“What we know is a drop, what we do not know is an ocean”, said the English mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727).
Or to put it differently: we can never know what we do not know.
From this follows: whoever – like practically all conspiracy mystics – claims to know something exactly, has not understood this universal principle. We cannot know what we do not know. It is not possible.
But then what about things we are really sure about, for example that the sun always rises in the east? -We are quite sure about that, but hypothetically a big, dark celestial body could be approaching unnoticed, which would cause the earth’s axis to tilt with its gravitation, so that the sun would rise in the west. Of course, this is more than unlikely according to our present knowledge, but we cannot really rule it out. Because we do not know what we do not know.
Knowledge therefore always has to do with probabilities. We know for sure that the sun always rose in the east so far and with a very high probability that it will also do so tomorrow.
“We must stop thinking that knowledge requires one hundred percent security”, US philosophy professor Nestor Ángel Pinillos
This statement is currently of great importance because there are critics of pandemic control who criticize the PCR tests because they sometimes give false results, i.e. they do not give one hundred percent certainty that one really does or does not have COVID-19. However, such probabilities can be avoided by adjusting the target of the tests accordingly.
The probability of knowledge also plays an important role in climate change. After all, no one can predict with one hundred percent certainty what will happen in 50 years.
But because we do not believe what we do not like, some people refuse to acknowledge it. They question the fact that what research calls secure knowledge is knowledge.
What is knowledge anyway?
In any case, a reason why one is of a certain opinion is needed, and if this opinion is good, verifiable and comprehensible, then one can speak of knowledge.
The German version of Wikipedia defines knowledge as “a set of facts, theories and rules … available to persons or groups … which are characterized by the highest possible degree of certainty, so that their validity or truth is assumed.”
In addition to a reason, you need to be sure that the reason is correct, or the above mentioned high probability.
In science, there are clear criteria for when something is considered to be reliable knowledge. These include, among other things, that one has tried in every conceivable way to refute the information or hypothesis at issue as false. Furthermore, the information must have been confirmed by two different sources independently of each other.
But how do you know that something new will not be discovered tomorrow that will refute the information after all? – One does not know. If one discovers something new, the previous knowledge is considered obsolete and one turns to the new knowledge.
In the past this has happened again and again. First, people thought that the earth was flat and in the center of the universe, then they noticed that it was round, then that it was not even in the center of the solar system, and so on.
This is how science works. If you don’t understand this, you may get the idea that scientists contradict themselves when they say one thing today and another thing tomorrow.
This is perfectly normal and is part of science, part of the methodology that gives us the greatest certainty if we want to form a well-founded opinion about the world. After all, the scientific approach has taken us out of the Middle Ages and has enabled a prosperity unique in the history of mankind.
The difference between scientists and conspiracy mystics is that the latter do not even attempt to refute their claims as false. Instead, they seek only proof – usually circumstantial evidence, not proof – to prove that they are right. They don’t ask for their claims to be confirmed by two independent sources, and they even maintain that they are right, even though they have long since been refuted. All counterevidence is ignored.
“Trust is good, control is better”, Unknown author
But in case of doubt, if you yourself understand too little about a topic or do not have the time to do research in order to form your own opinion, then it is recommended:
“I would rather believe scientists who make mistakes than lunatics who think they are scientists”, Unknown author
(In German: “Lieber glaube ich Wissenschaftlern, die sich mal irren, als Irren, die glauben, sie seien Wissenschaftler”, the message in the picture)
Anyone who wants to delve even deeper into the question of whether knowledge requires one hundred percent certainty will find here an interview with Professor Nestor Ángel Pinillos (in German).
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