There is a lot we don’t know

Let’s face it. We cannot know everything. There are limits to what we can understand.

I suspect that some of you reading this already disagree with what I have written so far. Some of you think so highly of human ability and human potential that you are apt to believe that actually, we really can know everything. If not now, then someday, we will unlock every mystery of the universe.

I don’t think so.

There is nothing in our human experience to support such an assertion. It is a fun and very uplifting and very self-serving assertion, but when you look at the evidence it’s ludicrous. Our history has been one of continuously discovering new things; continuously realizing that what we thought was true, isn’t. Even within very specific defined fields of study, no one has ever been able to claim that everything is known, ever, about a particular subject.

First of all, our intake portals are limited. We can see, hear, taste, smell and touch. That seems like a lot. We intake vast amounts of information through those portals. Yet how do we know what we are missing? I know that we have developed incredible technology to translate things to fit our senses and to magnify things to fit our senses, yet there might be huge amounts of data that we are missing. How would we know what we are missing?

Second, the universe is really, really big and really, really old. Stuff out there is a long, long way away from us spatially and chronologically. Even if we haven’t experienced it first hand, we are all familiar with the image of a ship leaving port, sailing out to sea, and getting smaller and smaller until disappearing altogether. Our ability to understand what’s happening on the ship’s deck is pretty significant when she’s at rest next to the pier on which we are standing, but as the ship pushes away from the pier and heads to sea our ability to understand what’s happening on deck decreases. And before too long, we haven’t got a clue what’s happening out there. There is a point at which we can’t even see the ship or know where it is or even that it’s still afloat.

So too with knowledge. As things become really far away in space or time, relative to us, we know less and less about them. Things really, really far away: we know nothing. As things become really big or really small, relative to us, we now less and less about them. Things really, really big or really, really small: we know nothing.

For me there is an edge of knowledge in all directions; only so much I could possibly know. It happens at the point where the scale becomes so large or so tiny that it is impossible for me to study and gain more knowledge. Now I know that the edge moves due to technical advancements and due to the sharing of knowledge. Still, there is an edge.

Although we are apt to claim, “If we can’t detect it, it doesn’t exist;” actually, it’s just that we can’t detect it.

I believe that things do exist beyond our detection. A lot of things. And I challenge anyone to disprove this assertion.


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