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We Know with Confidence Only When We Know Little; With Knowledge Doubt Increases

7 pages
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Vanderbilt University
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Since the creation of man, human beings have always developed a curious and skeptical notion regarding their surroundings. Consequently, the innate nature of their curiosity forces them to make attempts in comprehending how the world functions. Therefore, when encountered with any form of distrust or uncertainty, particularly on an issue relating to a perceived belief, we conduct our own investigations to try and develop certainty in our own beliefs. In truth, as a person grows older and acquires more knowledge, they tend to naturally be skeptical regarding another persons belief or knowledge which may or may not resemble their opposites. Consequently, it raises the question, is there a correlation between an individuals knowledge and skepticism? The essay will uphold that doubt is a necessary element for obtaining knowledge on the grounds that an anomaly exists between belief and an individuals observations. In understanding how doubt harbors skepticism, the paper will examine the areas of natural sciences and religion.

Natural Sciences

Over the years, the concept of knowledge has always been perceived as provisional in the field of natural sciences. One of them relates to David Hume whose method of causation on human reasoning and induction remains skeptical to many people. According to Hume, inductive reasoning is classified in terms of psychology and expectation rather than logic and science (Overholser 75). Humes belief created a sense of doubt regarding the validity of inductive reasoning and contributes to researchers continuously probing for alternative methods to acquire knowledge.

In countering the perceived law of inductive reasoning, Karl Popper makes bold generalizations that fabricate Humes statement. Popper argues that a person should opt to doubt the theory as a factual and instead prove the hypothesis using their own evidence as opposed to making judgment through inductive reasoning. Using Popper's philosophy, one can conclude that in spite of the existence of absolute truth, it is difficult to ascertain whether certainty has been achieved or not. In the pursuit of knowledge, a person can be brought closer to the truth, but concern lies on whether one attains absolute truth.

A fact lacking an objection does not entirely mean that a particular argument has a future (Boghossian 522). Albert Einsteins formula for calculating energy (E=MC2) is widely accepted despite being unproven. The formula simply remains as a theorem which holds in future because an element (mass) is capable of being converted to obtain energy. Although the theory may be anonymous in the acquisition of absolute truth, the distrust and attempts to falsify the hypothesis narrow the bridge of attaining the latter which subsequently facilitates increased knowledge acquisition.

On the other hand, Thomas Kuhn proposed a theory regarding scientific revolution which proposes the claim that doubt is an essential factor in knowledge acquisition. Kuhn argues that the theory which relates to the scientific revolution supports the assertion that doubt is fundamental to knowledge. According to Kuhn, science does not progress through an accumulation of new knowledge. Instead, it is cultivated by revelations which emphasize on the abrupt transformation of scientific knowledge in a specified field (Sterman 98). If there is an anomaly with the existing paradigm, a sense of doubt regarding the latters accuracy arises. Consequently, a new anomaly is usually created to solve the anomaly, thus developing a paradigm shift and a perceived step to achieve factual information. I recall my formative years in school when I was taught that Pluto was a planet. Nonetheless, after a long debate between scientists, it was concluded that the planet was no longer existent. Following a paradigm shift, knowledge of astronomy would continue to maintain its hypothetical linear accumulation. Subsequently, the doubt would push people to bridge absolute truth, and the notions people have regarding the matter.

Therefore, increased knowledge raises our doubt which remains a vital element in ones examination to attain knowledge. In some occasions, an individual may opt to ignore every opposition to a particular theory, thus inadvertently limiting an improvement of their understanding. In such instances, the individual chooses to search for or develop a conclusive interpretation of information in a manner which affirms the individuals preconceptions rather than conducting the observations objectively (115). Therefore, apart from lacking weaknesses of the theory, gaining new knowledge and constructing new theories that are closer to the absolute truth becomes a challenge.

On the counterclaim, there are other factors other than doubt which result in the discovery of new knowledge. In the field of science, observation and possible testing are fundamental. Thus, doubt in both elements in science may result in the acquisition of new knowledge. The knowledge may stem from the accidental realization that a particular theorem does not show any sign of discovery. In the discipline of biology, plant and animal species are revealed when the researchers explore new environments. Several discoveries such as the planet of Pluto and penicillin were discovered as accidentally as opposed to doubt. Nonetheless, if a person adopts the confirmation bias method, they are more likely oppose the evidence and not disapprove previous findings. Therefore, past knowledge would continue to exist.

Skepticism regarding Poppers theory argues that a justification for fabricating the theory is merely biased. The argument presented is conclusive in theory rather than practice. It stems from the notion that assumes in the event of a collision between a hypothesis and observation; both factors can be rejected. Despite views falsifying the theory, we may choose to reject them as free examples of counterexamples which are not capable of altering the hypothesis. To prove that the false statement is important, we may choose to rely on inductive reasoning which will subsequently lead us to the inductive reasoning flow proposed by Hume. Doubt in the credibility and hypothesis of the falsification may result in researchers acquiring knowledge since they would be uncertain to believe it.


In the field of religion, doubt is the key to knowledge because faith alone cannot be sufficient to make people believe in the existence of a superior being. Therefore, doubt in religion leads to theology and reasoning to prove religious beliefs. The logic which includes teleological and ontological arguments aids in the reaffirmation of an individuals faith in a particular religion as they attempt to make logical conclusions on the existence of God.

Revelations and miracles, which are mostly mysterious and doubtful, intensify our faith in the existence of a higher being. One famous occasion which remains mysterious to date involves the Hinduism. In 1995, Hindu statues all over the world appeared to drink milk which was given to them. The phenomenon was popularly known as the Hindu milk miracle (Jayaraman 280). A lack of the scientific explanation which deduced the validity of the events makes one conclude that the event was truly a miracle, thus strengthening the peoples belief in the religion and a superior being.

Additionally, the supposed answering of ones inner thoughts and dispelling of doubt regarding religion contributes to a belief in the existence of God. In Christianity, the story of Thomas vividly expounds on the element of uncertainty and certainty. Thomas, who was one of Christs disciples, doubted the resurrection of Jesus. He changed his stance and became a believer when he saw the latter in the flesh after his crucifixion and ultimate death. One has to assume that prayers which are answered as well as miracles are the outcomes of work from a superior being to reinforce the fact that God indeed exists. Therefore, strengthening ones faith in God leads to an expounded knowledge on religion

On the counterclaim, one has to consider religious relativism since the alleged evidence regarding the existence of God reinforce an individuals personal belief in the faith. Consequently, it does not attribute to the works other gods. In the present day world, religious factions contradict one another. For instance, the Taoism and Hinduism are polytheistic whereas Christianity and Islam are monotheistic and Atheists do not believe in the existence of a superior being. The stated contradiction cannot be entirely factual if the truth is absolute. Therefore, a sense of doubt and the fortification of a persons beliefs may not really lead to the acquisition of knowledge. One can gain insight regarding a particular religion when the truth is entirely relative.

Furthermore, the foundation of religion is faith. Therefore, a person cannot only choose to ascertain religion but can also opt to believe it. Doubting does not support gain in knowledge regarding various aspects of religion since there are elements of mystery connected to it. The existing gap between the tangible and intangible are associated with belief rather than doubt since the latter is considered as a contributing factor in people shunning religion and not developing their faith.


Doubt in every aspect of life results in radical skepticisms which lack an independent ground for the testimonial beliefs which we possess. Ideally, since doubts can never be phased out entirely, how can people have certainty regarding and notion and claim they know anything? Additional problems are more likely be encountered if the methods for knowledge attainment in different areas of knowledge are doubted. It not only includes doubt in the hypothesis or falsification but also an interrogation of the methods used in concluding. Specific statements would be difficult to doubt for one to prove anything at all. Thus, we can adopt Renes principle which suggests that though is existent and remains the firm basis upon which a particular notion cannot be queried. Other existing knowledge which can be doubted can be re-established for it to acquire a steady foundation for knowledge acquisition.

Thus, one should consider the pragmatic approach towards attaining truth rather than doubt if the theory efficiently works lest we succumb to a world full of radical skeptics. Evidently, knowledge can only be withdrawn from the event there is a conflict between the alleged truth and obvious conclusions, doubt in the purported truth and discovering if the belief or observation is false.


Works Cited

Boghossian, Paul A. "The Rule-following Considerations." Mind98.392 (1989): 507-549.

Jayaraman, K. S. "India's' Milk Miracle'is Hard to Swallow." Nature 377.6547 (1995): 280-280.

Overholser, James C. "Elements of the Socratic Method: II. Inductive reasoning." Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 30.1 (1993): 75.

Sterman, John D. "The Growth of Knowledge: Testing a Theory of Scientific Revolutions with a Formal Model." Technological Forecasting and Social Change 28.2 (1985): 93-122.


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