7.3. Just Admit We Don’t Know!

7.3. Just Admit We Don’t Know!

We just don’t have enough brainpower to wrap our heads around the enormity and complexity of this universe.

Our brains are pretty awesome. But they’re limited.

In fact, in the big scale of things, they’re pretty weak, feeble, and fallible.

We just don’t have enough brainpower to wrap our heads around the enormity and complexity of this universe, and the seven and a half billion of us living on this spinning rock in the middle of it.

So why don’t our systems of knowledge, beliefs, and ideas simply admit that?

Why don’t they admit that they’re full of omissions, oversimplifications, distortions, contradictions, and even flat-out inaccuracies?

Why can’t they be humble enough to portray themselves as they really are: valuable and useful, but also finite and limited contributors to human inquiry?

Why—even when we do force them to admit that they aren’t 100 percent perfect—do they still go to such great lengths to insist they’re better than any other ideology out there?

Why can’t they just give all their pretentious, grandiose, exaggerated bragging about how great they are a rest for once?

Because the truth is: the truth isn’t the only thing they’re interested in.

Our sciences, philosophies, political ideologies, and religions are struggling with each other.

They’re struggling for the power and money to implement their wishes.

They’re struggling for status and authority, so people will listen to them.

They’re struggling for prestige, honor, glory, attention, accolades, and all kinds of scarce resources.

Winning all these things is dependent upon convincing people that they’re the best. That they offer answers and explanations other belief systems can’t. That those scarce resources would be best used in their hands.

It’s this struggle over resources that makes our struggles over ideas so heated.

The scientific method works pretty well. But it isn’t perfect. Any scientist can tell you that.

But in a society where millions of people don’t even believe in the most basic, important conclusions of scientific inquiry—like evolution or global warming—admitting flaws seems like an invitation for even more resistance. So they pretend the system works better than it really does.

Same with religion. If they concede that some of their views have become obsolete, in a society in which millions increasingly view their whole religion as obsolete…it seems like a slippery slope to concede even a little bit. So they cling even more tightly to those contested views.

And how annoying is it in politics when one political party sabotages another? They’re supposed to be doing what’s best for the country. But instead, they do everything they can to prevent the other party from dealing with our problems, from being seen as having done something constructive.

They don’t want anything good to happen unless their party is the one behind it. And so we remain stuck in a perpetual stalemate—because whatever one party does, the other party is working hard to undo.

It’s really pretty stupid. But that’s how things work.

You don’t have to buy into it, though.

Don’t get sucked into these pissing matches. Don’t be fooled when some ideologue insists their ideology is better than all the rest.

Knowledge, beliefs, and ideas just don’t work that way. And if we actually had the courage to admit it, we’d all be a lot better off.


This is the 111th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.