When I am alone, standing in the cool wind of a California evening, I can look up and see the universe. I can picture its vastness and I can feel my smallness. I am a speck upon a speck, existing for less than an instant in a deep and wondrous sea. I know my time is short, shorter than I could ever have guessed when it began. I know that I will never see a great many of my visions for humanity realized, and I understand that I will never find many of the answers to questions which I can imagine.
How small the world is. How insignificant our greatest works as a species. How bold and arrogant we have become in only a few shaky first steps. Continue reading Starstuff
Those who fear scientifically demonstrable truths often hide behind the cowering shield of self professed open mindedness.
What is open minded behavior? I so often hear complaints from normal people, who are just trying to get a hold of the world around them, that are frustrated by the seemingly constant shift in what it means to be open minded. There are not many people who are consciously interested in being intellectually dishonest or close minded, but it can be very difficult to understand who to trust when you yourself are not an expert. I have written previously about why it is important to identify and trust experts, but I did not touch on the subject of so called metacognition.
Continue reading The impossibility of learning what we already know
Think of something at which you are an expert. Really truly an expert. Try to think about how you feel when you hear a layman talking about that subject. Maybe it’s fishing, maybe it’s science, maybe it’s parenting. It could be the statistics for your favorite football player, something about cars, maybe you are an expert on a band you love.
Think about how ignorant people sound when they talk about your field of expertise.
Now try to remember that, outside your field of expertise, you are just as ignorant. You are just as full of misinformation and misconception about the entirety of the rest of the world, as those people who misunderstand your particular area of expertise.
Think about that every time you have an opinion, every time you think your voice deserves to be heard, and every time that your beliefs are challenged by something you have heard. Remember that listening to the news, reading a blog, and talking to your friends is not a substitute for reading primary research. No one will ever be able to consume all the information required to become an expert on everything, rather as you learn more about a subject you often find out how little you truly know or understand about the world.
Little is more damaging to a critical mind than undeserved self-confidence in one’s own ability, or the untouchable elevation of unsubstantiated belief.