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Thread: Ep. 404: The Difference Between: Canít Know, Donít Know, and Just Awaiting Better Tec

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2003

    Ep. 404: The Difference Between: Canít Know, Donít Know, and Just Awaiting Better Tec

    There the things we know, the things we donít know, and the things we canít know. How do we know which one is when when weíre deciding to fund research and direct our scientific inquiry.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Nice show.

    Just a few precisions: The quote of Rumsfeld about "known unknowns", etc., precedes him, with citations going back as far as 1979.
    I think it would be accurate to say that Rumsfeld popularized the expression.

    I could not find a quote in "Our Town", by Thornton Wilder, that resembled Pamela's paraphrase. The closest I could get to it was this:

    Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
    Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
    More than cool reason ever comprehends.
    The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
    Are of imagination all compact.

    --Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1. (A very handy website that does facing page translations into modern English here.)

    It's probably not the quote that Pamela was thinking of, but Shakespeare was such a poetic genius, I had to include it ...

    For a long time, I've been very interested epistemology and what can be known. (In fact, I just attended a seminar on the subject last week.) There's a quote from Richard Feynman that I found to be very helpful:

    I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but Iím not absolutely sure of anything, and in many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here, and what the question might mean, I might think it about a little, but if I can't figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly.
    --Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

    I think that we human beings are very uncomfortable with mystery. We want to have everything explained to us, and that's where mythology and religion serves a purpose. But it might be better to examine why we feel this need to have everything tied up neatly with a bow, rather than have it handed to us tied up neatly with a bow...

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