Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know

I was listening to CBC Radio the other day while I was driving.
I can’t remember what the program was about, due to my failing retention, but the discussion focused on thinking for ourselves. On challenging those who make authoritative statements founded on nothing but opinion; where hubris gets in the way of truth.
It’s coming back to me now. Steve Sloman was discussing his book, “The Knowledge Illusion,” that focuses on the sense of some people (most people, in his estimation) who are convinced they know just about everything there is to know about everything.
One area where this is unforgiveable–and certainly damaging–is politics, whether we are the politician or the voter. If we think we know everything, we don’t listen, we don’t get informed, and we don’t make wise choices.
Real knowledge, Sloman says, is “knowing what we don’t know.” That may seem obvious to some of us, but the large majority of folks in our society feel quite informed on all subjects.
I don’t think I fall into that group because the list of what I don’t know seems like a very long one. Perhaps that’s what we all think.
Still, the discussion on the radio got my brain wiggling.
Maybe it’s a bit like using a GPS or relying on Google. We don’t make our brains try to figure out our bearings; what direction we are headed and how we get there. Likewise, we don’t need to retain facts because Google is at the ready.
And with the news feed of Facebook and the like, we read only the “news” that fits within our idea of the truth. We hear someone spouting “facts” and we decide its accuracy without thinking for ourselves; without challenging the information given.
GPS has, more than once, tried to take me down a one-way street the wrong way. And, of course, who can forget the horrific “death by GPS” of Albert Chretien in the Nevada wilderness.
There are those who challenge the safety and necessity of vaccinations, those who deny that climate change is real, and a myriad of conspiracy theories about any number of devastating events in our history. People believe “what they know” no matter the massive amount of scientific evidence to the contrary.
Despite this being the “information age,” where we constantly are besieged with breaking news, we no longer can decipher the source of said “news” and if its reporting is accurate.
Who do we believe? Thinking for ourselves these days seems an even greater challenge, but certainly never more important.
I wonder if the generation coming up to take the reins feels a bit like they are in the middle of “The Sky is Falling” fable. Everything we touch or eat seems to cause cancer, the planet is heating up, the extremes of weather growing even more extreme, and what is fake and what is real news.
It can be suffocating some days to receive all this information; certainly paralyzing.
Maybe that storm is quieted with our own thought, finding our way the old-fashioned way–by listening to our heart and not being afraid to say I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find it.
wendistewart@live.ca

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