Uncertainty v. Certainty (or Bayes’ Rule v. the Bible)

What’s the major premise I live my life from? I’m not outside the system I’m trying to explain, I’m inside it; I’m an evolved primate in a vast and ancient cosmos. That’s my existential situation. I can’t get a God’s eye view on things–I can and do readily mistake ropes for snakes all the time–so I can only work with probabilities (with grayscale judgments; with inductions from evidence) and maintain an open mind to incoming data (keep Galileo’s telescope up and pointing). “For now I see through a glass darkly.”

So when fundamentalist Bible believers speak of “waking up” to things they regard as certain (God’s existence deduced from metaphysics; the resurrection; young Earth creationism, etc.), I am in awe of their confidence, which, given their limited vantage on the world, is unwarranted, and therefore hubris, folly, emptiness, and vanity (Ecclesiastes and Socrates).

But I understand why they make these confidence moves: they’re grounded in anxiety (their fear of damnation) and narcissism (their desire to live forever). Religion’s chief stick (hell) and carrot (heaven) have arrested their attention psychologically, and they’ve become hostage to The Stockholm Syndrome (in this case, threat and love coming from the same source: the Bible). So the tension between myself and fundamentalists is Bayes v. the Bible. I wish I was as certain of anything as they are of everything.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Uncertainty v. Certainty (or Bayes’ Rule v. the Bible)

  1. Mikels Skele says:

    I’m afraid I would be bored to tears if I had their certainty.

  2. AndrewMac says:

    Bayes theorem should be used by pundits, educators, military leaders, business leaders, political leaders, gamblers, investors and anyone else who works with data/information and uncertainty. Unfortunately we dont live in that world, yet. In the meantime…Our grasp of reality (causes and effects) will continue to be clouded, and our ability to adequately prepare for uncertain future events will also suffer, so long as we rely on hunches/instincts, uninformed opinions, ideology, and a host of biases.

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