Three words people don't seem to like very much:

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posted on May, 15 2008 @ 11:11 PM
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"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 themselves first?
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 know."

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]




posted on May, 15 2008 @ 11:20 PM
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I would like to acknowledge you for being honest with yourself, and for the personal risk you have displayed. Thank you. Sometimes what you do know can hurt you!




posted on May, 16 2008 @ 01:05 AM
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maybe people would know more if they werent told so many lies



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 01:07 AM
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reply to post by AceWombat04
 


Great post.
Star and flag.
If only more people could be THAT honest with themselves and everyone else. And gods know I have slipped up but I like to think I have always corrected that.



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.


hEh sounds like an excert from the 9/11 forums.

With insults added in.

[edit on 16-5-2008 by WraothAscendant]



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 01:27 AM
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Always, never, God.
Run like the wind.



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 04:59 PM
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You are right.

Sometimes it is hard to come up with a second sentence.



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 05:48 PM
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Four words to always use instead of "I don't know."

"I don't know, but...."

Answers start with an idea not a full stop.




[edit on 16/5/2008 by nerbot]



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 05:56 PM
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Is this only about the three words "I don't know" or is it permissible to add another three word phrase that I don't like to hear?

such as....

"People like you"



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 06:42 PM
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Originally posted by nerbot
Four words to always use instead of "I don't know."

"I don't know, but...."

Answers start with an idea not a full stop.


[edit on 16/5/2008 by nerbot]


Excellent point. That actually gets to the heart of what I'm saying in a far more succinct fashion than my post. Admitting my own ignorance should be accompanied by the hope that I can lessen it over time and discover answers to the questions life presents me with. What I was really trying to say was that even once I've learned something, however, I also hope to maintain the capacity to leave my mind open to the possibility that it could be incorrect, and to always leave room for thought rather than allowing my mind to become completely reliant on accepted facts, so that there is still room for possibility, the unknown, and a measure of humility before the infinite universe that surrounds me as compared to my capacity to comprehend it.

I might say things like (to finish the sentence you began,) "I don't know, but I think ___________," or in some cases perhaps, “I don’t know, but I would like to believe ________.” The latter is one I find myself using a lot actually, because my beliefs (or my aspirations toward beliefs) are always changing with each lesson I learn (or think that I’ve learned.)

In many instances in my life (though far less on ATS than in my daily life,) I (and I've seen examples of this beyond myself as well) have actually gotten criticized by people for wanting to reserve judgment and actually ponder and think before answering or responding to a question or giving my two cents on a particular subject. I have a lot of trouble committing to the act of responding with "Yes, absolutely," or, "No, absolutely not," without at least thinking about a question thoroughly. Sometimes the answers aren't immediate enough, and I have to take a lot of time and do research before I can give an honest answer. Even then, sometimes I end up with an open-ended lack of definitive knowledge. Sometimes definitive answers just aren't forthcoming (yet!) Other times I do have a firm personal opinion or feeling, but don't feel justified in declaring it definitively true because in the end it's only my opinion or an emotion in reaction to something (saddness in reaction to a specific political policy for instance, with which others agree; in that instance I have a well formed personal view, but remain unconvinced that mine is more correct than that of others.)

Interestingly enough, that choice itself (to think before responding) often gets criticized. It creates a sense of peer pressure, at times, to have a ready answer for everything, rather than admitting that I honestly don't know.

That's really what I was getting at. I agree, however, that one should never stop trying to find the answer, if ones goal is to "deny ignorance." I hope this made some sense. We're having a heat wave here (by our standards) and I'm about to topple over so any incoherence can probably be blamed on that.


[edit on 5/16/2008 by AceWombat04]



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 07:00 PM
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Three words:

I Love you



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 07:12 PM
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The great thing about hanging around here is the fact that "I don't know" very quickly turns into "I just learnt.."

There's no shame at all in 'not knowing'..it just adds to the learning experience.

Today I just learnt that the '140 year old NASA supernova' is actually 25,140 yrs old.. after starting a thread showing my ignorance on that very fact


The problem is,everything I learn here pushes something else outta my brain.
I have to be careful in case I learn so much i forget how to tie my shoelaces..



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 07:40 PM
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The fact of the matter is, we're ALL ignorant in some way to something. Otherwise, everyone on this forum could answer any question, with no hesitation, and always be right. Now there are people that THINK they know everything, but I usually hit them up with a trick question like "So, what was the name brand of most the gaskets used on the International Space Station?". Anyone could look that up, I suppose, but probably .001% of the normal population knows it offhand. When they look stumped, I slip in a "Oh, that's right, you DON'T know everything, I forgot."



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 08:17 PM
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Great post, thank you. I think more people should reflect on those words.

We often draw conclusions before there is enough evidence, either due to our own preconceived notions or prejudices or because we don't want to appear foolish. It takes courage to admit you don't know something.

A very intelligent person once instructed me on this concept:

Think of everything you personally know or have learned as one piece of pie. Cherry, apple, rhubarb - whatever... Now the entire rest of the pie is everything you don't know and still have to learn and understand. In fact, we often don't even know what exactly it is we don't know yet.

Pretty humbling.

[edit on 17/5/08 by kosmicjack]



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 08:31 PM
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Yeah, co-workers don't like the phrase 'I don't know' because they were hoping for an answer but didn't get any (i.e. from me). So the best thing to respond is: 'I don't know but I'll get back to you later after I find out the answer (from someone smarter and better qualified than the both of us). Hehehe!



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 08:37 PM
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The truest wisdom is the knowledge of one’s own ignorance.

My favorite but unused sig.



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 08:49 PM
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Originally posted by kosmicjack
Think of everything you personally know or have learned as one piece of pie. Cherry, apple, rhubarb - whatever... Now the entire rest of the pie is everything you don't know and still have to learn and understand.


But you must also realise that the size of the pie is infinate, and for every slice for which you can taste, there are ten more waiting for the palette.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Infinate Pie...I Like Pie



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 09:16 PM
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Good thread, starred and flagged!

I'll tell ya right now, in the grand scheme of things, I know very little. I suspect quite a bit. I'm learning quite a lot. I aspire to know more. But it's a long road with a lot of scenery to glance upon along the way. But there is much outside my scope of vision that I will never even get the chance to ponder, much less know.
I say "I don't know" about 100 times a day here in ATS because, let's face it, if we knew, there'd be much less to discuss, right?

Cuhail



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 09:27 PM
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Originally posted by AceWombat04
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.


Probably the most intelligent thing I have heard anyone say here on ATS for ages.


Attitudes like this can only help "Deny Ignorance".

Yes, you may feel ignorant, we all should to some degree, but to always be pushing those limits is what it's about right? Our own and others.

There's ALWAYS more so we will NEVER be SURE. No banging heads on brick walls
just lots of climbing


Great post, great attitude and carry on "not knowing" because even the obvious can hide so much more!

Flag and a star for the honesty of a clever and "not" so ignorant mind that refuses to stop thinking for others conveniance..



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 09:43 PM
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I can think of 3 words people like even less, but they can't be repeated on this forum. =)



posted on May, 16 2008 @ 10:33 PM
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I crave knowledge and hope I never stop learning. Seems the people with the most wisdom (Senior Citizens) are usually the ones we listen to least. I am just amazed at how America takes their old and hide them away in a place where we can keep them out of sight and out of mind. What a shame.

Regarding ATS: I think the abbreviation "RMPL" (Read More, Post Less) is in order. It tends to keep your foot out of your mouth and imparts wisdom at the same time.

I am guilty of forgetting this little gem now and again during one of my nonsensical rambling sessions.





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