Possibilianism (quotes)

Possibilianism is an alternative to atheism and agnosticism

  • Our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story (say, a man with a beard on a cloud) is true or not true. But with Possibilianism I’m hoping to define a new position – one that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story. David Eagleman
  • Possibilianism is a philosophy which rejects both the diverse claims of traditional theism and the positions of certainty in strong atheism in favor of a middle, exploratory ground. David Eagleman
  • While theists and atheists will strongly assert that God does and does not exist respectively, possibilianism opts not to believe in any of the two. It instead keeps its mind open to all possibilities, not locking itself to one specific ideology, but testing as many avenues as show up. John K. Abimanyi
  • So I call myself a possibilian. Possibilianism emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story.  David Eagleman
  • AtheismReligionPossibilityTruthReality
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Both religious believers and atheists assume a know-it-all superiority about things they cannot know for sure

  • Both the religious and atheists assumed a know-it-all superiority, and yet they cannot have answers enough to the questions about earth’s origins. David Eagleman
  • Man is too limited in the scope of events happening around him to lock himself to a specific religion.  David Eagleman
  • Atheists and religious personalities tend to give the impression that they have got it figured out and that there is nothing interesting going on in the outer spaces…and yet we do not know enough to commit to the thought that there is nothing interesting going on out there.  David Eagleman
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We know too little to insist on atheism and far too much to commit to a particular religious story

  • From the unfathomed complexity of brain tissue—”essentially an alien computational material”—to the mystery of dark matter, we know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism. And we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story. Why not revel in the alternatives? Why not imagine ourselves as bits of networked hardware in a cosmic program, or as particles of some celestial organism, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence? Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time. David Eagleman
  • The absence of proof isn’t always the proof of absence. David Eagleman
  • We know too little to commit to atheism and we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story. David Eagleman
  • The world or existence in general is too dynamic for mankind to limit herself to beliefs that close the debate on the existence of God or not. David Eagleman
  • Consider the debates between the new atheists and the religious. Strict atheism points out problems with religious fundamentalism, but it often leaves the public with the misconception that scientists believe they have everything solved. In truth we know far too little to pretend that we have identified all the major puzzle pieces. At the other end of the spectrum, we understand far too much to commit to one religious story. These stories often crystallise hard-won wisdom about human nature – but they are too limited to embrace what we now comprehend about the cosmos.  David Eagleman
  • IgnoranceKnowledge
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Possibilianism acknowledges that all certainty is absurd …

  • What has always surprised me when I walk into a bookstore is the number of books that you can find that are written with certainty. The authors tell some story as though it’s true, but they don’t have any evidence that it is true! David Eagleman
  • Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one. Voltaire
  • The goal of possibilianism is to discourage certainty. Sam Brinson
  • Man comes from a drop of semen and leaves as a piece of dust. He doesn’t know when he came and he doesn’t know when he’s leaving, yet he walks on the earth thinking he knows everything. Ali ibn Abi Talib
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…for we simply don’t know enough to be certain of anything

  • He who knows most knows how little he knows. Thomas Jefferson
  • That’s the real lesson that you get from science, is about the vastness of our ignorance. David Eagleman
  • A celebration of the vastness of our ignorance…and the one thing we are really ignorant about is what we are doing here and what our purpose is…if anything happens if we die…if there’s any sort of higher intelligence. Instead of being assertive, I shine a light around the possibility space. David Eagleman
  • The greatest wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing. Socrates
  • I’m just celebrating the vastness of our ignorance.  David Eagleman
  • Neither religion nor science has all the answers. Step forward… intellectual humility. David Eagleman
  • The scientific pursuits of recent centuries have mainly been successful: we’ve reached the moon and eradicated smallpox and built the internet and tripled life spans. But along with gorgeous answers, science always provides more questions. What we really discover from a life in science is the vastness of our ignorance. When we reach the end of the pier of everything we understand, we find all the uncharted waters of what we do not know. Given that, I’m surprised at the number of books that are penned with certainty.  David Eagleman
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Certainty closes the mind

  • One can acquire certainty only by amputating inquiry. Marvin Minsky
  • Most teachings discourage us from going out and exploring the possibilities surrounding the mystery of our existence in the world, and yet the very teachings are not authority enough to close the debate.  David Eagleman
  • Open-mindedness
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Possibilianism expands the mind to explore and hold multiple possibilities …

  • You need to search your awareness and consider the limitless possibilities of existence in all things and not be so narrow-minded in your self-discovery. Frederick Lenz
  • To be a Possibilian is to be simply open to the power of ideas that one has no means of testing right now. This emphasises the necessity of holding multiple positions at once if there is no available data to privilege one over the others. Vithal C Nadkarni
  • The creativity of Science is coming up with new hypotheses. David Eagleman
  • Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to a particular story.  David Eagleman
  • Possibilianism also creates space for more education on things concerning the spirit world and our earth, as one would forever be in constant school, learning the many possibilities out there.  David Eagleman
  • Voltaire said, the best position is to say “I don’t know” and “What if”?  David Eagleman
  • Why not imagine ourselves as bits of networked hardware in a cosmic program, or as particles of some celestial organism, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence?  David Eagleman
  • Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time.  David Eagleman
  • I call myself a Possibilian: I’m open to ideas that we don’t have any way of testing right now. David Eagleman
  • ExplorationPossibility
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… without imposing a view

  • Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture. David Bohm
  • Each religious view, even atheism, exists only as a point in a much vaster space of possibility. Rather than sit dogmatically in one domain while shunning all other views, we should instead open ourselves up to the uncomfortable position of not having a strict view, of realizing that there are many possibilities, and that we do not have all the answers or tools to find the answers. Sam Brinson
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Possibilianism requires the embracing of uncertainty

  • Let’s have a creativity for new narratives and a comfort level with holding multiple possibilities in mind. David Eagleman
  • Holding multiple ideas in mind at once is uncomfortable. Our brain loves to resolve conflict and ambiguity by latching on to an answer, whether we have adequate information to do so or not. We settle, our cognitive need for closure rushes us to judgement. Sam Brinson
  • Urgently fixating on certainty is our defense mechanism against the unknown and unstable. However, what we need in turbulent times is adaptability and calculated reevaluation. Jamie Holmes
  • A possibilian enjoys awe at our existence, is not opposed to holding mutually exclusive ideas and is comfortable with uncertainty. Possibilianism is simply an appeal for intellectual humility. I think it’s possible to appreciate and study the mysteries around us without dogmatism. In the end, comfort with uncertainty may prove critical for our systems of education, law and civilisation. David Eagleman
  • Letting go of the need for certaintyMystery
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Kevin Kelly on agnosticism verse possibilianism

  • Agnostics end with the lack of an answer.  Possibilians begin with the lack of an answer.
  • Agnostics say, we can’t decide between this and that.  Possibilians say, there are other choices than this or that.
  • Agnostics say, I Don’t Know, it’s impossible to answer that question.  Possibilians say, I Don’t Know, there must be better questions.
  • Both start in humility, but agnosticism is bounded by our great ignorance, while possibilism is unbounded by our limited knowledge.
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David Eagleman – On Possibilianism

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David Eagleman – On Uncertainty

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