidence is certainty it is
extremely difficult to define what the universal criteria is when encountering
justification for certainty however, in science this correctness comes from
tests when in religion this certainty comes from faith.

The field of religion is
established on theology and faith. For example, one may believe in a higher
deity for guidance and a justification for reason. Similarly, a christian will
inevitably fall submissive to the teachings of God because that is whom their
religion is enhanced by. In addition to doubt being the questioning of what one
thought they knew the more it can be seen as a weakness too.  Its
universally known that beyond any possibility of doubt that our consciousness
exists, and that some kind of reality external to our consciousness exists. The
rest of our knowledge consists of our understanding of the nature of these two
existents. As the reality we perceive is hard, it is possible to test our ideas
against it, and thus to learn. However, it is impossible for such derived
knowledge to be absolutely sure because surely some element of doubt always
remains. For example, the world we know could end tomorrow, and be revealed as
a complex hallucination.  Additionally, reason is the primary tool of our
conscious mind, but is not designed by it. It is almost a “given” of
consciousness, its basis rooted in external reality. Therefore, its reliability
cannot be an Absolute. Doubt like this: naturally beyond disproof but with no
basis in evidence, can be reviewed as “empty doubt”. Empty doubt is
essentially meaningless. By definition, there is no evidence for it. By its
nature, we can’t do a thing about it. Yet it is known by those who would
destroy the human mind as if it were some sort of invincible weapon. However,
we do know that some sort of reality exists; we do know that it can get
exceedingly unpleasant, if not fatal.  it is, therefore, impossible for us
simply to bask mindlessly in the middle of two equal and opposite empty doubts.
By their nature, empty doubts are undecidable. Therefore they are not tools of
cognition, and have no value to a conscious mind in its necessary pursuit of
knowledge. We must attempt to decide between propositions and are thus forced
into the realm of “real doubt”.

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Our knowledge of reality can
be separated into two parts: our knowledge of facts and our understanding of
why they are so. The first part consists of observations of things that exist
while the second is of theories and statements of natural law. Our knowledge of
the facts of reality may be incomplete, but what we know, we definitely know.
There may be more details to discover, but as reality itself is difficult and
not self-contradictory, further exploration of reality cannot invalidate
earlier knowledge. Thus if we discover an inconsistency, we know we have come
across some previously unknown factor.

Its almost
impossible to know every single fact of reality-only something like the size of
the universe can guard the information in the universe. Our power to understand
the universe consists of our ability firstly to abstract the concretes of
reality into concepts, and secondly to use logic to arrive at testable theories
about it. The first allows us to think about innumerable concretes as a single
unit, and the second allows us to discover the laws and principles which
explain the facts of reality. Our understanding of natural laws is more prone
to error than the simple collection of facts and their abstraction into
concepts: as our theories explain rather than describe, they can’t be verified
as directly by reference to primary perceptions. However, the accumulation of
successful precise predictions, and the building of further successful theories
and technologies on their foundations, eventually proves them: in that no real
doubt remains. Then one might still have grounds to seek to improve them, or
find limits to them: but not to doubt their basic truth. The ABO blood groups
are a satisfactory example. Their existence and the resulting rules of blood
mixing were established. Inconsistencies (clotting between supposedly
compatible groups) showed up further blood factors such as Rh, thus extending
the earlier knowledge without invalidating it. Further research then explained
the blood groups by reference to surface molecules and the workings of the
immune system. Much still remains to be learnt about the immune system, but the
wealth of consistent data and successful applications proves the basic theory
beyond all real doubt. If im going to learn about the world, then I most definitely
make one core assumption: it is possible to gain knowledge about reality which
can help me preserve and improve my life. This is not an absolute: there is no
necessity for it to be true. However, if it is not true then I am paralysed, at
the mercy of arbitrary, unknowable forces. Unless I am to just give up and die,
I simply have to assume that the combination of my senses, my reason and the
nature of the world, do in fact allow me to acquire knowledge. I do not have to
assume that all knowledge is accessible, only that enough of it is. This,
therefore, is the prime principle by which any rational consciousness wishing
to live must act: I must try to learn about the world. For that to occur, this
is the key principle it must assume: knowledge of reality is possible. It is a
very important point that although I must start by assuming this axiom, by so
doing I am putting it to the test. Following events could prove the principle wrong,
and therefore the principle is impossible, but until then it must be held. Ultimately
a  rational being cannot begin anywhere
else.

Knowledge
builds on knowledge. Almost a truism, this is the cause of the exponential
growth in scientific knowledge. New theories suggest new avenues for
investigation. The arduous life’s work of one person becomes the starting point
for another. New knowledge leads to advanced technology, which increases the
rate at which further new knowledge can be gained, and so on in the increasing
spiral.  Result is the virtual disappearance of many former scourges of
mankind; a massive increase in human productivity; everyday technologies and
luxuries beyond the imagination of previous generations; the ability to fly out
of the world and to reach the planets. There can be no real doubt that
knowledge builds on knowledge. But for this process to work, the knowledge
being built upon must be fundamentally valid. The process works, with
spectacular success. Therefore, the knowledge is valid. It is true. We can be
certain of what we know, with only empty doubt remaining its cognitively
meaningless. When a theory precisely accounts for a wide range of things and
contradicts nothing known, then either it is basically true or it is an amazing
coincidence. By definition, the latter is very unlikely. When we can make
computers on a chip; when we can genetically engineered microbes as we like;
when we can make tons of metal fly us through the sky at our command: we don’t
think, “Wow, what a bit of luck!” We know: “Such is the power of
our minds to know reality and by knowing it, to turn it to our use.”

 

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