Will We Fear What We Don’t Understand in the Future?

“We don’t like what we don’t understand and in fact is scares us, and this monster is mysterious at least.” These song lyrics from a 1992 Disney movie (bonus points if you can name the title) detail a trait of the human race. We fear what we don’t understand. For some reason, that fear turns to hate quite easily.  This has been the way of the world for some time, but I think it must be changing. How could it not be with the pace of technology these days? Given our acceptance of so much which we don’t understand, certainly hate will soon be a thing of the past.

That’s a lie, I know. We still see people all over the globe  fearing what they don’t understand. With the wonders of the internet, we have the ability to at least attempt to understand anything/one, but many turn straight to hate. What strikes me as interesting is how hateful people still use things they don’t understand.

Okay, so maybe some still think the Earth is the center of the universe and dinosaurs and humans lived on this planet at the same time (what, did you miss that chapter of the Bible?). Yet, even if they refuse to explore the science that says otherwise, I bet those same people still use cell phones, computers and cars without really understanding how they all work. They don’t fear the devices they hold in their hands. They don’t hate them and they don’t understand them. I dare say, they may even like these things which they don’t understand.

That is one thing that has always irked me about what I call “overly religious” types. They ‘don’t believe’ in so many scientific facts, but are more than happy to use devices whose very existence is dependent of those same facts. Maybe that’s where the absence of understanding comes in. If they don’t attempt to understand the technology they use, then they can go on denying those facts without ever once questioning that conviction.

This photo, “Ralph Waldo Emerson Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding” is copyright (c) 2014 BK and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. The image was cropped to create the featured image.
This photo, “Ralph Waldo Emerson Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding” is copyright (c) 2014 BK and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. The image was cropped to create the featured image.

I won’t go so far as to say science is the be all end all of the world. There is an opposite to the “overly religious” type for which I have yet to name. “Overly scientific” seems ill-fitting as the nature of science is to question. If one has no questions, I can hardly call them scientific (maybe you guys can help me come up with the right term). Whatever you choose to label these people, they incorrectly believe science is fact and nothing else is true.

What the extreme sides of both religion and science miss is that their beliefs and facts change over time. Yes, even religion changes over time. Science is more uncomfortable, though. For every answer we discover, we find a dozen more questions to be answered. If the human race goes on for another hundred thousand years, I am sure we will still have just as many unanswered questions as we do now. We don’t like that. We want concrete answers that never change, but that’s not the world we live in.

As a race, we have sought to organize and understand the world, shunning anything that doesn’t fit our defined patterns. Progressing into the future, we are going to have to change that perspective. No single human being will ever understand everything about everything and every single human being will be required to use something they don’t understand to survive.

Knowing this, I see two potential futures. There is the future where we are comfortable not knowing everything and let go of the fear of what we don’t understand. Then, there is the future where we just believe. The television works because we believe it does. The airplane flies because we believe it does. What would we believe in? Perhaps it would be a form of science with all questioning ripped away. Maybe those who create such machines would be held up on a psudo-god pillar, above all questioning.

In all honesty, I hope those two futures will merge to create something more beautiful. It’s sad that, in the current state of the world, I associate belief and religion with the restriction of questions. I think that’s because those who believe in anything rarely stop to question those beliefs, to the point where such questions become forbidden. That bothers me, because asking questions, especially the hard questions, is how we grow and progress. We learn new things by questioning old ways.

But maybe there is a future where people believe and question in harmony.

Do you have a term for the scientific equivalent of “overly religious”? What items do you use on a daily basis even though you don’t understand how they work? Why do you think some people are threatened by certain things and people they don’t understand, but not others? What makes the difference?


17 thoughts on “Will We Fear What We Don’t Understand in the Future?”

  1. As someone that might have been considered “overly religious” at one time, I take offense…
    …just kidding…I don’t!

    I think there is always this battle between what humanity sees as good versus what humanity sees as evil, and how humanity goes on to understand it is the crux of all of the problems. Unfortunately, philosophical, religious and scientific thought are all so convoluted at times, that it is as complex as the human psyche. But understanding is what most of us want, although there is another element of human nature that gets in the way – the search for power and control.

    I am of the frame of mind, however, that believes there is a well balanced approach to all of our understanding, but I also don’t believe that we can fully know everything…

    1. I was afraid to use that term. I have nothing against religion, but I have a few friends who are so religious that it interferes with their ability to have a normal life. I’m talking problems social, being on their own, holding a job, etc. That’s extreme.

      Personally, I think we all have our own truth because we’re all here for a different reason. When it comes to belief systems, I wish people were more open to asking hard questions. Religion, like science, should be something constantly questioned so that a person can constantly grow in their understanding.

  2. Firstly, I love the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. I am so with you on questioning things. When I was a devout Christian, I felt like asking questions was sinful, which is not good because like you said, that is how we grow and progress! I think many people are simply comfortable being in a place where they do not question their beliefs. But being comfortable is not always a good thing. Great post, TK. 🙂

    1. I want humanity to progress to a future where people are comfortable… and they are comfortable asking questions. People should only be afraid when there are no questions left, because that means we have hit a wall. That means we can’t progress anymore.

  3. As a Christian, I’ve never really understood people who feel threatened by science. After all, religion and science are both trying to discover truth so there should be no conflict. I think the fear comes in people thinking, even sub-consciously, that science will disprove what they believe. But if that is possible, why would they want to believe it, if it’s not true? And if it is true, then science is not a threat.

    People can go to extremes on any end of any spectrum, so I’m sure there are people that think that science can prove anything or that nothing science can’t prove can be known, but that sort of debate really has no solution.

    Great post! You’ve raised a lot of good thoughts and ideas.

    1. Religion and science used to have a great relationship. I think the divide started when people started treating science like it disproves religion. It may disprove some religious ideas (like earth being the center of the universe), but that hardly disproves God. It just means we’ve learned something new about our religion and so it changes.

      A good friend of mine once said science is not trying to disprove God, but it can’t prove God either. Just because we haven’t seen or measured something with our human instruments does not mean it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean it does either, though.

      Maybe that’s uncomfortable – not knowing for sure.

      1. I think that’s it; people love certainty even when it’s a false certainty. That’s why people take a book like Revelation and try to make it fit with current events, instead of admitting they don’t know what it means.

        Thanks for the great reply. I appreciate it.

        1. Certainly people are allowed to believe what they want. That said, my uncle, who is a Catholic priest, told me recently that people get Revelations wrong. It’s not about the end of the world we live in. It’s about the end of the world Jesus lived in – as in, the end of the Roman Empire.

          Now think of that what you will, but I find that to be a compelling argument.

  4. I’m with you on this one, TK. The only reason we think science conflicts with faith is our own ignorance and fear. For this reason, I think people like astrophysicist/biblical scholar, Dr. Hugh Ross, can help us. He shows that there’s no conflict.

    “Knowing this, I see two potential futures. There is the future where we are comfortable not knowing everything and let go of the fear of what we don’t understand…” Amen. I vote for this one. 🙂

    1. I certainly hope for that future too. We should all be comfortable knowing we don’t understand, without making up stories in order to understand. If we keep asking questions and keep trying to understand, we’ll progress well into the future, in both science and religion.

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