If I have any reason to doubt something, that thing is not completely reliable. If there is a shred of possible doubt then that conclusion is not totally reliable. Man cannot reach a totally reliable conclusion with his reasoning or observation.
The first reason that I say man cannot come to any complete and totally reliable conclusion is that man is fallen and opportunistic. As a Christian it is a firm belief of mine that whenever man takes an action, his sinful nature will twist it, even if only slightly. When we see data and reach a conclusion, we will always have our interpretation subject to our own preconceived notions. Our sinful corrupt state will nearly always twist what we see in order to prove that we are right or to take advantage of that situation.
Another reason I say man cannot come to a reliable conclusion is that man is imperfect. Because we are not perfect,whenever we take an action or believe anything, there is always a chance we have misinterpreted something or have accepted evidence that is not complete or true. This eliminates all certainty. We could always be wrong about our evidence and our conclusion. For example, were I to tell you that I can, with absolute certainty walk across the room, I am ruling out the possibility that my legs are not in the proper condition to walk, I am ruling out the possibility that I will die on the way across. My seemingly simple statement is based on imperfect knowledge. There is no way I can believe with absolute certainty that my conclusion is correct. I am imperfect and therefore could possibly be wrong about all of my conclusions.
Thirdly I do not believe man’s conclusions are reliable for every conclusion we make is based on previously accepted assumptions. For example, I normally would say with certainty that I could open the door to my house. But in order to believe this with total certainty I am assuming that we as man completely understand gravity, motion, and strength. These things are impossible to prove completely. There are countless things that we assume with every action that we take that are not based on certain ideas. Certainty is something entirely foreign to human conclusions.
This lack of certain conclusion is evident throughout our life. but I will try to focus on two realms of conclusive thinking right now: science and history.
Science hails to the scientific method to credit its conclusions; the transformation of evidence to conclusion is science’s forte. But Science is in no way exempt from a lack of certainty. For example: in the field of nutritional science, man’s mistaken basis comes out rather strongly. Countless nutritional supplements are continuously brought to the table as the next miraculous item essential for anyone’s diet. From Vitamin A to garlic pills, nutritional supplements are hailed as vital and it is said that you pretty much cannot get enough of them! The issue is that these statements are often proven false later. A few even end up being harmful to the human body! One particularly fascinating example is Vitamin E.
Vitamin E was originally proclaimed as the best thing since sliced bread, it was even said to “reduce mortality” or make you live longer. After these scientific studies were published and taken to heart by many people, a new study came out showing that, in fact, many of these supplements are dangerous and could even increase your mortality. But after this study, an analysis of the studies came out and said
“The good news from a new pooled analysis of 57 studies is that, despite some red flags from previous research, vitamin E supplements are safe and don’t increase the risk of death. But neither do the once-highly touted supplements help you live longer, the review reports, despite hopes their antioxidant effects might fight chronic disease. Calling their meta-analysis the largest and most inclusive to date, scientists concluded in Current Aging Science that vitamin E supplements “cannot be endorsed as a means of reducing mortality.”
~ Tufts University, Health & Nutrition Letter May 2011, Extra Vitamin E Found Safe Yet Ineffective; Debate Goes On Nutrients, August 30, 2010
So where will this take us next? In five years will we be again saying these are good for you? Science changes. We cannot completely trust conclusions because there is always the possibility they will end up like Vitamin E, or countless other scientific statements proven wrong.
History, to, is subject to change. Historical fact is virtually nonexistent. We never can know if the documents we are relying on are not embellished, falsified, or simply fictitious. Archeology also is a very inaccurate basis for history. We really never can know what happened, only what we can surmise or guess about the past. All we have to do is read two history books about a similar period and the subjectivity of history is evident. Entire civilizations were called a myth but later discovered to be real. This happened to the Assyrian and Hittite Empires. The amount of books about the “real” history of some event or the “real” historical hero’s character are astounding. We do not have any certainty about history.
But what is perhaps more disturbing then what we think we know, is what we do not know. Massive cities that we observe in the Indus Valley seem to have been constructed at a rate which baffles historians. There is no feasible way these cities could have been built so fast. We simply do not know how this could have happened. A more popular example is the medieval town in which the entire town apparently danced themselves to death. There is no legitimate explanation for this action. Many have tried saying it was an odd form of muscle spasms, saying that the citizens just wanted to dance like their neighbors, or saying it all was a fake. No matter how many theories come, we really still are in the dark. We do not know very much about history, that which we believe to know is not totally reliable. We cannot be sure we are correct about any of these assumptions.
Whenever man comes to a conclusion using evidence, that conclusion is possibly wrong. Any conclusion that we reach will be suspect to doubt and thus not totally reliable. So where can we anchor our understanding? If we have no sturdy truth then how can we live at all? Should we spend our lives grasping around in the hopeless pursuit of a complete truth? I would say that the firm, solid truth that is impossible to achieve by us reaching a conclusion is found when the conclusion instead reaches us. I can think only of one instance of this happening, when the Holy Spirit gave me the conclusion of the gospel. I could never have came up with the gospel. It is a conclusion I could, with all my supposed logic and my foolish wisdom, never reach. I was fallen. My only goal was to justify myself because I could not bear the thought of not doing something by my own power. My depravity made me long for that which was wicked, sinful, and wrong. It took God, the only one who is not Fallen, is Perfect, and makes no assumptions to give me a firm conclusion. He led me to Himself, I could not have done it any other way. He is the true anchor for all of reality. For “in Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”