A symbol is something unique to the human mind. Our symbols are built on history, culture, and instinct, a blend of personal identifications of abstract concepts such as fear or greed and instinctive feelings of terror or joy that arise from the subconscious. We feel instinctively that we should avoid a river where alligators are swimming freely. We feel instinctively a profound joy when we look up at the night sky or at an eclipse (such as the one we just had in America).
Symbols are highly illogical. It makes no sense that a snake represents deceit or sinfulness. But from the point of view of, for example, a Christian or Jew, it makes perfect sense. In fact, this makes sense for most cultures. However, what we deem logical on a subjective and objective level may very well be the same thing. Symbols are subjectively logical (at least most of them. Check out the video by Vsauce 2 on the universal fear of snakes and dragons). Not all people share the same symbols or associate certain feelings with the same physical objects. This has to do with the simple fact that different people live different lives. We have all felt fear, anger, joy, envy, etc. These feelings were all evoked from external stimuli throughout our lives. These symbols also have to do with the way we were raised, the culture we are exposed to from birth, and the religion (if any) we practice. For example, the acquisition of money is both a survival instinct imposed on us by our society and is something we perceive as the symbol of success, as imprinted on us by the celebrity figures in our society. What is considered subjectively logical has to do with the fundamental concepts deemed as absolute truths. The existence of God is considered an absolute truth to many, and so once this is nailed into one’s mind it becomes easy to accept other claims pertaining to that belief system. In a way, what people in a certain culture, religion, or environment accept as logically correct has to do with the fundamental “truths” instilled within them at a young age and over the course of their lives.
Back to what we consider subjectively and objectively logical, science and mathematics both strive to understand the universe objectively, above the ambiguity produced by the teeming collection of interpretations produced by religions and philosophers. However, even what we deem objectively logical may not be necessarily objective. What we consider objective is what we perceive to be objective. Our senses are prone to errors and misinformation. The tools we use to enhance our ability to perceive are constructed using only what we know. In the end, what we know and what we understand is limited by what our brain can process and perceive, much in the same way as how symbols (which are subjectively logical) are considered absolute truths by those who have instilled within them fundamental dogmas that permit the acceptance of claims within their religion or culture and limit their acceptance of other theories or claims. However, the key difference is obviously that we have significant evidence for scientific theories. It is simply that while we have a great amount of data, we sometimes don’t identify certain new ideas because we are so associated with preconceived notions of what must be correct. We may have scientific tools at our disposal that can peer into the depths of the cosmos and the quantum realm of the atom, but the ground-breaking discoveries we make (which revolutionize our understanding of the universe) come from leaps of mental interpretation and analysis (what we call genius). These moments of genius happen rarely and they require moments in which we are willing to separate from what we consider true, and embrace that which we would usually ignore. Our perception of the world around us remains limited by our natural capability to perceive as well as by our internal dogmas and biases. Just as how some people accept certain symbols and stories in their own societies or religions through the early acceptance of fundamental “truths”, essentially narrowing their field of vision in the acceptance of other faiths, we are restricted by our natural, mental capabilities and by our own personal dogmas, acquired throughout our lives from different people, places, and experiences.
Through the insights of figures such as Einstein, Edison, Riemann, and countless other thinkers who thought creatively and originally, humanity as a whole manages to take a step forward. With each step forward, people are born and raised in our society bearing fewer and fewer biases. This allows for innovation and ingenuity on grand scales. We should encourage people to question existing theories and test new ideas that more accurately describes the universe. This is made possible by cultivating and encouraging creativity and education.