The Pursuit of Ignorance

The pursuit of high quality ignorance

That science has this vast body of knowledge we draw facts from is a misconception. Science is really about promoting ignorance, but good quality ignorance is what we need—of the curious kind

There is a misconception that science has it mostly figured out. That simply is not the case (not oven fractionally close) because every discovery only compounds the number of questions, but that is really the point. If we accept science has arrived at anything, how will we know what questions to ask?

I think we all know what happens to a body of people when they claim to know the final truth. Rooted, stunted, immovable, and waiting for that truth to unfold—is at odds with the nature of everything. True knowledge is temporary and raises more questions than it answers.

Science is currently the best means we have to improve life by focusing on a narrow band of discovery, drawing from a well of facts where there is always another bucket. But to think we know…that would be the a travesty. Discovery generates more ignorance—and this is the type of ignorance that we celebrate, not willful ignorance of belief, but skillful ignorance of curiosity.

Excerpts and photos from this excellent TED by Stuart Firestein—The Pursuit of Ignorance

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs escaping the faith trap.

51 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Ignorance”

  1. That question can be read in many ways, Jim. If I were turned into a pillar of salt, how would I know anything? How would I know if it were a stupid punishment, if I were turned into a pillar of salt? How would I know anything if I were no longer flesh and bone? Or, how would I know if I were a pillar of salt? Or was it just rhetorical. I am ignorant of your meaning, But certainly we have more questions than we started with, lol. Not sure I want to find the answers to any of them, though I just want to know how long the process took. And why Lot’s wife never had a name? Surely if we knew her name the pumishment of being turned into a pillar of syone would have been nnamed after her, like becoming “Clarafied,” or something! While it could have been called “Sodomized” sfter the town, that word was used elsewhere.

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      1. No idea. But then, I doubt it is your consciousness that survives. My case, and the case of other NDEs, was not natural. We were still conscious to some extent. As I have said, or tried to say, it is the spirit of life within us that survives us. Ego, and mind definitely stop. But yet, on this plane, we speak with our minds, and sometimes our egos. We use words like “I experienced this” because those are the tools available to us here. We will not have those tools after death. What pronoun does a spirit get to use? I have no idea. It is a spirit is the best description “I” can give it. If I were to guess, I would say spirits have no language as we know language. But I am foolish to even say that!

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        1. Isn’t “I” just a temporary state related to this physical form? If the ego dies it never was actually real to begin with. “Spirits”, with an s, would be a contradiction if ego and mind dies yet spirit remains it was never yours to begin with.

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          1. That is why I say words fail me! Words belong to this dimension only. But this dimension is just a drop in the bucket of what I experienced as reality! If you have a word for 4th dimensional reality (length, breadth, height, time) that distinguisges it from non-dimensional reality I would live to know it.

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            1. Words are ways of dividing reality apart from itself. That not how anything actually exists. There are no separate dimensions —everything is all right out in the open. It’s simply a way that we were trained by culture and tradition. It’s not how anything actually is. The fall of man would actually be man’s idea that he is somehow separate from his environment.

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            2. Curious (as always) — You make these statements as though they are fact. But are they? Or are they simply your perspective?

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            3. Well I like to think there is a bit of reason behind my remarks. What we are taught is at odds with what we see—not believe, but what is really going on here. Let me ask you, what part of the natural world is separate from the natural world, and where do you draw the line between you and your environment? Even though your body is covered in little tubes and sensors, the environment goes through you and in and out of you, as well as the cosmic rays that pass through you every day. Is your skin a barrier to to the world or is your skin what connects you to it?
              I read a comment elsewhere today and the believer said “I enjoy my time here on earth”, like she is a visitor here on temporary assignment. It is a common cultural phenomenon. People say “I have a body” not that they are a body. Like the life-force and the corpse are separate entities. It’s simply a way of looking at things and I think it’s wrong. It is very Hebraic, in fact. It isn’t how things actually are. You didn’t come into the world but you came out of it—true or false?

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            4. It isn’t how things actually are. — And you know this how?

              You didn’t come into the world but you came out of it—true or false? “Life” came out of the world/cosmos. “Human life” (as we know it today) came into the world via the union of sperm and egg.

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            5. Coming out of the world is not how we feel though. We are taught differently and it is implied all around us that is not the case. And where does that life originate? Is there a separate creation for mankind, that we are somehow different from the Big Bang?

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            6. What is a human? What is a person? What is a life? Feel free to disagree.
              A human is an animal. A member of a species. Not all species are human. In fact we are just one species out of probably billions of spcies, if we humans were able to list every species in existence. When we look at other species, ants for instance, we see the species. We do not see individuals. We do not even try to assign individuality to most other species. Let’s look at cows instead. We drive by a cow farm, wd say, “Look at the cows!” We do not see Tom Cow, or Harriet Cow, or Billy Bull. But if we were to stop, and talk to the farmer, we might discover individual cows have individual names. Their names might be A26, or G52, but to the farmer they are more than cows. Conversely, the cows might see the farmer and family members as individual humans (whatever kind of appellation a cow might use for human) but to you as the people who stopped to ask, they would just see members of that species we know as humans. We are no more special to them than they are to us. We are just another form of animal!
              Persons: We see all humans as individuals. We might not know names, or anything else, but we recorgnize members of our species as individuals. Why? In a crowd of total strangers, it is our nature to look for indicators of individuality. We expect other humans to be persons! Why? We don’t expect cows to be individuals. We certainly do not expect ants to be individuals. We have no idea if ants can even see us as humans, what do ant eyes even see? But we expect cows to see us as humans, and we “want” them to see us as individuals. Why? Because we know ourselves as individuals, as persons. No two persons are ever exactly the same. We inherently know that. YET, when we see people unlike us, we do not automatically see them as individuals, we see them as members of certain identifiers. Female or male. Young or old. Black or white, or red or yellow or brown. And we start assigning qualities to them, racial, gender, age, etc. These qualities are group qualities, not individual qualities. As long as we do not interact closely with these individuals, we do not see them as people. But at some point, everyone becomes a person, if we allow them to be. Each one has a name, Some kind of feature that immediately identifies them as a certain petson thereafter, no matter what their group identifiers tell us. Yes, we still see Mahalia as a young black woman, and hopefully we treat her as the individual she is. You know that is how you want to be treated, as the individual you are. But you do not take the time to consider you are a middle-aged white male. You want to be instantly recognized as Jim. And, if you know the other person well enough to know who they are, you expect them to know you that way too. Because you are a person, who believe you see the personhood in others, but that only happens by getting to know each other. And that takes time. Individuals are a huge step up from species. Yet you do not treat other species the way you want them to treat you.
              So, there are humans, and there are persons. But moving forward, and backward at the same time, we are all first and foremost living beings. We are one huge grouping. We are not rocks, or water, or even air. We ARE alive, and therefore living beings.
              BUT, we are only living beings on this plane of existence. We cannot see other planes of existence, or dimensions, because we are too busy being on this plane. We can, were we able to imagine such things, consider other dimensions, but they can never be real to us. Nothing in our lives leads us to believe there is something other than where we are, or what we are. But that does not mean they aren’t there. If they are there, they will always be there, whether we acknowledge them or not. I am not the only one to visit a different dimension. I know I am not alone in that. But I pretty much have my own interpretation of what I experienced. I didn’t have any expectations of what I could expetience, as Christians see God or Jesus, and Buddhists see Nirvana, and Hindus see Shiva. I was in a state of flux. So I experienced, hopefully, what was actually there, or what my mind was able to comprehend of my experience. And that is what I have to go on. Yes, my experience was interpreted in some way, but it was not imagined, or hallucinated. There is at least one other dimension beside our own. Logic, and the experience itself, tell me there are more.
              This attempt at explanation is convoluted, I will not deny that. But so much depends on what we experience, and where we are standing when we try to communicate with others. You telling me there is only one reality is like a christian telling me there is only one god. If there is one, there are others. I have never experienced even one god, that leads me to believe there are no gods. You have experienced only one reality, that leads you to believe there is only one reality.A christian might be right, but I highly doubt it. You might be right, but I doubt even that. I have been to another reality, twice. I believe me!

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  2. Hey, Jim,
    In case no one has noticed, “I love setting fires!” Only, someone invariably asks what I am using for fuel. They believe fuel is needed to start a fire. They do not seem to understand, fire is an idea. Ideas do not need fuel. In fact, if all ideas had to be based in previous fact, advances would be few and far between. I am not saying my ideas will lead to facts, facts are not my concern. Chasing ideas, leading to new ideas, that is what my fires are intended to do. If only people could understand, it is not facts that lead us to new discoveries, it is ideas. Mine is not to produce facts, mine is to envision new ideas.

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    1. That was a great line there at the end of the Ted video. We still have arguing over definitions of poor questions, sometimes going on for days or weeks. I am guilty of this too, btw. And you. Where do we go from here? We need to have some level of basic knowledge (common senses) to communicate, but that education only prepares us to answer questions.
      “Studying the past, the learned man is well equipped to function in a world that no longer exists, while learners will inherit the earth”

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      1. Where do we go from here? I’m biased, because I have always considered myself visionary, but test where the visionary leads. I am not saying my vision is worth following for everyone, but neither am I saying it is not. Go look, and see what uou think! If you don’t like it, change directions. If you do, keep on looking deeper.
        But I am talking from a visionary viewpoint. From a safe viewpoint, where you need to know where you are going before you get there, take baby steps. You won’t have so far to go backeards if you see something scary.
        **************************************************
        Maybe I am misunderstanding the question, I don’t know. I am sure others would answer it totally different from what I just offered. As I said to Archon’s Den above, I don’t want to inherit the earth, .I want to see the stars, which could mean planes of existence unfathomanle from earth.
        I go where my life leads me, not where others think I need to go.
        Personally, I loved my “once upon a time” line. When I wrote it, unthinkingly, it just seemed so right. Science gives us fairy tales much of the time, we just have to wait to understand that it is a fairy tale.

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        1. The idea is that through education you then possess a higher level of quality ignorance—knowing more fully what legitimate questions to ask. Opposed to that we get willful ignorance, dismissal of fact for belief and bias.

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          1. But that is just science patting itself on the back, saying “Good boy. You did well.”
            You can only say a question is legitimate if you already has an accepted background. You and I would disagree, but a legitimate question for a Christian might be, “How many seconds did it take from the time Lot’s wife (no name) turned around until she was turned into a pillar of salt?” The question follows logically from belueving a woman was turned into a pillar of salt, though all of us non-believers know such a thing never happened, and it is ridiculous to even think it could.
            Your “higher level of quality ignorance” metaphor falls apart, in my mind. Ignorance, the lack of knowledge, is ignorance and nothing more. There are no instances of better or worse ignorance. It is what it is.
            But, if you want to believe these are levels of quality of ignorance, who am I to stand in your way. If it makes you happy, go for it. Life is, supposedly, the search for happiness. I do not believe that myself, but you can.

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            1. On the flip side, can I just dismiss everything you say without learning a little bit about it? That would be ignorant and unproductive. But if I give it a fair shake and really understand your point of view, although I may disagree I have developed a human level of contact without dismissing you—and at the same time my ignorance is valid vs willful stupidity.

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            2. Agreed. So is ignorance what we really want to talk about? Science lays claims to facts (until they are disproven). I lay claim to metaphysics, if you will allow me that term. Metaphysics cannot be disproven on this plane of existence. Even the existence of planes cannot be disproven without leaving this plane. Which so far is impossible without dying, and dying seldom allows further intelligent discussion.
              I guess what I am trying to ask is, what can we talk about “intelligently” that might combine science with metaphysics? Is such a thing even possible? Humans love to have answers to questions, it is such a human thing. But once uou lea
              rn spirit, human becomes almost meaningless. The qualifier has to be changed to life, not human. Human is just one miniscule bit of life. Important to us of course, but in the whole cosmos barely an electron.
              Yet we try, because we want to know. I saw what I did because “I wanted to know,” and what I found was far beyond my capacity to understand. But I chipped away at it, and absorbed it, and finally came to understand bits of it. I am no expett by any streych of the imagination, yet, compared to most humans, I am one of the experts on metaphysical ignorance. I know there is so much I can never know. Was it Plato who said, “I admit I know nothing!” or something like that? Well, not to be egotistical, but I know a hell of a lot more “nothing” than Plato could ever have imagined. And I am glad I do, but sometimes I wish I knew less than nothing.

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            3. There is a level of physics and reason that can be achieved through dialog. If we only talk about what we know vs what we don’t know, how will we know what to ask?
              Here is a comment from a Christian blog I interact with; “When it comes to the topics we are discussing you are probably asking the wrong person for answers. It does not strike me as odd. Remember I have heard the infinite voice of God. To me that is ultimate truth and our reality an illusion. For the two of us to discuss the validity of my experience though is pointless. I more than believe, I know. So, that is how firm I stand in my truth”.
              This truth (like your truth) is a belief that grew from an experience that originally could not be explained. I know her story, and it has expanded since it’s inception to be more than it was. What was a question is now a truth (to her) but she swears now Jesus came to her, but was not sure what it was in the beginning. What you claim to know as fact is most likely a belief.

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            4. I have looked at thaft possibility over and over. There was a time I wanted it to be true. But, after much self-investigation I know it is my truth.

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            5. I like your first and last sentences because I think they showcase the flexibility of this blog group. Respectful dialogue entertains new thoughts, vs “knowing” truth. “To know” a thing is fleeting, subjective to ongoing perception etc. For example, back there in Genesis ‘Abram believed God.’ He focused on a Person not a belief, and I think people are much more flexible than beliefs.

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            6. Who knows, Lot’s wife may have spent decades becoming salt. Or possibly the author erected her as a metaphorical memorial, ‘Don’t look back.’ Jesus reminded, “Remember Lot’s wife.”

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            7. We humans are a strange bunch. Worry about the past and worry about the future…Jesus also said take no thought for tomorrow…. So here we have it. There is no future nor past except in your head. There is only the present as also illustrates by those two parables.

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            8. A lesson for the ages. Sure. But talk about bogeymen. Who is scared of being turned into a pillar of salt? A pretty stupid “punishment,” if you ask me. Surely God could have come up with something more realistic..

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            9. I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t a punishment. Call it Providence perhaps. I’m not convinced hell is a punishment- it could simply be the just curse of doing without God. Death is a separation and hell is extreme separation, nevermind the fire.

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            10. Depends what you mean by Providence? I don’t believe in gods, or fate, or or anything but chaos. Things happen because they happen, not because some superior being or beings csuse them to happen. When I said “lesson for the ages” I just wanted to make it sound ominous, nothing else.as talking

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  3. It doesn’t just apply to science. Any exploration of knowledge, such as my delves into genealogy and history, has a similar trajectory. Even after completing my book, I continue to uncover evidence that changes my perspective on the story. I almost dread publishing, knowing that I will afterward discover so many errors in my thinking as I wrote it.

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    1. What I hate about writing, people think it sets you in stone. To state something today means they want you to be able to make the same statement tomorrow. They do not allow you to change your mind; they do not allow you to learn something new. Yet isn’t that what life is all about, always learning, always changing your mind? I realized this before I finished high school. What I was being taught was what someone believed to be true at the time they wrote that thing down. But even if they learned they were wrong, the book did not change. Jim mentions revisions above, but if the book you have has not been revised, or if you do not know about a revision, we think we are learning a truth. Really, all we are learning is a truth believed “once upon a time.”

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      1. I do think that Jim’s title is a bit misleading. We are pursuing knowledge, even if every bit we acquire leads us to understanding there are so many more things we do not know (and possibly never will). Even my blog posts are due for revision once in a while.

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        1. From my standpoints, my blog posts are rungs upon a ladder. I had to be “here” in order to get to “there.” I would not think of revising, because every step is important. But having said that, to even get to where I started on my “rawgodsspiritualatheism” blog I had to get through almost 50 years of trial and error to understand two experiences that lasted maybe 5 hours each, and seemed like seconds. All my revising was done in other ways, mostly inside my head. Ego vs mind vs spirit. Those fight were horrendous at times. And that was just to get to a starting point. I started my blog in 2017, and things I said then are barely worth reading now. But they were all steps along my path of reasoning. They deserve to be there. To revise them, for me, would be a disservice. But that is for me. How others treat them, if they look at them at all, is up to them. I am in constanst motion. How can I not be?

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          1. Understood. I am generally not writing about myself and my journey, as you do. Mostly I write about dead people, and I like to make sure I get their stories as close to the truth as I can get them. People do read them continually. Even my earliest posts regularly get search engine hits and reads.

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            1. Mostly ancestors, sometimes a historical theme that caught my eye while researching. I also write about travel, nature, and snippets of memoir.

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  4. Well said, Jim. And that Ted talk looks interesting. I bookmarked that to watch later when I have more time.

    We have to adapt, we have to learn. We have to accept that sometimes we are just plain wrong when new evidence appears.

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    1. But many of the end-users assume science has answered the fundamental questions, though as you know none of it has been answered that hasn’t raised more questions. As knowledge improves the questions are compounded. This is one aspect of religious “knowledge”that is so damming. They have the truth, which literally meant they are the dammed

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      1. But many of the end-users assume science has answered the fundamental questions

        Do they really? I doubt you’d ever find a scientist who says they’re 100% certain of anything, “the journey is over,” and that position is, i think, fairly well presented. If a person believes what you say ‘many’ believe, then they simply haven’t paid attention.

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        1. What I am trying to explain is that it matters very much if we come up with a description/explanation and then apply this to be the basis for something impersonal, something that works consistently and reliably well for what seems to be the case for everyone everywhere all the time. And I argue this to get beyond what any one person or group of people believes. What I am describing is the method to do this, a compilation of tools – physical as well as representative – to get to this point of using an explanation in a completely impersonal and objective way.”—tildeb
          There is no such thing outside a few gadgets.

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