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By Matthew Slama

In the guide to Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement from JCGM, it defines uncertainty as meaning doubt. It specifically defines uncertainty of measurement as meaning doubt about the validity of the result of a measurement.

How to Work through Doubt and Uncertainty

I recently presented at a technical conference on methods of computing measurement uncertainty and was thinking about the applicability of these concepts to other areas of knowledge. We don’t see doubt and uncertainty in science the same as we do in religion. In religion, it is often viewed as a bad thing. But in science, it is often viewed as a good thing. The reason for this is in scientific endeavors; you are trying to achieve an end result – knowledge. In the scientific community, when one realizes that there is uncertainty, that is not the end. You do not just drop everything and realize you can’t go anywhere. That would be antithetical to the human tour de force or spirit. No, when we arrive at some level of doubt or uncertainty, we create a new test, we develop new methods, we try harder, we think smarter. We realize that we want to know something and use our innovative and inventive mind to reach that goal. When we have spent that effort, we end up with more confidence and more certainty in our end goal – knowledge.

But in the religious community for some reason, we think that if we have doubt it is something unpardonable and we must stop doubting. So instead of taking some guidance from the thinking faculties that God gave us (reason), we take our guidance from the pre-enlightenment era. This is a cultural affliction in many believing groups and has caused many to fall away. I have seen it first-hand.

  • Why has religion not followed up with science in terms of how we behave and respond to uncertainty or doubt?
  • Why is it that we don’t see uncertainty or doubt in religion as a stepping stone to the next breakthrough in our lives?
  • Why do we not plunge forward with the resolve that investigating uncertainty and doubt will result in something better, something stronger, or something greater?

I think that this is from the sinful nature of man – slothfulness and fear.

I should note that the scientific community is far from perfect… I have seen this slothfulness and fear time and time again in the scientific community. I’ve seen organizations run tests with no uncertainty analysis and make decisions off faulty data. They didn’t address the doubt or rather uncertainty that they had their measurement. I’ve seen this go sour many times and cost corporations millions of dollars. It’s because people didn’t do the due diligence of finding out what their uncertainties really are. I get it. I really do. It’s difficult to be prudent. It takes a lot of effort to survey the weak points in our systems. Sometimes it takes great humility. It’s hard to put together one’s uncertainties and find out what and where you need to improve

However, I see clients that do the hard work of finding out where there are uncertainties are then address these areas of uncertainty. These corrective actions result in measurement and knowledge that has lower uncertainty and results in moving forward in confidence that they’re making the right decision for their product development. I think it’s time we do the same in the Christian church community.

To do this, we need communities that are able to open up and share the struggles that they’re going through in their relationship with God. It takes asking the hard personal questions.

  • Do I know the core concepts of Christianity? Write down a core Christian concept without consulting a guide. How did you do?
  • Can I defend my faith? Look up a common Atheist, Muslim, or Jewish attack on Christianity and answer it without consulting a guide. Afterward find a theological solution and learn it
  • Why do I think that Christ is God? Describe a historical fact that gives credence to the authenticity of Christ as God without consulting a guide
  • Are there emotional issues I have that prevent me from Evangelizing? Go and share Christ with someone. If you are too afraid, find out why. Ask why am I scared? Create one action step to work on that “why” and do it.
  • What emotional issues am I bringing into my faith? Take the survey to find any childhood links that shape how we love and receive love. Anxiety can also drive mad amounts of doubt. This and other mental illnesses can shape very impoverished views of God.
  • What distortions of Christianity do I believe? Think of our cultural Christianity that did not exist in 1st or 2nd century Christianity. Think of how our country’s wealth shapes our thinking. Are you in the 1% of the world? ~43% of Americans are ( data from ASEC data 2017-2018)
  • What habitual sins do I need to talk with someone about? Find a close friend, pastor, or counselor to confess and work through sins and emotional baggage.

That only happens in small groups and communities that are showing the love of God because it takes a lot of patience and love to work through other people’s issues (and our own). We need to work on these things if we want to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Yes, it is difficult, but it’s totally worth it.

This week, ask yourself one of the questions above and ask a friend a question. You might be surprised.

Recommended resources related to the topic:

Doubt by Gary Habermas (DVD)

Emotional Doubt by Gary Habermas (CD)

The Great Apologetics Adventure by Lee Strobel (Mp3)

So the Next Generation will Know by J. Warner Wallace (Book and Participant’s Guide)

Why Science Needs God by Dr. Frank Turek (DVD and Mp4)

Science Doesn’t Say Anything, Scientists Do by Dr. Frank Turek (DVD, Mp3, and Mp4)

How Philosophy Can Help Your Theology by Richard Howe (DVD Set, Mp3, and Mp4)


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