Regarding Doubt

A few days ago, I was watching a debate online, and if memory serves, since I watch quite a few of them, it was between Christopher Hitchens for the atheist position, and either/or William Lane Craig and someone else from the religious perspective. If I’m remembering it correctly, someone asked Hitchens whether he ever doubted his position and his reply was, “Never.”

Well, perhaps he just wasn’t thinking it through.

Atheism is a subset, so to speak, of skepticism. As such, it is based in doubt. It is the position that questions everything and although some are dubbed fundamatheists I find that appellation disturbing, because the use of the word fundamental or fundamentalist in the religious milieu is based in the notion that the Bible is fundamental. To then apply it to the atheist is a sort of sour grapes tit-for-tat bit of name-calling.

I have a difficult time imagining a non-believer who does not, from time to time, consider the question, what if I’m wrong? What if I’m being adamant in a position that isn’t based in fact at all, but, like most people, I’m just coming to a position emotionally and then rationalizing a set of explanations that justify it?

For me, this leads to a re-examining of my position, and finding again that it is very solid, that my certitude is indeed justified.

For all truly thinking people doubt must be a constant companion. Question everything! Question yourself as well as you question others. Any position that is not questioned is a position that cannot be justified.

It is a sad fact of the human consciousness that we can only entertain a small number of facts at any given moment. So we learn to think in an analog manner, following a chain of linked thoughts to a rational conclusion. The ability to think straight, as Anthony Flew might have put it in his halcyon days, is to examine a line of causation from beginning to end in such a way as that each element clearly supports the elements that follow.

So I’m continually more comfortable in my arguments and my thoughts, and I continually search for a better understanding of reality and truth with more regard for their veracity than for my own comfort. As should everyone.


About herkblog

I'm an atheist. Although that's just a part of my life, I consider it to be important enough to me to be the main theme of this personal screed. I am self-employed in a service business and I live in Idaho, a place not known for its liberal qualities.
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2 Responses to Regarding Doubt

  1. Nicely summed up Herk. In the context of the debate, I support Hitchens saying what he said, but in the big scheme, we must always have doubts. We need to be clear that science doesn’t prove things and it is based on premises, but that is what gives it its strength. Everything is based on assumptions and there is no way to prove anything, philosophically speaking. Science is unique in that it states it.

    • herkblog says:

      I think there is a way to prove things. But “prove” does not mean to prove perfectly. I mean, a proof is a reasoned argument, or an artifact, or physical evidence. You can’t prove anything absolutely, but you can prove things well enough to take a position and to expand your understanding. And of course it always helps to be willing to be wrong.

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