Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

To All Who Have The Courage To Doubt And Ask


For great is our reward.


In his book, “On Being Certain — Believing You Are Right, Even When You Are Not”, Neurologist Robert Burton writes:

“Certainty is not a conscious choice, nor a thought process, but a sensation that can best be described as a “feeling of knowing.” As a feeling, like anger or fear, certainty does not rely on any underlying state of knowledge. What this means is that we can be wrong even when we’re convinced we’re right. As an example, the “Challenger study,” in which students expressed high levels of confidence, three years after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, that their false memories of the explosion were more accurate than descriptions they had written down one day after the event.

Examples of feelings that seem like knowledge include so-called mystical experiences, and the conviction that taking a risk in poker will pay off. The tendency of an individual to have any one of these feelings—to be, for example, an inveterate gambler—is partly determined by genetic predisposition, and partly by prior experience.

How, then, can we tell the difference between feeling right and being right? The answer lies in accepting the limits of our ability to know and in “playing by the rules of scientific method”—believing we are right if empiric evidence and testing give us reason to do so, but accepting that subsequent evidence may one day prove us wrong.”


Certainty Header 2


I am most alive when I keep an open mind, embrace uncertainty, dare to doubt, ask questions, and nurture curiosity.



Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, the psychological techniques used to indoctrinate, and the brain's role in religious-type experiences and attachment.

101 thoughts on “To All Who Have The Courage To Doubt And Ask

  1. Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
    Superb post – must read.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful and truly inspirational video. The truth is beautiful. Great post, too. “I can say with absolute certainty that I’m absolutely certain of nothing.” Goofy to Mickey Mouse, circa 1957

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, I liked that!

    Smart guy – his comments remind me of the quote on Aron Ra’s blog – (it might not be word-for-word) –

    “Science explains most things; religion explains nothing” Embracing uncertainty is certainly not a negative thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Absolutely lovely video. I agree completely. A beautiful thing, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeff, you CRACK me up – one of your posts the other day had me laughing LOUDLY. . .good thing there was no one else home or I’d have had ‘some ‘splainin’ to do. . 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Reblogged this on Life After 40 and commented:
    This relatively short post is a MUST read. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh gosh. Another flipping video!

    Can I cut to the chase?

    Hell, I know I’m right. Believe me. Trust me. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I think of Feynman as one of my teachers. Straightforward, honest, and lucid, not to mention informative… but it’s really too bad he would banned on SiriusBuzinus” blog for calling those religious folk who know some god selected this bit of rock and these primates as the purpose for the universe and don’t think that assertion might be just a tad disproportionate ‘nutty’. Such use of language would, according to SB, simply be intolerable and cancel out the truth value of anything else the man might have to say about anything.


    • I consider Feynman as one of my teachers, too. Same with Carl Sagan. Both have inspired me beyond words. I miss them both.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. I’m surprised you’re still angry about this.

      You were banned because you were wrong and persisted in being wrong, Tildeb, not because you’re a pariah who was speaking any sort of truth. Even when contrary evidence was presented to you, you ignored it and persisted in an erroneous belief.

      The great thing is that you don’t even have to take me or the information I presented to you at your own word. Here is yet another great source for why you were wrong in persisting to use the language you use.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I for one really appreciate your blog siriusbizinus. I like its tone and ideas. Having said that I respect the thoughts of tildeb, though I do find the assurance with which he expresses them and his tone towards those who think differently a bit confronting. I just wish we could all live together happily.

        For tildeb’s benefit I will explain, I identify with the style of someone like Sean Carroll, he is the sort of person I would aspire to be if I could.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Medical dictionary:

        Delusion: A false belief or wrong judgment, sometimes associated with hallucinations, held with conviction despite evidence to the contrary. [L. de-ludo, pp. -lusus, to play false, deceive, fr. ludo, to play]


        delusion: An idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder.

        DSM 5:

        Delusion. A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture (e.g., it is not an article of religious faith). When a false belief involves a value judgment, it is regarded as a delusion only when the judgment is so extreme as to defy credibility.

        See the special privileging for religious belief?

        You keep telling me I’m wrong to associate religious beliefs that are incompatible with reality as ‘crazy’ because it casts those with recognized mental impairments and dysfunction in a negative light you don’t like as if that settles it and then base your banning of me on my steadfastness that religious belief is granted a special yet undeserved privilege from being properly and accurately described as exercising delusional thinking. Put another way, there is no MEANS to differentiate delusional thinking from religious belief. That may offend you but it’s true nevertheless.

        Some of exempted delusional thinking I call ‘batshit crazy’ – not to offend those with recognized impairment and dysfunction but because it is obviously and easily demonstrable to be incompatible with reality – is because these beliefs in particular when acted upon cause pernicious effects. Yet the justification for them – under various banners like ‘religious freedom – is widely tolerated as if normal or perhaps just a little idiosyncratic. That’s crazy, too.

        I don’t call those with such impairments and dysfunctions batshit crazy; I never have and never would. That YOU link my words to everyone with mental disorders is not my doing but a sign of your own confusion about who should be taking offence. And this is a common tactic especially among the Left these days to try impose despotic rules on those with whom they disagree. That’s what you’ve done with your language rules, silencing my voice in total on your blog not because almost everything I say is unreasonable or intentionally offensive but because you presume it is intolerable for you to have me use these words on your blog.

        Here’s Feynman using the same derogatory reference I do to those who are religiously deluded and I wanted to take the opportunity to show you how absurd is your reasoning that tries to justify eliminating offensive words because you are offended by this kind of reference, and what it would mean to silence the man entirely in order to somehow protect the delicate nature of the sensitivities of all who may suffer from mental impairments and dysfunctions.

        SB, you are the one who has made a mistake and you’ve rationalized it for really poor reasons. By all means criticize my use of the wors and let readers figure out which arguments they prefer to inform their opinions but banning voices that use such idioms? That’s a very, very long list of some really big brained people who offer a lot of knowledge and wisdom. Your decision is contemptible.


        • Apologies, Victoria, for going off-topic on your wonderful post. This will be the last time.

          Why don’t we let people decide what happened for themselves? Here is the link to the exchange we had. Anyone who wants to read it can; the post is public and searchable. For my part, my wrongdoing there was in insulting your intelligence. And you know what, I do apologize for that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It’s not off topic, SB, because it’s not about the content of a disagreement: it’s your willingness to ban based on policing the words of others and that includes someone like Richard Feynman who also used the same language I did.

            Note that you direct people to the content… which is kind of nice considering it wasn’t first banned! Why you – an otherwise reasonable person with much good commentary to make – can’t see that banning of commentary on such grounds is contemptible is beyond me.


            • I am familiar with a few other people who also ban users because they don’t like the language they use or disagree with what they have to say. To me, the practice of banning someone just wreaks of cowardice, insincerity and dishonesty. Not to mention draconian authoritarianism. I understand why religious fundies do it, but I’ll never understand what it is about words and “offence taking” that seems so downright scary and abhorrent to people – especially those that aren’t brainwashed by religious thinking – that they’d have to resort to permanently silencing someone (in this case banning from a blog).

              Liked by 1 person

              • I think it has more to do more with the administrator trying to create a ‘safe’ community for other commentators in SB’s case than the fear and pursuit of an echo chamber I have found elsewhere. SB’s too smart and capable to give in to the typical grunting urge to ban, I suspect but, because the disagreement was a trigger issue of personal importance for him, I think he overrode his decision making process with emotion rather than good reasons (note that he simply won’t tackle the issue I raise here that he would have to ban Richard Feynman and a host of erudite authors he respects if he stayed true to the principle he tries to use to justify my banning) and it was easier to ban me than allow this kind of triggering to continue.

                I have confidence he’ll come to his sense eventually once reason eventually percolates through the emotional rationalizations.


                • Hi Tildeb,

                  Your response to Sirius is bothering me; I felt that it warranted a response. Since Sirius has gone silent, I suspect he is affected by it and that worries me.

                  Last night I had my three grandchildren here and they got books out that they love. The first one was, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. I started to read and one of the first lines is, “The Grinch HATED Christmas. . .”. Our three-and-a-half year old looked right at me, with a face of alarm, and said, “Nannie! You don’t use that word – it’s too STRONG! – it’s NOT NICE!” The other two agreed, and suggested that we change it to, “Dislike”. For the rest of the story I had to employ the substitution.

                  I don’t want to give the impression that Sirius’ insistence on specific language is childish; not at all. I use that example simply as an illustration to show how people react to certain words. You are correct to point out Sirius’ emotional reaction precipitated your banning, but I think it’s important to understand that he obviously has his own reasons and that THEY are important to pay attention to, as well.

                  If I have learned anything over the course of the last few years – reading many blogs of people who’ve been hurt by religion and its effects – it’s that every person has their own ‘untouchables’. Places where you just can’t go. Until three years ago, I had never heard the word, ‘trigger’ (except to refer to a gun) but I now realize that words can be terribly powerful, and that when we – even inadvertently – say certain things, people will react emotionally. I think it is, indeed, what makes us human.

                  I feel like I’m rambling here, but the upshot of this message is that, although I get your point intellectually, I think you perhaps are underestimating the emotional impact your words had on Sirius; that’s what worries me. I also want to point out that I have read responses (on other blogs you’ve commented on) that have provoked emotional reactions from you; particularly when it comes to children’s concerns. That’s certainly not a bad thing.

                  The other observation I’d make would be to point out to both parties that perceived criticism from someone we respect and admire holds more ‘sting’ than that coming from an adversary; indeed, may well provoke its own emotional reaction.


                  • P.S. I added that last bit just so both of you would know how I’LL feel if/when I get a scathing reply from either of you. 🙂


                • “I think it has more to do more with the administrator trying to create a ‘safe’ community for other commentators in SB’s case than the fear and pursuit of an echo chamber I have found elsewhere.”
                  I do agree with your assessment but I will simply note that the end result in both cases are one and the same – the intentional and deliberate attempt to silence discussion or criticism of any kind. It is for this reason that I feel as strongly as I do about free speech. I don’t require another person’s kind offer of protection about what I should and shouldn’t listen to or read or watch (all for my own good of course). And by offer I mean dictate. There is something about someone else deciding for me, what I should read and watch and listen to that makes my skin crawl – regardless of the reason.

                  Liked by 1 person

      • *sighs* as my dad always said to me, “it takes all kinds…” lol 🙂 And the psychoanalysis of individuals that refer to people as “crazy” or “deluded” is due to the fact these individuals feel better labeling people with negative connotations because they themselves suffer from deep rooted insecurities (possibly even suffering from feeling placed in the same negative connotations and stereotypes they dole out).
        That being said…there’s always one in the crowd that has to dissent for dissenting sake 😉
        Your and V’s blog have opened my eyes- don’t forget that and I appreciate y’all for what you do and the positive and truthful energy you radiate minus the hate. ❤

        Liked by 3 people

  9. I forgot who it was, what the experiment was called, or even when it was conducted, but a psychologist “planted” false memories in adults, like being lost in a supermarket, and even though the event never happened, but the subjects would literary invent the history and even speak of their emotions (fear, mostly) at being lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely. I shared a study, by researcher Elizabeth Loftus, on Nate’s blog last year about the “misinformation effect.” She has done over 200 experiments involving over 20,000 participants. In the 1974 study she show that when people who witness an event are later exposed to new and misleading information about it, their recollections often become distorted. In one example, participants viewed a video of an car accident at an intersection with a stop sign.

      After the viewing, half the participants received a suggestion that the traffic sign was a yield sign. Later, they were asked what traffic sign they remembered seeing at the intersection. Those who had been given the suggestion tended to claim that they had seen a yield sign. Those who had not received the false information were far more accurate in their recollection of the traffic sign.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s probably her. Fascinating stuff, and is clear cut evidence that we do not know.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It really is an insight when we discover and truly appreciate that memory in humans is actually quite unreliable.

        The inaccuracy of memory was driven home to me not so long ago when I realised one of my memories could not be accurate. I recalled a boat trip to an Island and landing at the settlement on the eastern side of the island. It is indelibly written in my memory. I mentioned it one day to a another person familiar with the Island, they assured me that the only settlement on the Island was on the Eastern side. I went and checked the maps and all the records and found they were correct. But I still have this picture in my mind of landing on the eastern side. My mother once said to me that over time what we remember are our memories not the actual events, I think there is something in that.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on The Recovering Know It All and commented:
    Great video and amazing perspective. Not to be afraid of Doubt and Asking questions. Not only to be OK and not afraid with not knowing for certain everything, but to actually use that Uncertainty, Doubt and Curiousity to motivate our lifelong search for Truth and Beauty. Inspiring to me. Thank you Victoria. -KIA

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well I have a lot of doubts, but I am absolutely certain that this was a great post. 🙂 Your blogging style seems like it grows more artful all the time. I feel your creativity is flowing. But maybe it’s just because I know you better that I fill in the gaps. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post, Victoria.

    I apologize for my above comment which was off-topic, and I understand if you take it down.

    As for the quote you linked, I think it’s a very good illustration of how minds will also change data and experiences to fit a narrative. Most of my education on this is from a legal standpoint (that is, witness memory and how it’s affected for purposes for bolstering or impeaching it). I always find it fascinating to be reminded of how certainty can be fleeting without testing it and confirmation.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree it is good to doubt, but…

    It is the real cunning behind religion to create this huge downside risk for those who doubt. But then make the downside something that it is impossible to ever prove or disprove. In this environment doubt can become paralyzing, when you can’t quite believe and can’t quite discard all the teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post Victoria.
    When Socrates said he was the wisest because he alone knew he knew nothing, I want to ask how did he know this one piece of info.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am most alive when I keep an open mind, embrace uncertainty, dare to doubt, ask questions, and nurture curiosity.

    Hmmmmm… to infer more or not infer more from this profoundly delicious statement… that applies so very well to all sorts of specific (alternative) lifestyles!!!

    Well said Victoria! Very well said Ma’am! 😈

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I hesitate to comment on the debate between Tildeb and Sirius, but I wanted to let both of you fellows know that I have great respect for both of you. Although you seem to be on opposite sides of a topic, I think you have illustrated for us what a well-argued position looks like. It’s clear to me that both of you hold passionate views on your respective positions, and it is reflected in your language. I don’t think that’s a negative thing. In fact, I wish there were more people like both of you. Your excellent command of language, your ability to convey the points you want to establish, and your forthright and respectful manner; all have been a lesson in effective communication. I have learned something quite valuable. I commend you both.

    I have to tell you that if I was the judge for this debate I’d enthusiastically call it a ‘draw’. I see strong points for both opinions. At times like this, I wish I hadn’t taken a Philosophy course. I seem to automatically go into the ‘looking at it from the other person’s point of view’ stance. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I came across the following statement on the blog of Inna Stasyuk, that really sums up where I see all of us who leave Christianity after a sincere search for truth should end:

    Are you scared of being wrong?
    I am not scared of being wrong. If there is a God and he knows my heart, he knows how I called out to him, he knows how much I want the truth, he knows that I would be willing to sacrifice it all for him, if he were real. And if he is a good God, I do not believe he would send me to hell for not finding the evidence for his existence. I tried, believe me I tried. If there is a God, which I am open to, I do not believe he is the God of the bible, because the God of the bible can not be a good God.

    Incidentally her husband Yuriy, an ex preacher, has a wonderful series explaining why he concluded the Bible is a human rather than a divine book: Here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter, it reminds me of something I read several years ago, and which made so much sense to me. You might like to read through the blog entry, but the focal point is the letter, written in response to a christian mother worried about her atheist son.


      • Thanks Carmen, if the parents truly believe their child is going to Hell then it must be very painful indeed.

        One thing I could never understand in the Bible was how anyone could enjoy Heaven if they knew someone they loved was in torment in Hell. interpreting ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes’ (Revelation 21:4) especially provided interpretative tension in the regard. Some people creatively suggested that God would wipes people’s memories to remove the pain.


        • “Some people creatively suggested that God would wipes people’s memories to remove the pain.” . . .this . . . discounting the fact that after death the brain probably won’t work. . I mean, talk about mental gymnastics.

          Honestly, the reliance on magic to ‘fill in the blanks’ is so obvious, it’s rather pitiful. Reality, for many people, is just too large a leap.

          Liked by 1 person

          • When one has been raised to believe that death isn’t final, then people who believe this generally don’t fully grieve the death of a loved one. The acceptance is based on seeing that person again someday. Those coping mechanism can backfire when you leave a belief system that promotes this. One ends up having to go through the grieving process all over again, especially stage 5 — accepting the finality. Of course, there is relief when you’ve been indoctrinated to believe that someone who didn’t become a “true Christian (TM)” is destine for hell.


    • I am not scared of being wrong. If there is a God and he knows my heart, he knows how I called out to him, he knows how much I want the truth, he knows that I would be willing to sacrifice it all for him, if he were real.”

      Exactly. It was for this reason that I never looked back — that I had peace in my decision. The hardest part for me, after I had made that decision, was working through the sense of betrayal and the years wasted. It was the realization that I could have done so much more with my life.

      Peter, thanks for the links.


      • I think personality types can make a difference. I become only too well aware of my deficiencies, after I check whether I have shut the garage door for the fifth time, a sort of compulsive obsessive disorder. I see this deficiency in my make-up rearing its head in regard to my departure from religion, Sigh! Knowing your weaknesses is one thing, dealing with them is quite another thing.


        • It hasn’t even been a year, Peter. If you are to remind yourself of anything on a regular basis it is this. You cannot wipe out a lifetime of indoctrination overnight. The brain simply doesn’t work that way. When you can observe your situation from a neuroplasticity angle, I think you will become less harder on yourself.

          Liked by 1 person

        • “The term Neuroplasticity is derived from the root words Neuron and Plastic. A neuron refers to the nerve cells in our brain. Each individual neural cell is made up of an axon, dendrites, and is linked to one another by a small space called the synapses. The word plastic means to mold, sculpt, or modify. Neuroplasticity refers to the potential that the brain has to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs. Think of the neurological changes being made in the brain as the brain’s way of tuning itself to meet your needs.

          A simple way to consider how the brain builds new neural pathways as it’s challenged by new information and it’s environment might be to think of the brain as a radio. When dialing the tuning knob on the radio by hand to find something to listen to you might come across a station that sounds interesting, but has a great deal of static so you can’t really understand everything they are saying. To bring the station in clearer you would focus and dial the station in slowly a digit at a time to bring it in with as little distortion as possible.

          You can think of building new neural pathways the same way when learning something new. The more you focus and practice something the better you become at the new skill that you are learning or an obstacle you are trying to overcome. By doing this new neural connections are created in the brain as synapses that don’t usually fire together do, which help us to sharpen our new skill.”

          Liked by 1 person

          • I know my reasoning is sound and has a good track record. However my fear continues to resort to the old tried and proven argument, what if just this time your reason is wrong?

            Then when fear is invariably proven wrong it does not meekly slink away, but rather craftily finds some way to up the ante. I suppose I can take some small comfort I am aware to some extent of the delusions I battle.

            Thanks for your thoughts and your tolerance.


  18. Reblogged this on charles rogers home page and commented:
    You much see Feynman’s video at the top and then Victoria’s text. ccr

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Courage also includes open-mindedness.

    But if you’re too open-minded – in order to believe in pseudoscientific woo thoughts and religious dogmas – then there is a not negligible risk of the brain falling out of your skull (symbolically speaking).

    Those facing that horrible “fate” are often called, and known as, woos (a.k.a. crackpots or fatheads).

    Also have a look at: (by professor Sean Carroll). In that blog post he demonstrates that beliefs in ghosts and other spiritual beings, believed to be exerting some kind of forces and/or powers upon us humans, are, at best, biased wishful thinking or, at worst, woo-ish mass BS delusions.

    So, to conclude, there are two kinds of open-mindedness: one that makes you a better user of science and scientific reasoning, and one that is thoroughly woo-ish, more or less ending up in your guts by relying on so-called intuitive gut-feeling thoughts and reasoning.

    Although I agree we all have an enteric brain as well, you should not ignore the real brain inside your skull. The last one is the brain that receives signals from your sense organs and out of these signals extracts patterns and assigns meaning to them, thereby creating your subjective experience of the outside world.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi Victoria, I don’t now how came to be ‘unfollowing’ you. Anyway I’m back now, if belatedly. WordPress, eh. This is such a powerful post. The way we cling to certainty takes us to all manner of bleak and wretched places – and in all aspects of our lives, and our attitudes to and actions against others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought I commented but now I see I was my usual blonde self Victoria. Apologies for that sweetie. I know I watched the video and when I wanted to comment, something must have happened to direct the one braincell I have to something else again. LOL!

      Anyways, I just LOVED the video and I feel the same. Beliefs can be such a scary thing and I don’t mind if I am wrong. In some instances it can actually be freeing to find out that you were wrong, like the time I realised that this belief in a deity that doesn’t exist, wasn’t true.

      I agree, the stories that were made up are too simple and just like him I also don’t want to argue about that. It all just doesn’t make sense when you really think about it. I also don’t think science will ever have all the answers about everything and for that matter, anyone else. We may think we know the answers, but we don’t and as far as I am concerned, I don’t care. It’s just enough for me to appreciate the beauty around me I see every day.

      Thanks for another interesting post Victoria. Amazing as always. 😀 ♥

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL Can I ever relate, and no apologies necessary. I seem to have grey matter scattered everywhere these days.

        I love your comment, and I wholeheartedly agree with there being instances when it can actually be freeing. Well, most of the time, actually. Having a need for certainty is exhausting, IMO. That need jjust increases anxiety.

        ” It’s just enough for me to appreciate the beauty around me I see every day.”

        Oh, Yes a hundred times, although living in America these days makes it challenging to stay focused on the beauty. Thanks so much for dropping by, Sonel. Sorry so late in responding, but then again, I know you understand.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for understanding and I wonder if I still have some grey matter. LOL!

          Glad you do and yes, I agree. That is exhausting and I don’t need that either. Our summer is exhausting. That I know. 😆

          I bet it is and I think it’s like that all over. I sometimes also find it hard to find the beauty because people come and mess up my equilibrium. Then I have to look harder and concentrate more on nature just to forget that assholes do exist in this beautiful world of ours and try my best to forget about them.

          You’re very welcome Victoria and no need to apologize and I do understand. It’s so hot here that I am hardly ever on the net. Tonight is a bit cooler but I am back in the pool after this.

          Take care. 😀 ♥

          Liked by 1 person

    • Well, gosh, I apologize for taking so long to respond. “Tis the season, haha.

      Thanks so much for your comment. Spot on. Oh, and welcome back. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    I love the video. I think there is a great grand beauty in science. I think there is wonder in learning. I think there is hope in knowing and understanding. Many hugs


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