posted on May, 15 2008 @ 11:11 PM
"I don't know."
This website’s credo is one that I and many others admire greatly: “Deny Ignorance.” I couldn’t agree more with it, either. However, it
occurred to me today while thinking about some things that there is a difference between denying ignorance (working toward enlightenment and
educating oneself,) and not admitting to being ignorant in the first place. It is therefore my aspiration, however often I may fail in the
pursuit of it, never to fear or refrain from admitting my own ignorance.
I am ignorant. No matter how much I become privileged to learn in life, there still lays before my senses, somewhere out there, the vastness of
the universe teeming with unknown variables, possibilities, and phenomena. Moreover, no matter how much I come to believe I know, there will always
remain some particle, however minute, of doubt or detracting variable that is at least potentially contrary to that knowledge.
In short, in the grand scheme of things (if there is such a thing,) I know – and indeed, may have only the capacity to know – next to nothing.
The reason I feel compelled to make this, what I feel should be a rather obvious admission, is because all too often I experience a conversation much
like many others I’ve had in my life that go roughly something like this:
Friend: But you do know that ___________ is true, right?
Me: Well, I don’t know. Let me think about that for a bit before I respond.
Friend: What is there to think about? It’s obvious! How can you even contemplate disagreeing?
Me: Well it might be obvious, but I still need to think about it before replying.
Friend: There’s nothing to think about! It’s outrageous that you would even have to hesitate before answering.
I wrote that reality-based yet nonetheless fictitious conversation with the aim of being as general as possible. You can fill in the blank with a
scientific fact, religious ideology, ethical viewpoint, belief, feeling, or political stance of your choice. The point is that, quite often, people
are actually derided for thinking, rather than acquiescing.
Often, saying “I don’t know” is regarded as cause to perceive the person saying it as ignorant. My questions are thus:
1) Wouldn’t it be ignorant for a thinking person to accept, without thought, a statement as fact or truth without discovering that truth for
2) Isn’t it equally ignorant to judge someone harshly for taking the time to do something we humans have a great capacity for doing when we put our
minds to it: think?
I may be less informed or less knowledgeable for being unwilling to commit fully to certain things without educating myself about them first hand, or
for trying to keep an open mind, but I never want to lose the ability to admit my own ignorance, and I find it disheartening when my friends or others
(not necessarily on ATS but I believe it can happen anywhere) seem literally appalled at my determination to say the simple phrase, "I don't
I didn’t write this about ATS or its community specifically. I’m posting it here because I felt that it applies to any community where
conversation and debate occurs routinely. It is, as always, only a personal opinion and is not intended to force a belief or viewpoint on anyone, or
to judge those who hold differing views. I respect everyone’s opinion, which is one reason for bringing this up.
Sometimes, ironically, being open minded means admitting personal ignorance.
[edit on 5/15/2008 by AceWombat04]