Hope in the Black Void of the Unknowable

Daniel - Mebane, North Carolina
Entered on July 31, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

As a scientist studying the development of the brain and as a student of all scientific knowledge, I find it highly probable that all life and human experience is devoid of inherent meaning or purpose. The Universe seems nothing more than an enormous cosmic accident – an accident that will be corrected in due course as the Universe and its inhabitants are eventually destroyed in an equally pointless cataclysm. At least this is the view of my Universe as seen through the eyes of empiricism, the only eyes through which I know how to look. My morals, my accomplishments, my feelings and thoughts, and my connections to others and to the world in which I live are apparently no more than blips of energy in an inconsequential cosmic blink. However, underlying all of my knowledge and all of science I hold one major faith, one prime assumption. This is the assumption that my senses and experiences are relating real information about reality. That I am not merely in “The Matrix.” There is simply no philosophical workaround to this argument – it is impossible for me to absolutely know anything.

Thus, I cannot conclude anything definitively about my ultimate creator. I cannot absolutely believe in anything. I can only think from within the pragmatic view of science – that my senses work and my experiences along with the collected experiences of my brethren explain my reality better than any other means of purported knowledge. I can only decide to educate my future children about where we as a species come from, though I cannot guess where we may be going. I must make them understand that our science, our knowledge, is the closest thing to an explanation of our Universe we will likely ever have. However, just as importantly, I must admit where this knowledge can never reach, and allow that place to be inhabited with hope – a hope that maybe, just maybe, in that dark void of unknowability lies a meaning to my existence, a meaning I can never know or comprehend. I must make them understand that although the fables passed down from our ancestors are no longer useful as a defining belief, the true possibilities of our meaning and our worth may be infinitely larger than I ever imagined. I believe that if we take into consideration the grandness of nature, the mind-boggling array of galaxies in our Universe, and the insanely complex biology and chemistry within ourselves, the unknowable creation of our Universe will seem only that much bigger and infinitely more awe-inspiring. I have seen but a glimpse of this awe in the intricate networks of neurons speaking to each other in unintelligible chemical languages, and I can almost fathom an entity setting it all in motion with a mere equation. Almost. As the philosopher Karl Popper once said, “Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.” I believe that it is in this infinite ignorance where my only hope for greater cosmic meaning may lie.