This I Believe

Ronald - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on September 4, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe that life on earth as we know it is confined to three basic questions. It is our purpose here to answer those questions so we may prepare for what comes later.

The first question is “is there more to existence than what we see in the moment?” Reincarnation, afterlife, the existence of the soul, etc. are all related to this question. If there is no more than our current moment, if the past is gone and the future is inaccessible, then the present has no meaning simply because it will continuously slip away, only to be consumed by the future. If there is no more than “now”, planning for the future is not important because regardless of what happens, there is no permanent effect.

Because of certain specific experiences I have had and also because it is the more interesting choice, I have concluded that there is more to the universe than what I see and experience in the “now”. There is a past and it has changed me and there will be a future to change me again. Exactly what came before birth or what transcends death I cannot be sure of, but I am sure that there is something.

The second question is “is the universe rational?” i.e. does it operate according to natural laws of cause and effect, or are there arbitrary results? There has been much debate about so-called “intelligent design” which basically boils down to a choice between a religious faith in arbitrary results (even if those arbitrary results are the result of choices made by a higher power) and a scientific explanation for causality.

I believe the universe is rational and that eventually a higher understanding will show that there really is not any difference between religion and science. In my opinion current events only go to demonstrate this because religion has given us an overarching concern for our fellow man as well as the suicide bomber. Science has given us antibiotics and the atomic bomb. In the end, even if you embrace “intelligent design” it all comes down to choices. Since the universe is rational, all you ever see is consequences of choices.

The third question is much more open ended: “what is truth?”. While this might appear at first blush to be a simple question, it is actually not at all easy to define truth. Because I believe the universe is rational, it behaves according to natural laws. One of those laws is G”del’s “Incompleteness Theorem”. This mathematical theorem came from an attempt to mechanize mathematical discoveries. Since it was believed that mathematics was strictly, well, mathematical, new theorems could be generated and proved by a sufficiently powerful computer and all mathematical truth could be discovered. G”del proved instead that any system has truths and falsehoods that cannot be proven to be true or false within the constraints of that system, therefore mathematics was at its core “incomplete” and the algorithmic approach to discovery is (was) doomed.

While this question does not have a ready answer like the first two, I believe it is the most significant. Because of G”del, in the search for truth we can be assured that the path is long and difficult because you can never have enough information to “prove” all truths. The search for truth becomes the ultimate discovery and is guaranteed to be infinite in scope.

I do not know what comes next, but I am beginning to discover that, regardless of the future, there is an interesting, challenging and rewarding pathway ahead.