Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why You Should Question Everything

You're in school, or you're in your job. You have questions and those above you have answers. Are those answers convincing? Or do they produce more questions? Now you're troublesome.

I've long said that the mark of an educated person is someone who has more questions than answers. I think that there is a lot to learn from answers, I really do. I think that we can strive for a better understanding and worldview just by exploring the answers that are out there on whatever subject it is you're discussing.

But I don't think we should always accept them. Mostly, I think they should be rejected. Why? Because they will eventually be rejected by everyone. It may take a while, perhaps centuries, but history has shown us one thing very conclusively: most theories are wrong. Most policies are wrong. Most ideas are wrong.

It's not just the "dumb masses," either. It's obvious when we talk about Earth-centric theories, or flat-Earth theories, or God punishing us with the plague. Those widely held beliefs were proven wrong by making the unobservable observable. But these people weren't stupid; their brains were exactly like ours, capable of the same complexity of thought. Our brains haven't changed in thousands and thousands of years. Even the smartest people throughout history have been proven wrong.

Copernicus was wrong when he said that the Earth traveled around the sun in a perfect circle. He was on the right track, but that's not enough.

Newton was on the right track when he came up with his laws of motion. But, as it turned out, his work was in large need of refinement.

Thomas Jefferson was on the right track when he declared that all people were created equal. It's just that he wasn't counting all people as actual people.

Banks were wrong in the 20s. And in the 2000s.

Every day, people are wrong about almost everything. History shows us that almost everything we believe, everything we "know" to be true will be proven wrong on some level or another. That's how knowledge works. It couldn't move forward without a lot of people being a lot of wrong in the meantime.

I think that this should offer us insight into a very troubling rule: the only people who will be seen as "right" in the future, will be seen as "wrong" today. Or, at least, troublesome. Yes, plenty of thoughts and ideas change the world and are proven within that intellectual's lifetime,but many, many more are not. Because right place, right time is a very rare cooperation of circumstances.

But take comfort: if you're seeing things a different way--in your job, in your school, on a blog post--you have a better chance of being right by questioning the validity of commonly-held belief than those people do by holding on to them.

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