In praise of ignorance

Science, we generally are told, is a very well-ordered mechanism for understanding the world, for gaining facts, for gaining data,” biologist Stuart Firestein says. “I’d like to tell you that’s not the case.Instead, he proposes that science is really about ignorance — about seeking answers rather than collecting them. He ‘fesses up: “I use this word ‘ignorance’ to be at least, in part, intentionally provocative, because ignorance has a lot of bad connotations and I clearly don’t mean any of those. I don’t mean stupidity, I don’t mean a callow indifference tofact or reason or data,” he explains. “I mean a kind of ignorance that’s less pejorative, a kind of ignorance that comes from a communal gap in our knowledge, something that’s just not there to be known or isn’t known well enough yet or we can’t make predictions from.

Firestein explains that ignorance, in fact, grows from knowledge — that is, the more we know, the more we realize there is yet to be discovered. The purpose of gaining knowledge is, in fact, “to make better ignorance: to come up with, if you will, higher quality ignorance.” “The purpose is to be able to ask lots of questions — to be able to frame thoughtful, interesting questions — because that’s where the work is.”

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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