9. That you do not know does not mean that it does not exist

2020/11/12 Elhuyar Zientzia



It is clear that a person cannot know everything. Scientists also have no training in all areas of science, since they specialize in specific areas. But not knowing something or not knowing anything about something doesn't mean it doesn't exist; it just means that we don't know anything about it.

And that is not bad, if that ignorance is able to arouse curiosity about the subject, that is, if it serves to know premises, to reflect arguments through inferences (procedure to reach a conclusion of the premises) and to draw conclusions, to analyze the relationship between causes and consequences, to promote debate and to contrast different sources of information.

But there are also people who feel discomforted by ignorance, who try to replace that ignorance with pride, questioning what they do not know, using unfounded information as an argument and denying the knowledge of others.

Today there are many who dare to question the information that science slowly illuminates in the face of ignorance of coronavirus.

Surely you have heard a lot of such phrases about coronavirus: “The use of the musical is useless”, “The pandemic does not exist”, “Sars-Cov-2 is a virus created in the laboratory”, “Asymptomatists do not contaminate the virus”, etc. These are claims without any scientific basis and, although we still have much to learn about coronavirus, science is able to eliminate them with the knowledge generated by the scientific method.

Coronaviro deniers, the “terraplanists” who argue that the Earth is flat and the followers of pseudosciences base their claims on unfounded arguments, without using the scientific method. However, the knowledge that is extracted with the scientific method, even if it occurs slowly, will be more robust than that arising from ignorance spontaneously and with unfounded arguments. Moreover, being evidence-based knowledge, it will be of great use to face unfounded claims.

When a critical thinker receives information about something that knows nothing, he will not say the first ideas and opinions that come to mind with the sole intention of hiding his ignorance on this subject. Accept ignorance and try to learn about it. To do this, it will contrast the information received with other sources and try to know the opinion of other people (experts/scientific community) about it. And this will not only apply when you receive scientific information, since anyone can act the same way with the information you receive in your day to day.

There is another fallacy very related to what is explained here: Argumentum ad ignoratiam. This fallacy indicates that ignorance of the evidence against the idea being defended is favorable evidence. In other words, try to defend information by arguing that there is no evidence to prove otherwise. By using this fallacy, therefore, the arguments are not based on knowledge, but on lack of knowledge, that is, on ignorance. For example: “No one has shown that there is life on other planets, so it does not exist”, “Ghosts exist, because no one has shown that they do not exist”, “No one can show that the stars do not affect our life, so astrological predictions are true”, etc.

For all of the above, when we receive information on a topic we do not know, rather than considering it as a threat to highlight our ignorance of the subject, we must consider it an opportunity for learning based on evidence and reliable sources.


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