The Ignorance of Our Own Ignorance (348)

God is not counting on us to keep ourselves stupid, closed off to the complexity of the world we’re in.
David Dark in his book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

We must remember that we are not God.
Vaclav Havel

David Dark is a questioner, an embracer of uncertainty, and his wonderful book helps us question everything from our religion and passions to our media choices and use of language. He sees our questions and uncertainties, not as signs we lack core convictions or beliefs, but as indicators of our dependency on God alone, which lead to our humility before the One who created us and more wonderfully redeemed us in Jesus Christ. Uncertainty is a good thing. If it doesn’t lead us to a detached irony or a caustic nihilism, then uncertainty helps us question our assumptions about ourselves and the world. A healthy questioning of things makes us work harder to see things more clearly and understand things more deeply. It can help us avoid overly simplistic answers to questions that are truly complex. Even questioning God is healthy. The Prophets of the Old Testament did it regularly as did the Psalmist. Anyone who believes questioning God would somehow diminish God must believe in a pretty scrawny, petty God.

There are few things of which we can be certain. At best, we can listen, learn, and form good judgments about what “is” based on the collective wisdom of smart people who’ve studied a question for a lot longer than we have. In other words, we must grant the premise that there are indeed people who are, on certain subjects, likely smarter than us. That humility appears to be in short supply these days as we grow in the ignorance of our own ignorance, mistaking our passions for what they clearly are not: objective truth, even when the preponderance of data tells us otherwise. We feel something should be true, so it must be. There’s a truthiness to it (thank you, Stephen Colbert).

As I write this, we’re waiting to learn (from really smart people) the path of Hurricane Irma, mere days after witnessing the destructive power of Hurricane Harvey. Climate scientists, many who are Nobel Laureates (really smart people), have been telling us for over a generation now that our human activity, particularly the burning of carbon, is changing the climate, heating the oceans and raising their level, and creating a greater likelihood for more extreme weather, like the kind we’re now seeing. It’s appropriate for us to question their conclusions about climate change. They don’t mind. In fact, they welcome it since they have the preponderance of the scientific evidence on their side. Thus, it’s perfectly fine to be “climate change skeptics;” to question scientific models and their conclusions. But at some point, humility must lead us to conclude that if these smart people have been researching this for a generation and 95% of them warn that we must limit the human activity that’s contributing to climate change, then we must humbly admit that they’re right and then do something about it.

So, I must then ask: when did we stop listening to smart people? When did we begin to glory in our own ignorance, even seeing it as a virtue?



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