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Old 07-01-2019, 18:34   #16
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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For a most excellent read on this subject and many others I'd suggest:


The Skeptics Guide to the Universe


I just finished it and am going to start over. Just too much good insights that I didn't retain the first time through.
I see they have a podcast, too! Had not heard of them before. Just subscribed and started listening to their first one of the New Year, in which they discuss 2018 predictions. I've always wanted someone to do this type of retrospective so they already have my attention
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Old 08-01-2019, 05:57   #17
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

Some years back, I attended a panel discussion about living in today's world with a high IQ. All of the panel members had certifiable, genius-level IQs. At one point the moderator asked the panel "What is the smartest thing you've ever said?"

There were a variety of answers until one guy on the panel said, "I don't know."

moderator: "You don't know what the smartest thing you've ever said was? Can you take a guess?"

panel-member: "No. You misunderstand me. The smartest thing I've ever said was, I don't know."

I think THAT guy was the smartest member on the panel!

If you cannot acknowledge that you might be wrong, or that you don't know something, then you cannot ever learn anything new. The ability to say those simple phrases -- "I was wrong" and "I don't know" -- is probably the most liberating and enriching ability that any human can have.

Sadly, of course, when you look around the internet, you see that there are a HUGE number of people in our world who seem to be completely unable to utter either of those phrases. Their ego forces them to always insist that they know everything, and that they are never wrong. I honestly feel very sorry for such pathetic individuals.
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:04   #18
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

This issue has become endemic across all the sciences, driven by the pressure to publish, to get grant money, and for general recognition within the field. Fortunately, a lot of journals are taking a hard look at what they are publishing and working to address how they evaluate submissions.
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:13   #19
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
Some years back, I attended a panel discussion about living in today's world with a high IQ. All of the panel members had certifiable, genius-level IQs. At one point the moderator asked the panel "What is the smartest thing you've ever said?"

There were a variety of answers until one guy on the panel said, "I don't know."

moderator: "You don't know what the smartest thing you've ever said was? Can you take a guess?"

panel-member: "No. You misunderstand me. The smartest thing I've ever said was, I don't know."

I think THAT guy was the smartest member on the panel!

If you cannot acknowledge that you might be wrong, or that you don't know something, then you cannot ever learn anything new. The ability to say those simple phrases -- "I was wrong" and "I don't know" -- is probably the most liberating and enriching ability that any human can have.

Sadly, of course, when you look around the internet, you see that there are a HUGE number of people in our world who seem to be completely unable to utter either of those phrases. Their ego forces them to always insist that they know everything, and that they are never wrong. I honestly feel very sorry for such pathetic individuals.



Oh, yes


Aristotle said that the essence of wisdom is knowing what you don't know. The corollary of that is that the essence of foolishness is lacking awareness of what you don't know or might be wrong about. In general, it seems to me, that the more a person knows, the more a person is aware of how much more there is to know. Only people who know very little, really think they know it all.


We have a certain number of people on here (or at least, who come and go) who consider arguing to be a kind of sport, where changing your mind or admitting you were wrong about something is equivalent to "losing".


This is really sad, and it detracts from the whole discussion process on here when people take up space and bandwidth furiously (and often, with intellectual dishonesty) defending some point of view just because it would mean "losing" to admit that someone else had a point.


Actually to float some idea on here and get it shot down by someone who understands the subject better, is not "losing" at all. On the contrary, you are the biggest winner when that happens -- you've learned something new or got liberated from some wrong idea. I am always grateful when that happens to me (which is often).


Many thanks to Gord for starting this great topic
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:28   #20
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

I vaguely recall that this quote was attributed to some ancient Greek philosopher but I guess it's apparently by Albert Einstein — 'As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.'
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:34   #21
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

You might have heard of “epistemology”, or the study of knowledge. This field helps define what we know, and why/how we know it.
On the flip side of this is “agnotology”, or the study of ignorance.

BBC - Future - The man who studies the spread of ignorance

“Agnotology - The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance”
Edited by Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2748888-agnotology

What don't we know, and why don't we know it? What keeps ignorance alive, or allows it to be used as a political instrument? Agnotology—the study of ignorance—provides a new theoretical perspective to broaden traditional questions about "how we know" to ask: Why don't we know what we don't know? The essays assembled in Agnotology show that ignorance is often more than just an absence of knowledge; it can also be the outcome of cultural and political struggles. Ignorance has a history and a political geography, but there are also things people don't want you to know ("Doubt is our product" is the tobacco industry slogan). Individual chapters treat examples from the realms of global climate change, military secrecy, female orgasm, environmental denialism, Native American paleontology, theoretical archaeology, racial ignorance, and more. The goal of this volume is to better understand how and why various forms of knowing do not come to be, or have disappeared, or have become invisible.
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:34   #22
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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Interesting Gord. I see this as part of the quest for the social “sciences” to become real sciences. So much of social science (sociology, psychology economics, anthropology, etc…) is pretty loosey-goosey with regard to scientific rigour.

Actually, I just finished reading Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s book “Everybody Lies”. His main thesis, other than the fact that we’re all liars, is that Big Data is finally allowing social science to become legitimate sciences. Big data allows for rigorous experimentation and analysis over legitimate sample groups. This is as opposed to most social science experiments which usually involve a small group of university students.
Hi, Mike,
You bring up some good points. Firstly, the "social sciences"-- psychology, sociology, economics, as you mentioned, are not "hard sciences" since there are always multiple answers for any questions/responses and they morph from generation to generation depending on many societal factors. For example, around the turn of the century, Freud was considered a "god." Today, although an innovator in the field of Psychology, most of his theories are what many call today "junk science." His views about sex, dream analysis, and personality are comical, to many, in the 21st Century and are really just sidenotes in Man's understanding of human beings and their motivations. Secondly, a "lie", from an evolutionary perspective is a survival tactic and the reason lies are so prevalent is that, by and large, they are so successful. We see it in the animal world among our cousins the great apes and they use it as effectively as we do for their survival. Finally, as far as this subject being "political," the suggestion is patently absurd. Why is it whenever someone poses an intelligent, provocative post it is perceived by some as "political?" This is not a Democratic, Republican or Socialist issue but a human issue unrelated to politics for people with a thinking brain. Good post, Gord. Rognvald
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Old 08-01-2019, 06:52   #23
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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... Aristotle said that the essence of wisdom is knowing what you don't know. The corollary of that is that the essence of foolishness is lacking awareness of what you don't know or might be wrong about...
In February 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, the then US Secretary of State for Defence, stated at a Defence Department briefing:

“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know:
- There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
- We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
- But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know*.
And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones”


* We should add, unknown knowns, the things we think we know that it turns out we did not know.

Much scientific research is based on investigating known unknowns. In other words, scientists develop a hypothesis to be tested, and then in an ideal situation experiments are best designed to test the null hypothesis. At the outset the researcher does not know whether or not the results will support the null hypothesis. However, it is common for the researcher to believe that the result that will be obtained will be within a range of known possibilities. Occasionally, however, the result is completely unexpected - it was an unknown unknown.
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Old 08-01-2019, 07:07   #24
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
In February 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, the then US Secretary of State for Defence, stated at a Defence Department briefing:

“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know:
- There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
- We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
- But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know*.
And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones”


* We should add, unknown knowns, the things we think we know that it turns out we did not know.

Much scientific research is based on investigating known unknowns. In other words, scientists develop a hypothesis to be tested, and then in an ideal situation experiments are best designed to test the null hypothesis. At the outset the researcher does not know whether or not the results will support the null hypothesis. However, it is common for the researcher to believe that the result that will be obtained will be within a range of known possibilities. Occasionally, however, the result is completely unexpected - it was an unknown unknown.

Rumsfield is much derided for this infamous remark. Rumsfield is not someone I have much admiration for, but this is actually a rather profound and true remark.
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Old 08-01-2019, 07:25   #25
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
Sadly, of course, when you look around the internet, you see that there are a HUGE number of people in our world who seem to be completely unable to utter either of those phrases. Their ego forces them to always insist that they know everything, and that they are never wrong. I honestly feel very sorry for such pathetic individuals.

Skewed analysis. People mainly write or comment when they think (rightly or wrongly) they have something to contribute. The majority of the "I don't know" people don't bother to say so on the internet.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Rumsfield is much derided for this infamous remark. Rumsfield is not someone I have much admiration for, but this is actually a rather profound and true remark.

Unfortunately, the circumstances around which he gave that remark rob it of some of its profundity.
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Old 08-01-2019, 07:46   #26
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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... Unfortunately, the circumstances around which he gave that remark rob it of some of its profundity.
Indeed.
http://archive.defense.gov/Transcrip...nscriptID=2636
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Old 08-01-2019, 07:48   #27
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

In this witty TED talk, Stuart Firestein gets to the heart of science as it is really practiced, and suggests that we should value what we don't know -- or "high-quality ignorance" -- just as much as what we know.
https://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_fir...ce?language=en
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Old 08-01-2019, 07:58   #28
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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You are only offensive when you keep on insisting on eating street fish tacos
What's a street fish? And why would you put it into tacos?
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Old 08-01-2019, 08:55   #29
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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What's a street fish? And why would you put it into tacos?
A1: it's a fish you found on the street
A2: what else are you going to do with it?

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Old 08-01-2019, 09:04   #30
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Re: Intellectual Humility & the importance of knowing you might be wrong

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Skewed analysis. People mainly write or comment when they think (rightly or wrongly) they have something to contribute. The majority of the "I don't know" people don't bother to say so on the internet.
Indeed.


Some people also write or comment to show off, and this motive can create incentives to resist contrary opinions, unfortunately.




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Unfortunately, the circumstances around which he gave that remark rob it of some of its profundity.

Indeed. I agree completely.
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