Ignorance and Science, A Natural Mix

Jamie Holmes wrote in the New York Times on Aug. 24, 2015 an oped article titled, “The Case for Teaching Ignorance.” He starts by referencing an Arizona surgery professor’s course titled “Introduction to Medical and Other Ignorance.” After a battle with the university administrators, she was allowed to teach her course, which the students referred to as “Ignorance 101.” Homes continues by referencing Columbia University neuroscientist, Stuart J. Firestein, whose book Ignorance: How it Drives Science, highlights how many scientific facts aren’t solid and immutable (that is, they are not settled). Firestein emphasizes how intriguing ambiguities are what truly excite them.

In many ways, the ambiguities expand as the scientific community grows. Holmes highlights the view of the Australian social scientist, Michael Smithson: “The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline — where knowledge meets ignorance — extends. The more we know, the more we can ask.”

Holmes emphases this by writing, “The borderland between known and unknown is also where we strive against our preconceptions to acknowledge and investigate anomalous data.”

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