I Doubt Therefore I Am

@midjourneybot: /imagine: doubt as a person

Rene Descartes invented the Scientific Method in 1637, but did you know that he used the Scientific Method to prove the existence of God in that exact same paper? In this story, we examine his argument for God, faith in science, and the extraordinary effort I invested over the last ten years to prove Descartes right or wrong. 🤓


TLDR—I’ll summarize this story for you.


The Scientific Method has enabled our science and technology to explode over the past few centuries. It is the cornerstone of Western Philosophy. So, we begin our journey into uncertainty with the paper that defined it all, “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences” by Rene Descartes. Here’s how Descartes begins the paper that changed the world,

Good sense is the best distributed thing in the world, for everyone thinks himself to be so well endowed with it that even those who are the most difficult to please in everything else, are not at all wont to desire more of it than they [already] have.

Descartes is cheeky. In simple terms, he’s saying “everyone is so certain they are right all the time”. He’s right. Modern psychologists have discovered a cognitive bias in humans called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.  

@ChatGPT: what’s the dunning kruger effect 

ChatGPT: “The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which individuals with low ability or knowledge in a given area overestimate their own competence, while those with high ability or knowledge tend to underestimate their competence. This phenomenon occurs because people with limited expertise lack the self-awareness and metacognitive skills necessary to accurately assess their own performance, leading to an illusion of superiority. Conversely, more knowledgeable individuals are often more aware of their limitations and the complexity of the subject, which can cause them to underestimate their abilities.” 

Wow, somehow that was even nerdier than a 17th century mathematician. The Dunning-Kruger effect means:

  • The less you know about a topic, the more certain you will feel about your opinion.

  • Conversely, the more you know about a topic, the less certain you will feel about your opinion.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is why our uncertainty grows in proportion to our knowledge.

Descartes begins his Scientific Method paper by urging readers to resist their feelings of certainty, and I recommend that too. Throughout this book, we will examine the latest scientific evidence for all kinds of crazy things—gods, aliens, dragons, angels, giants, supernatural floods, clairvoyance, inter-dimensional communication, teleportation, and the possibility that we all live in a computer simulation. Now you may feel certain that some of these ideas are ridiculous, but just wait until you learn more about them. Like Mark Twain said,

“Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty

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Faith in Science

Descartes was born in 1596 and received one of the best educations in Europe that money could buy. Like us, the more he learned about our world, the more contradictions he found. These contradictions filled his mind with confusion, skepticism, and doubt. Today, many of our best scientific theories still contradict each other, so just imagine how bad that problem was when the microscope was only ten years old. 🔬 

In his Scientific Method paper, Descartes expresses his regret that he can’t prove anything is true. He explains how every source of truth in life comes with some degree of uncertainty.

Thus, because our senses sometimes deceive us, I wanted to suppose that nothing was exactly as they led us to imagine. And because there are men who make mistakes in reasoning, even in the simplest matters in geometry, and who commit paralogisms, judging that I was just as prone to err as any other, I rejected as false all the reasonings that I had previously taken for demonstrations. And finally, considering the fact that all the same thoughts we have when we are awake can also come to us when we are asleep, without any of them being true, I resolved to pretend that all the things that had ever entered my mind were no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterward I noticed that, while I wanted thus to think that everything was false, it necessarily had to be the case that I, who was thinking this, was something. And noticing that this truth—I think, therefore I am—was so firm and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions of the skeptics were incapable of shaking it, I judged that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking. 

Many people have heard the quote “I think therefore I am” or in Latin, cogito ergo sum. It’s maybe the only idea that everyone on Earth would agree on, especially judging by our social media. 🤬

Now you may think that famous phrase means “my thoughts prove that I exist”, but if you read the whole paper carefully Descartes actually means, “my thoughts are the only thing that I can prove really exists”.

That is much more frightening.

Descartes found a way to extend this simple truth even further in his subsequent paper, “The Search for Truth by Natural Light”. He expressed his insight as: 

dubito, ergo sum, vel, quod idem est, cogito, ergo sum 

Which translates as “I doubt, therefore I am, or what is the same, I think, therefore I am”. This phrase was later shortened by another mathematician to: 

dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum 

Which means “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”. By the end of this book, you’ll see how we are not even capable of having any thoughts that aren’t beliefs. You’ll see how the only thing we can trust is our doubt. To doubt is to be, so: 

Dubito ergo sum.

I doubt therefore I am

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Instead of fighting his skeptical nature, Descartes chose to embrace it. He would forget everything he knew and use a Skeptical Method to slowly build up his confidence in the truth. He defined four precepts that would govern his re-education.

Here is a quote from each of his four precepts:  

  1. “Never to accept anything for true which I did not clearly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid precipitancy and prejudice, and to comprise nothing more in my judgment than what was presented to my mind so clearly and distinctly as to exclude all ground of doubt.” 

  2. “To divide each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible, and as might be necessary for its adequate solution.”

  3. “To conduct my thoughts in as much order that, by commencing with objects the simplest and easiest to know, I might ascend by little and little, and, as it were, step by step, to the knowledge of the more complex.”

  4. “In every case to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so general, that I might be assured that nothing was omitted.” 

In simple terms: 

  1. Doubt everything, even our own thoughts and certainties.

  2. Break every problem into its smallest parts. 

  3. Combine the simplest explanations first. 

  4. Be thorough.  

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do throughout this book. 


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Scope of Research

I have always been a science nerd, so Descartes’ Scientific Method paper is very important to me. I attended both NASA space camps as a little kid. I got a Computer Science degree from Duke University and was one of the first people to work on the mobile Internet for Verizon in 2001. I invented a computer program, called Event Manager, that was so good that Verizon fired my boss, everyone else on my team, and all our vendors. For several months, every cell tower on Verizon’s mobile network that could transmit ringtones, Wi-Fi sessions, texts, or WAP data sent their logs to my computer (I’m programmer v478855). Twenty years later, Event Manager still processes billions of network events each day for Syniverse Technologies.

At 25 years old, Verizon offered me the chance to architect the provisioning system for their entire national network. Verizon wouldn’t let me own any of my intellectual property, so I declined their offer and went to work at a pharmacy benefits startup with only 2 full-time employees. I was a one-man tech team for years as we moved Worker’s Comp claims from the fax machine to the Internet. I was Chief Technology Officer for that company for almost a decade, retiring shortly before Express Scripts bought it for a quarter billion dollars. I wish I owned a lot more of my work there too. 🤣 

For the last ten years, I’ve been exploring the world with my wife and our five kids.

None of that story makes me important or special. Before I was born, I didn’t pick my brain, my race, or my gender. If I was born a girl or with black skin, I don’t think my career would have been as successful. Would yours? 🤔

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I didn’t get to pick what I look like, or which moment in history I would exist. Being born in 1978 meant that when I took my first computer science class, the Internet only had 100,000 websites. That number grew to 2,000,000,000 over the next 25 years and a rising tide raises all ships. 🌊 

Once I owned all my time, I was free to invest more heavily into my own scientific research. Some of my biggest research goals were to find my own answers to the questions:

  1. Is there a God?

  2. Why are we here?

What most people don’t know about Rene Descartes’ Scientific Method is that he uses the Scientific Method to prove the existence of God in that exact same paper. It’s just a couple pages after his four precepts. The more I read Descartes, the more insightful his scientific evidence for God became.  

But Descartes lived in an age before electricity, clean water, satellites, and electron microscopes. How could I trust his medieval science? So, for the last ten years I have invested 4-8 hours, every single day, to learn the latest research from the world’s smartest nerds to prove Rene Descartes right or wrong. My areas of research included Quantum Mechanics, Physics, Astronomy, Geology, Economics, Anthropology, Archaeology, Anatomy, Computer Science, Behavioral Economics, Neuroscience, Chemistry, Psychology, Biology, Genetics, and the History of most civilizations.  

This book is the story of that research odyssey. I read approximately 30 million words of science and distilled them into 150,000 so that you can learn everything I learned in about 15 hours. I present all my favorite theories, data-points, and experimental evidence from the world’s greatest scientists who have all our best answers. Don’t worry, you won’t need a scientific background to understand this book. I will explain the science all along the way. I have also embedded links to other books and YouTube videos for topics you might want to deep dive, so click on the links and see what these great scientists have to say for yourself.

Eventually, my uncertainty led me past the edges of science. I studied Cold War experiments on ESP and the paranormal. I read scientific evidence of exorcisms, telepathy, clairvoyance, and metal-bending telekinesis. I practiced Eastern medicine like Pranayama Yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi Gong. I trained as a blind Rolfer several hours every day for years. I watched the US military’s evidence of UFOs, which only led me to more questions and more books. My research turned towards the mystical for several reasons which are best summed up by the following paraphrased quotes:  

Albert Einstein: The scientist makes a poor philosopher.

Sir Peter Medawar: It's so very easy to see that science is limited in that it cannot answer the simple questions of a child—where do I come from?, where am I going?, and what is the meaning of life? 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Science takes things apart to know how they work and what they are made of. Religion puts things back together to see what they mean

So in addition to all those science books, I read the Hebrew Tanakh, the Christian Bible, and parts of the Quran. I studied the Buddha and Confucius. I looked for archaeological evidence of giants, floods, and mythological beasts. I am not certain of anything anymore, this book is simply my treasure map to the best wisdom I have found so far. 🗺️ 

This research took me to places I never imagined when I started. Literally. To understand human civilization more fully, my family rented apartments or houses in 200 cities in 45 countries. We have lived in most of the world’s advanced economies. Our family of seven lived on the road 100 nights a year, for more than a decade. Those cities were just base camps for exploring whole regions by van, train, and boat. In more than 500 towns we:  

  • loitered at their best coffee shops ☕️

  • chatted up the locals 👋

  • dined at their most popular restaurants 🥙

  • browsed all their museums 🏺

  • hired local guides 💁‍♀️

  • shopped for better governments (lifestyle per tax dollar) 👨‍⚖️

  • sampled their best bakeries 🥐

  • studied the local architecture 🏛️

  • learned the local history 📖

  • and enjoyed their gelato 🍨 

This book also includes research from science experiments on myself and my family. Most of my children have had their brains hooked up to computers so they can see how they think. We have tried homeschooling, world schooling, unschooling, private schooling, public schooling, and peer schooling. We spent an entire year living with just one carry-on suitcase each during a one-year trip around the world. That’s only about 10kg of earthly possessions for an entire year. I even leased our house to a guy for 12 months so we couldn’t go home, just like Cortez burning his ships. ❤️‍🔥 

The biggest surprise in all my scientific research was the Bible. If you believe in the Bible, then you believe in aliens because angels are extraterrestrials. They are not from this Earth. So the Bible has aliens, giants, fire breathing dragons, teleportation, magical healing, people who fly like Superman, zombies, virgin birth, clairvoyance, and telepathic communications (prayers). Churches tend to avoid the craziest topics in the Bible by cherry picking a few hundred words each week from about 750,000…so we will examine scientific evidence for all of these topics in chapter 8, “Artificial Intelligence in the Bible”.


@christians: The word “artificial” doesn’t mean “fake”. Artificium is a Latin word that means “artfully made” or “designed”. In chapter 8, we argue that all intelligence is artificial intelligence because it was made by God. That’s why John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the LOGOS”—that’s where we get the English word LOGIC.


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Let’s see what else Rene Descartes had to say about his search for God. In his Scientific Method paper he writes,

I had ideas of many corporeal things in the realm of the sensory; for even if I were to suppose that I was dreaming and that everything that I saw or imagined was false, I nevertheless could not deny that the ideas were really in my thought.  

Descartes is arguing that he can’t prove he has a real body. This question is core to the plot of the movie, “The Matrix”. Descartes doubles down on the possibility of living in a simulation. He writes,

Next, examining attentively what I was, I saw that I could pretend that I had no body and that there was no world or place for me to be in, but that I could not for all that pretend that I did not exist; on the contrary, from the very fact that I thought of doubting the truth of other things, it followed incontrovertibly and certainly that I myself existed, whereas, if I had merely ceased thinking, I would have no reason to believe that I existed, even if everything else I had ever imagined had been true. I thereby concluded that I was a substance whose whole essence or nature resides only in thinking, and which, in order to exist, has no need of place and is not dependent on any material thing. Accordingly, this ‘I’, that is to say, the Soul by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body and is even easier to know than the body; and would not stop being everything it is, even if the body were not to exist.

Boom. This quote is why the next stop on our tour of uncertainty is Simulation Theory. Simulation Theory is a mathematical framework that basically says the closer we are to creating artificial intelligence as smart as humans…the more likely it is that someone did that to us. Here is a quick introduction from Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (7-min)

The better we are at creating artificial intelligence, the more likely it is that we are artificial intelligence.

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Descartes also seems to predict some elements of Quantum Mechanics. He writes,

I called to mind the object of study of geometers, which I conceived of as a continuous body or a space indefinitely extended in length, breadth, and height or depth, divisible into different parts which could have various figures and sizes, and be moved or transposed in all sorts of ways, for geometers posit all that to be their object of study. I ran through some of their simpler proofs, and observed that the great certainty which everyone attributes to them is based only on the fact that they are conceived of as incontrovertible, following the rule that I have just given. I noted also that there was absolutely nothing in them which made me certain of the existence of their object

We will dive all the way down into “The Pixels of Reality” in the next chapter on physics.

We close this essay on Descartes and his Scientific Method with his argument for why he isn’t God. He writes,

From what source, then, do I derive my existence? Why, from myself, or from my parents, or from whatever other things there are that are less perfect than God. For nothing more perfect than God, or even as perfect as God, can be thought or imagined. But if I got my being from myself, I would not doubt, nor would I desire, nor would I lack anything at all. For I would have given myself all the perfections of which I have some idea; in so doing, I myself would be God! 

This argument was beautifully summed up in the 1993 movie, “Rudy”. Rudy is full of doubt about getting into Notre Dame to play football, so he visits his priest to ask if there’s anything else the priest can do to get him accepted. The priest responds,

Son, in 35 years of religious studies I’ve only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: there is a God…and…I’m not him. 

Here’s a 38-second clip of it on YouTube: 


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