Among Great Minds: A Humbling Experience

The interesting minds (those worth the time to try to understand) are those that encompass the ‘measurable’, consider the immeasurable, know the difference, and can discuss both with equal aplomb, like Stephen Hawking. – INTJ Reb

Being in the presence of minds vastly greater than our own can be a rather disconcerting experience, especially if it comes to the point where there is nothing left for you to say other than what has already been said. I’m not talking about technical subjects like engineering and math because it takes years to study those, nor of the latest developments in science because one can easily google them. I’m talking about philosophy.

While science derives facts based on observation and math in studying the physical/natural world, in philosophy facts are based on pure logic to understand existence in relation to less tangible things such as beauty, emotions, and the supernatural. (Source: intjforum.com)

Ah, logic. To grasp the unobservable, whittle it down to bite-size chunks and then turn it into a meal digestible by the mind. Here the playing field is leveled because education and acquired knowledge do not count, and all that matters is pure brain power. And here I am greatly humbled by minds that already have logical answers to questions I haven’t even asked.

I admit that I am a proud person in matters concerning intellect. I try to never lose an argument by not taking a stand that cannot be defended while manipulating my opponent into taking an extreme position that would saddle them with the burden of proof. I always play it safe by sticking only to what we ‘know’ and pointing out what we don’t.  I always say that science can only deal with theories that are testable, and scientific theories never become facts.

So when debating with an atheist about the existence of God, while I am a believer I sometimes say that we really don’t know. There is evidence both for and against the existence of a Creator, but there is no proof for either position. Evidence causes us to believe; proof causes us to know. Science, except perhaps in the field of mathematics, cannot really ‘prove’ anything – science can only disprove.

And I guess here lies the point where the atheists and deists part ways. While both rely on science, logic, and reason instead of authority, tradition, or dogma as bases for the formation of their beliefs (note: beliefs, not knowledge), when science can no longer gather the necessary empirical data because such data is sitting at the other side of the space-time boundary, philosophy comes in. However, beliefs based on philosophy are generally ‘inferior’ to beliefs based on science. But for as long as logic and reason are applied, these beliefs can hardly be called irrational. And yeah, atheists (even the ‘weak atheists’ who do not say that they ‘believe there is no God’ but rather that they simply ‘don’t believe in God’) do have a belief too: that either the universe had always existed eternally or was an accident in nature. Now this belief is definitely not based on empirical evidence but rather on…come to think of it, what is the basis of this atheist belief?

This ‘play-safe’ attitude of mine is sometimes the very thing that limits my mind from expanding into uncharted territories, especially when my intellectual pride is at stake. I am quite ashamed of this and I envy people who are willing to stick out their necks, like this someone who wrote in a forum:

The only reason I’m not an atheist is the unverifiable and unjustifiable and unreasonable reason that I’ve experienced God (or thought I have as some of you might want to put it). There’s no proving it – I can’t – but it’s what I know to be true. And to not believe will be to lie to myself. (Source: filipinofreethinkers.org)


I had written something similar to this before (I called it ‘Grace’), but that was in this blog and not in a forum. Perhaps later on when I’m more ‘intellectually mature’ I’ll take the plunge into the physically unknowable, where discussions are based on pure logic, and where I have to say the things I ‘believe’ (not ‘know’) and defend them – along with my pride.

Some minds do not want to wander into things that are ‘untestable with current proven instrumentation’. Others are capable of going to those ‘untestable’ areas, and still maintaining a discipline that studies ‘physical fact’. When you go into an area that is ‘untestable’ (I don’t consider logic a valid test, either, as it is a man made construct, and unproven at the extremes of experience, just as is ‘time’), you may find that the ‘minds that will not wander and do not want to conceive of something more’ violently and/or vociferously disagree; they have accepted and clung to ‘I don’t want to deal with that, so here’s where I stand’. There are those that cling to ‘logic’ as their last bastion of consideration, as well. Now, their stance upon the ‘proven’ is like religion to them, and we know how controversial religion can be.


The interesting minds (those worth the time to try to understand) are those that encompass the ‘measurable’, consider the immeasurable, know the difference, and can discuss both with equal aplomb, like Stephen Hawking. (Source: intjforum.com, posted by INTJ Reb)

inner minds

4 Responses to “Among Great Minds: A Humbling Experience”

  1. September 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    How can we distinguish between something ‘currently unknown but comprehensible’ and something ‘forever unknowable’?

    • 2 Jong Atmosfera
      September 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm

      My quick answer: we can’t. It is only with hindsight that we can say for sure that something previously thought to be unknowable was in fact simply unknown at that time.

  2. 3 Kirsten Locklear
    June 18, 2010 at 6:50 am

    While I know that this what placed up last year, I cannot help but ponder your problem. The thing is your thinking to hard. One of my favorite quotes always helps me to answer those difficult questions on proving or not proving god.
    “But what of faith? What of fidelity and loyalty? Complete trust? Faith is not granted by tangible proof. It comes from the heart and the soul. If a person needs proof of a god’s existence, then the very notion of spirituality is diminished into sensuality and we have reduced what is holy into what is logical.”
    While some people would prefer God to be logical (maybe for their own convience), if that were the case, the mystery would be gone. People would lose faith, their belief, and sometimes way of living, simply because they no longer have the desire to wonder about the great mystery of Him. Mystery keeps us wondering, guessing, and the bible itself is always so very careful to keep God as mysterious as possible, in order to test our faith.

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Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues


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