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The Roles of Reason and Imagination Essay


Michael Sherma describes humans as pattern-seeking animals who are adept at finding patterns regardless of their existence or nonexistence. Although the mind records limitless sensory information from moment to moment, people are continuously searching for patterns beyond the ones they perceive in real life. This behavior is instigated by various areas of knowledge such as science and religion. The primary reason for seeking patterns is to adapt to varying networks. The recognition of patterns is one way in which people derive the meaning of the world around them. As a result, they remain in vigorous exploration for resources such as food and water. In this manner, they avoid hunger. However, the recognition of a certain pattern may not have an attached meaning. Various surveys have revealed that human beings find a hard time maintaining rational thoughts. This essay provides insight into the roles of reason and imagination in two areas of knowledge namely religion and mathematics.

Areas of Knowledge

Knowledge can be seen as an intellectual paradigm having some defined characteristics. It is a validated belief that is explained using relevant, subjective, and evidence-based information. Various areas of knowledge include mathematics, history, art, religion, ethics, natural, and human sciences. The essay discusses mathematics and religion as two areas of knowledge that play a significant role in pattern-seeking behaviors amongst human beings. While science involves the search for facts through observations and conducting tests, religion seeks to explain hypothetical knowledge. However, the search for truth has led to the development of many theories that bank on inductive reasoning. Mathematics involves a repetitive system of events that are usually projected based on some common trends that have been proven scientifically. On the other hand, religion entails the need to understand human creation and development using association learning. Human beings are usually skeptical about the existence of a supernatural power because they are pattern-seeking primates. Reason and imagination are two brain functions that are applied in everyday decision-making processes. Thus, people use logical constructs to determine the meaning of observations that they make.

Knowledge Questions raised by Pattern-seeking Behavior in Religious Systems and Mathematics

Are humans certainly adept at pattern-seeking?

Human beings are undoubtedly adept at seeking patterns. They naturally tend to seek the meaning of patterns. However, this process is associated with false-negative and false-positive errors. A false positive error compels a person to believe that a pattern is real. On the other hand, a false negative error indicates that a person fails to believe that a pattern is factual. Such patterns are proven to be real through scientific means. Both religious and mathematical systems use reason and imagination to conclude diverse aspects of life. The reason is rational and involves critical steps in figuring out the solution to a problem. On the other hand, imagination entails the hypothetical representation of ideas or objects in the brain depending on a person’s creativity. However, the two phenomena are related and important when it comes to solving mathematical problems and understanding religious teachings. People are predisposed to seeking patterns in search of things that cannot be described. In religious systems, there is a strong belief that a supernatural being exists. This hypothetical stand has made people develop various rituals that help them accept life while defying the reality of death.

Is the need to understand patterns justified by the study of religious systems?

Religious education invokes people’s imagination by providing different non-sensual topics that can only be better understood by envisaging the presented ideas. Imagination helps in the comprehension and appreciation of religious teachings and phenomena such as the existence of invisible entities such as angels, miracles, and the connection of dreams and visions to reality. The human brain synthesizes immaterial things consciously to make different perceptions of diverse notions that are associated with reality. Therefore, imagination brings about the decoding of religious facts and beliefs through visualizing the claims and accepting them by faith.

Religious education involves the choice of the person to either believe the objects of mental creation or not. Besides, there are no limitations to what a person can believe. There is no conviction to consider imaginations as reality. Our wishes play a major role in accepting imaginations when we want to figure out things in a manner that we prefer them rather than the way they should be. Religious beliefs are subject to manipulations based on our preferences in which we rearrange thoughts to suit intrinsic interests. A mermaid, for instance, is an imaginary creature that a person visualized how a fish-like woman would look like. Therefore, religious reasoning can be deemed non-sensual since it is dictated by personal emotions, experiences, preferences, creativity, and/or beliefs.

Equally, religious belief systems can be explained by reason. While mathematics seeks to establish evidence-based on existing values, religious education uses a system of knowledge about a supreme being based on thoroughly evaluated facts with critical steps of reason to explain the existence of the universe and everything in it according to observable evidence. Some religious beliefs are undisputable due to the proof that is critically visible and verifiable. Religion starts with the belief then reason comes in when analyzing whether the belief is true or false. People are guided to believe religious teachings such as the formation of the universe by finding the creation story more reliable than another origin of the universe theories such as the nebula theory, which fails to explain the origin of the nebula itself. Religious education teaches morals that forbid vices such as killing and stealing.

To what extend is the need to understand patterns justified by the study of mathematical systems?

In the quest to understand patterns, reason can be regarded as the capacity to mentally work out and solve a problem or understand things that are not easily discernible. It entails using the brain to figure out solutions to issues through integrating several processes and factors. On the other hand, imagination is the act of visualizing ideas or objects in the mind. These objects may not necessarily be in existence in real life. They are formations that come in the mind based on a person’s preferences. While reasoning involves the transformation of perceptions into ideas and application of knowledge to evaluate or manipulate concepts, imagination uses memory aids to visualize new objects in the mind based on what an individual’s experiences.

Mathematics is regarded as a science that uses reason to reveal scientific facts that directly or indirectly affect day-to-day human life. Thus, it helps people to understand the natural world. However, the acceptance of such evidence-based knowledge is greatly influenced by religious education. It can be attested that scientific reasoning defies many beliefs that are seen in religious teachings. For instance, mathematics is a discipline that involves thinking with clarity and avoiding vague ideas, beliefs, and/or feelings. It is characterized by systematic, organized, and purposeful mental processes that engage both qualitative and qualitative analysis of a given set of variables to logically induce conclusions. It enables people to find out ways of gaining additional information about a subject understudy in a given perspective.

Reason plays a crucial role in understanding mathematical representations owing to the relationship between senses and reality. It is easier to figure out the meaning of things or solutions to a problem when it is represented in ways that engage the five senses. Visual representations such as diagrams, for example, simplify the ability to prove the representation of mathematical statements in words or formulas. A person can think about the solution to a problem by evaluating its practicability. In quantitative analysis, an experiment may be conducted to study the process or result of a reaction. All the mathematical steps involved are logical and will be dictated by how the reaction takes place in reality. The results will be based on how the process happened, and can unexpectedly be different from what one would expect by using imaginary approaches. Solutions obtained from a calculation involving reason can be considered as real because they rationally represent the actual processes that happen.


Human beings will continue being adept at pattern-seeking since the quest to know to understand reality keeps growing. People are still far from understanding some natural forces that are described in religious and mathematical systems. Although they are compelled to believe in various mental constructs, pattern-seeking behavior continues as they seek further meanings to souls, aliens, spirits, ghosts, gods, and demons among other supernatural agents. However, scientific proofs used in mathematical models defy most religious beliefs that are gained through imagination.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Roles of Reason and Imagination'. 23 November.

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