The Limit of Our Knowledge- Or, Why Reading A Book Doesn’t Make Anyone An Expert
First, I’d like to apologize if you arrived at this entry assuming you were going to learn anything about SEO or marketing. If that’s the case, best click away to something else so you won’t feel the urge to complain about my bit of self-indulgence.
I had dinner with a very intelligent man and his equally intelligent wife this evening and the discussion ranged from politics, to religion, to evolution to global warming. All volatile subjects to be sure, often divisive even among the restrained.
While no violent arguments broke out at the table, on two separate occasions I voiced my difference of opinion on two separate subjects and was promptly told that, “I simply must read the book’. One of those books was An Inconvenient Truth and the other was The Development of Darwin’s Theory by Dov Ospovat.
I told him I had read the first but not the latter and was astonished when I was told, ‘Well then, you must not have understood it’. My rejoinder was that I certainly understood what the author meant for me to believe, but that I lacked the scholarship necessary to make determinations about the truth of what the author was saying.
Again, to my astonishment, I was told that, ‘They are scientists, at some point you have to trust someone’. At which point I promptly pissed him off because I replied, ‘Indeed I do, but that point, for me, requires more than reading a single book on the subject’.
He wasn’t angry enough to walk out on his drink and his crab legs but he was angry enough to begin an interrogation on the other subject, evolution. Not satisfied with my replies, he simply asked if I was a Creationist. When I said no he looked surprised and asked if I was just being difficult. I told him that I preferred Abrupt Appearance over evolution and creationism. He had no idea what that meant, so I supplied the essence of Abrupt Appearance with a single sentence.
The fossil record shows that separate and distinct species appear in their entirety, enjoy a period of stasis, and then vanish.
This served to confuse and anger him, and he nearly shouted,
‘What about those damn lizards that have lived in caves so long that they’ve gone blind’?
When I told him that he was now confusing adaptation with evolution the vein in his forehead began to throb and he excused himself and wife rather abruptly.
He didn’t stay around long enough to learn that I don’t disagree that global warming is occurring, just that I don’t believe scientists are as sure about the cause as they would have us believe, and that some of the ‘solutions’ to global warming simply don’t seem feasible.
He didn’t stay long enough to learn that even Darwin had some difficulty with parts of his theory, the ‘evolution’ of the eye being particularly difficult and symbiosis quite troubling.
He didn’t stay long enough to learn that I have an open mind on both subjects, but that I feel my knowledge is incomplete so I typically have more questions than answers.
He didn’t stay, because he read a couple of books and felt secure in his knowledge. Not to say that I don’t feel that you can’t learn from a book, but if you’ve run out of questions, you haven’t read enough of them.
I always have to question the mental integrity, not the acuity, of someone that is swayed by reading a single book. If an opinion is that easily swayed it must have been loosely held and what does that say about the value of the original opinion? It is so easy for our reach to exceed our grasp that we sometimes forget how much we don’t know.
About half an hour after I arrived home, he called to apologize about his abrupt disappearance, told me he had a trying day and that he was ordering some material on Abrupt Appearance. I promised to read The Development of Darwin’s Theory …
Gunning-Fog 12.2 What’s this? Just an experiment, move along now…