I tell you, I’m certain of it

by nboydgibbins

The strength of someone’s opinion is usually inversely proportional to how educated they are on that topic. Firstly, a rite of passage for anyone to be afforded credibility is to appreciate that no matter how educated they are they cannot be certain. Even if we feel our logic is sound, we may only be seeing what we want to see, cherry-picking information to fit our prejudices, or simply turning deaf ears to sense and reason. Further, and almost universally, it seems that the more one comes to know about any given topic, the more it becomes apparent that most issues can be many things without being clear and simple. The full picture is most often exclusively painted in shades of grey, and the people who persevere to learn about the things they don’t know eventually fathom this complexity.

I think a noteworthy component of this commitment to ignorance is that since early in the evolution of our complex brains, we have continued to be concerned by things we have not resolved as ‘understood’. How can I be sure this isn’t a threat if I don’t understand it? We take comfort in feeling we know something certainly, or alternatively; we fear the unknown. A myriad of heuristics contributed to the unchecked eventual success of our fast and adaptive brains. Simply; our brains will coarsely believe we comprehend things very early in their analysis, like the foolish judgements we make based on first impressions. This is an obstacle we must all pass to have any chance of seeing things as they actually are, and in order to realise that we could be wrong about every view that we hold. It is another great irony of life that at some level we cannot feel at ease about something – cannot arrest its analysis – until we are ‘certain’ that we know what it is. Except that the only thing we can never be is certain.