Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ignorance, My Bliss

The Case for Teaching Ignorance - The New York Times:

This article points to one of what I hope comes through in this Blog; I am ignorant, "the experts" are ignorant, all mankind is ignorant. It could not be otherwise -- we are alive, yet we can barely describe what "life" even is beyond "a really special chemical reaction". We believe we are "intelligent", but the "we" that we perceive as our consciousness is even less understood than "life" -- is it chemical, electrical, quantum, ????, spiritual, or more likely "all of the above"! The question of "the ghost in the machine" goes back at least to Descartes.
In 2006, a Columbia University neuroscientist, Stuart J. Firestein, began teaching a course on scientific ignorance after realizing, to his horror, that many of his students might have believed that we understand nearly everything about the brain. (He suspected that a 1,414-page textbook may have been culpable.)
Looking at a map can make one think they might understand the territory, but the reality is that even a very detailed map carries very little information about the reality of the territory (is it hot? cold? wet? crime ridden? loaded with bugs? ... etc). We are wired as humans to "the illusion of understanding" -- lest we cower in a cave in abject fear unwilling to face the (mostly) unknown world outside and the second to second prospect of mortality (see brain hemorrhage, heart attack, simple choking, etc).

So, as the students above, we VASTLY overcompensate -- we think a thick textbook HAS to cover most everything about the brain. We think that "a bunch of studies, many of them in agreement" on climate MUST correctly predict the future of climate. We especially want to be "more right than others" ... "less ignorant" ... the problem of accumulated "knowledge", much of it mere "data" is that it has a horrible tendency to actually make us LESS aware of our true condition.
Presenting ignorance as less extensive than it is, knowledge as more solid and more stable, and discovery as neater also leads students to misunderstand the interplay between answers and questions. 
People tend to think of not knowing as something to be wiped out or overcome, as if ignorance were simply the absence of knowledge. But answers don’t merely resolve questions; they provoke new ones.
Again, modern man is WAY behind the ancients. It was completely covered in Proverbs 9:10, no special classes required.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
The ancients realized the state of their souls and the fragility of life -- that of being most unholy and uncontrollably near an eternity judged by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God.  

For thousands of years, Western Civilization worked because it was based on: 
  1. The fear (best read "awed respect") of a perfectly just and KNOWABLE (to some degree) God. 
  2. That God had created an ORDERED and KNOWABLE (to humans) universe. 
  3. Man had been given DOMINION over that universe. 
These were powerful beliefs that properly placed man -- as potential master of the physical, servant of the eternal, blessed with the ability to know both the universe and God. The base for western thought brought thousands of years of relative "advancement", and since say "1300", fairly rapidly so. 

But, as in the original Eden, the snake was busy. Did God REALLY create all this? Maybe not ... and if not, maybe he doesn't exist at all. If he doesn't exist, is there REALLY "truth"? Certainly not "ultimate truth" ... and whatever feels good seems a lot more like "human morals". Oh, and BTW, why does man have "dominion" -- is man not just an animal, and therefore no more deserving of a place on the planet than animals? While we are at it, maybe "the earth" is really "divine", and man should "serve the earth"? 

So now we have mass confusion. Our natural desires to "be as intelligent as gods" make us want to fake that we are not ignorant. Meanwhile, our hopeful promethean reach much exceeds our grasp, and we are lost in a random meaningless universe. Unsure of our place -- even relative to the dead rock of the planet, or the clearly less intellectually capable life forms that share it with us. 

We have traded legitimate and actually beneficial "ignorance" (humility, wisdom, the fear of God) for a false sense of "having figured it all out", while our spiritual state is beyond lost -- not knowing even OF God, and having lost all contact with our created place in the universe. 

Proper ignorance (humility) is indeed bliss! In fact, it is WISDOM! 

'via Blog this'

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