Faith and Doubt

Faith and Doubt

(This page temporarily features articles by Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs, who has been designated as Acting President in concurrent capacity, while Dr. Ben S. Malayang III is on official leave. Dr. Malayang, who is in the United States to meet with the different alumni chapters and attend the Tipon 2011 celebration in Fairbanks, Alaska in June, will resume his reflections in August.


By: Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan

“Doubt is the father of invention.”

A very simple yet very powerful quote from Galileo Galilei, an Italian astronomer considered the “father of modern science.”

True, doubt offers a number of opportunities to us. When we doubt, we are rendered into deep thinking, into an analytical process, into a search for answers. That is why most inventions are products of one’s discontent of the present solutions, a manifestation of determination to pursue what is better, and a constant reminder that curiosity, perseverance and hard work pay off.

But that’s only one side of the coin. On the flip side, when we doubt, we bow out of a challenge, we question our ability, and we refuse to move on. This is the reason why we develop an inferiority complex, why we are always cynical about the world, why we always see the bad in others and refuse to believe that the world can still move up to becoming great for us. And we see how these destroy friendships instead of build trust in the human potential.

While I adhere to what Galileo said, I like to “build a bridge” to connect his quote on doubt to the now, to what students are, and to what students can still become with their Silliman diploma.


To speak of doubt in the context of faith, and vice versa, may come off to most of you as a contradiction. How can there be an element of faith in doubt? How can doubt work its wonders when from a faith perspective, it is what we have to get rid of? How can we continue to be faithful when doubt douses our enthusiasm and holds us back from stepping forward?

Point well taken.

But I talk of faith in the context of a process of questioning, a process of tinkering, a process of pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones to test our limits.

Faith is what translates your doubt into an “aimless” journey. By aimless, I don’t mean one without objectives. Every journey is, and must be, purposive. By aimless I mean a journey which success lies strong in a deep personal relationship with God.

Why do I say this?

No matter how structured our lives are, and no matter how our professions dictate observance of strict standards and procedures, there will come a time in our lives when we thirst for something new. We become innovative and inventive. And in the process, we play around what exists, what is real to us, and seek ways by which we can improve on them.

Inventions, if we are to look at them are products not of imagination. They are a reflection of our receptiveness to what’s going on around us. It is a careful assessment of what goes on, and an evaluation of our role in them. It poses a question: How can we matter in the bigger picture of life?

In our journey to find an answer to that question, we struggle to understand why we have to be concerned when the rest of the world isn’t? We are plagued with several issues.

Reflecting on the area of engineering:

We have the issue of global warming. As a mechanical engineer, one might want to develop an agricultural technology or equipment that will effectively complement practical and cost-efficient adaptation or mitigation climate change mechanisms that put great value on human capital.

We have the dual issue of poverty and corruption. As a civil engineering, one might want to come up with a community-based system of doing an audit of the preparedness of our public infrastructures to disasters, such as earthquakes; and offer a practical system of calculating costs incurred for every infrastructure development that the public can easily do on their own for monitoring purposes.

We have the issue of lack of power supply. As an electrical engineer, one might want to devise an energy utilization scheme in a way that industrial productivity requirements continue to be met even with a downward trend in energy costs. Or, perhaps, invent energy-efficient paraphernalia that will prioritize investments for alternative energy, such as wind and solar energy.

We have the issue of inefficient communication processes. As a computer engineer, one might want to design a computer hardware or a program that will facilitate the production, preservation, and promotion of local knowledge. One might want this kind of technology to elevate the value of computers into an effective tool solidifying national identity in the midst of globalization.

These are but a few of what to others might be “crazy” ideas to help one advance one’s profession and career. Ideas that certainly will be met with cynicism. They will be questioned. They will probably be shot down for they might simply go against what has been convenient for us.

Something that is innovative and non-conventional is not always appreciated. But we know that something that is innovative and non-conventional is always a product of doubt, of curiosity. It is an answer to a simple question: “Can we still do something about it?”

Without the element of faith in this doubt-driven “crazy ideas”, we will lose hope. Like a child told that is laughed at after being told that his scientific proposal will not work, we would probably run to our room, cry, and leave things as they are – leave it as it is, a scientific proposal. We will abandon the potential, the promise that we saw in that proposal because nothing burns within us to continue.

But with faith, we will work against the odds. We will test our theories. We will do our best not necessarily to prove them that they have been wrong, but to purpose what we believe in is right.

Faith will carry us through. Faith is trusting the human capital and potential. Faith is possessing a heart that is convinced that achievements don’t come always in the form of perfect formulas, nor do they always come in the form of praises and distinctions; but they also come in the form of failures. Faith is working to learn from our failure to perfect that which our conviction is pursuing.

We need both positive and faith. We need to doubt to rid ourselves of complacency and content. We need to doubt to work harder, believing that tomorrow can be greater, and that to get there, we have to endure the hardships. We need to doubt to find meaning and fulfillment in our life.

Equally, we need faith. Faith that can be our eternal pillar of hope. Faith that will continue to make us love the world even if in our pursuit of what we think is right, it laughs at us. Faith that will tie ourselves not to praises, for us to have a complete holistic life, but to a noble cause of making our life matter to the greater community.

The kind of future that we will have certainly depends on how much of our today we will view in relation to our tomorrow. This will be made richer by our view of how we can spend our life tobenefit others, and how much of it we are willing to invest towards bridging a better future. A better future not only for ourselves, not even only for our family, but for the greater world our there.