Doubt is a very powerful force in our minds. Not knowing the future for certain, we constantly speculate and attempt to deduce what lays ahead in the paths of our collective lives using whatever methods we can find. Many instances of stress are essentially the physical manifestation of this doubt: Can I pay my bills? Am I loved? Am I doing this whole life thing right? If the world worked in a state of pure chaos, nothing acting like it had before, being able to predict possible future actions would be impossible. If one has the ability to estimate future potential actions, they are more easily able to navigate the world, and of course the more secure one's knowledge of the future possible outcomes, the less risk is taken when putting energy into an action, be it a search for food, a chance to mate, etc.
Anything that relieves this nearly permanent cloud of doubt from the skies of our minds often becomes a very important part of the way we interact with the world around us. In fact, the amazingly complex world of ideas and culture seems to have been born out of our desire to understand the world around us and the attempt at lessening the uncertainty of the future. One of the unique things about the human mind that differentiates us from the great majority of the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to predict future consequences from our actions. Through an immensely complex system of dopamine receptors which are associated with reward and long term planning, we are able to postulate the both physical and social repercussions of our everyday lives. Because we have such complex webs of attention, anything that would allow us to move on and not worry about any given event would obviously become a boon, thus the concept of certainty is born. Why worry if you will be able to eat if you have agriculture, which eliminates most of the worry of securing food for your kit and kin? Certainty plays a significant role in our own internal self image as well. We need to know that certain things are able to be counted on, so we can make decisions with out a tremendous amount of risk. If something can, with any degree of certainty, be relied on to happen, we can divert our attentions and energies towards other new ideas or other complications we come across in life. And, if what we chose led us to tremendous amounts of strife, we would be unable to trust our own decision making processes. Without certainty, we would be lost in a world of indecision.
For me, absolute certainty is essentially a thing of myth. The world around us is a living thing, and because of that, it is constantly changing, adapting, creating, destroying. The environment in which a singular event occurs can essentially never be repeated with 100 percent accuracy, due to the staggering number of variables likely in any given experiment. Obviously, there are many things that work in extremely similar manners when repeated, but never absolutely the same; and if studied closely enough, the minute difference can reveal themselves. This is not to say that we should lock ourselves in bunkers await some sort of chaotic apocalypse, but rather to highlight that even though we have a great amount of certainty in many things, gravity, the tides, etc., they are not permanent. The current life cycles of plants and animals are themselves evolving through time. What was "true" about a dog's life now was quite different 100,000 years ago.
So how do we properly deal with this roiling undercurrent of uncertainty in our world? Well, the last thing we should ever consider is anything that attempts to guarantee certainty. Anything that states, unequivocally, that one particular idea, concept, or theory is immutable is fundamentally at odds with the apparent nature of the universe. This is why I have such strong feelings towards religion, particularly very strictly orthodox sects. While this totalitarian thought process appears to be more prevalent in monotheistic religions, the overall nature of what religion does violates this edict of uncertainty.
Religion is essentially a tool by which people rationalize the world around them. It is a set of conceptual wireframes used to describe what we are experiencing and build up a series of explanations for all of it. The problem, of course, is that these explanations are mostly unchangeable. The world of a Christian is built on the presumption that a God created the universe, and all else is extrapolated from that. No further explanation is necessary, as this fact is set in stone. The entire religion is built around a premise that is viewed as infallible, and cannot be refuted and is considered for all intents and purposes permanent for all eternity.
And this is obviously a very powerful and enticing prospect. Our complex brains are built to explore and explain the world around us, and if everything is explained in a nice neat package, then we are able to go on and do other things. And that would work if the world was in a state of permanently stability. It is not. Science, on the other hand, mostly assumes the impermanent nature of the universe. A scientific theory is not something that is set in stone. It is essentially saying "Ok, this is what we have so far, though there may be some changes later" A scientific theory is defined as "...a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment." Science IS the search for greater certainty. It presupposes nothing, and holds in its core the idea that the world is an ever-changing place. Science, as a world-explaining tool, is much better equipped to deal with radical changes in the explanations of the world, as they both are mutable, adaptable. Even if a theory is incorrect, it is able to be changed. There have been bountiful numbers of incorrect theories, but what works with this method is that they can be false. It requires theories to be tested and proven over time. The more quantifiable proof that something works in a particular way, the more certain one can be about it.
This constant search and accepted uncertainty may not sound appealing to some, but I'd rather be 65% right than 100% wrong.
I am certain of it.