The limits of mankind's knowledge

It concerns me how often that we are discussing in ToK when somebody precludes an argument with some nonsense conjecture that goes along the lines of nobody knows why we do those things, we just do them. It is especially convenient with topics like human behaviors and black holes and morality, because you can dismiss things that you don’t understand. But we can explain those things with science. See, there’s a difference between knowing how to calculate the Schwarzschild radius and being aware that somewhere in the past, physicists have formed a working theory for black holes. On the opposite side, some areas of science are not as developed as they seem to be. One of the goals of a scientific education is to enable you to see through the magic. I ask people about this often. How can we know what the core of the Earth is made of, or how old the planet is? How do we know the surface temperature of Uranus? Why do we have pictures1 of exoplanets and their stars2? And how did we come up with the molecular structures of so many compounds? As you learn more, you realize that technology, as quickly as it advances, is so cruelly restrictive when it comes to science. It seems that people generally don’t know the limits of human knowledge3. They underestimate it in some areas, and blow it up in others. This negatively affects how we argue and reason because we can’t reliably determine what we do and don’t know. The point of knowing, to a more educated degree, how much progress has been made in mankind’s pursuit of knowledge creates not only a more reasonable and comprehensive foundation for argument, but a passion for learning everything you don’t know. You have to know there is something to know before you can know it. Actually, this sort of behavior is common outside of class too. It’s on conservative news stations all the time.

  1. Mr. Astronomy Club president.. I told you so. ↩︎
  2. Really quickly: Seismology and gravitation, radioisotopes, blackbody radiation, they are actually artist renditions as they’re damn near impossible to observe directly. ↩︎
  3. Well, okay. All of my examples are from astrophysics, because that’s the only thing I can argue well here.. But I’m sure there are others. ↩︎

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Fri, 21 Jun 2024 18:18:35 GMT