Why Doubt and Uncertainty are Good — For Both Religion and Science

Why Doubt and Uncertainty are Good — For Both Religion and Science

Both religion and science often tend to present themselves as “knowing everything.” Yet in both realms, there is an enormous amount we don’t know, and we tend not to appreciate the value of doubt, uncertainty, ignorance and failure. Indeed, knowledge and uncertainty, and belief and doubt, are often two sides of the same coin, and it’s the dynamic relationship between the two that drives us forward.

So on Wednesday, March 26, Sinai and Synapses held its second seminar for a small group of clergy, scientists and journalists focusing on the topic “Belief and Knowledge, Doubt and Uncertainty.” (Incidentally, you can also view the presentations from the first seminar in December on “How Science Has Changed Religion.”)

The morning began with presentations from two experts. First was Professor Karl Giberson, who teaches and writes on the field of religion and science, is a member of the Sinai and Synapses’ Advisory Board, and is the author of several books, including The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions.

Following him was Professor Stuart Firestein, former chair of the Columbia University Department of Biological Science, and author of the book Ignorance: How It Drives Science,which became a TED talk in 2013.

They each explored the question, “How do we create the right relationship between knowledge and uncertainty, and belief and doubt?” Below are their formal presentations that sparked many new thoughts and ideas for the people in the room, and helped everyone grapple with what we know, what we don’t know, and just how important each side of that coin is.

Professor Karl Giberson:

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Professor Stuart Firestein:

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