Sometimes, “I Don’t Know” is the Right Answer

Humans have this tendency to make stuff up. We’re uncomfortable with not knowing something. We feel the need to not only come up with a best guess, but also assume that it is correct.

When we did not know how the earth was created, we wove our own stories that involved benevolent and angry gods, precocious titans, and curious humans. Now we have a different story that is corroborated with other evidence. It seems unlikely that our first guess was correct, and it seems more likely that our current guess is correct.

When we did not know what caused plagues or crop shortages, we guessed that it was caused by angry gods, and prideful humans. Now we understand a bit more about germ theory, carbon cycles, and crop rotation. Our current guess at how the world works is proving to be instrumental in our current way of life. The standard of living has improved 100x since then. So I think we are more right-er. We could be wrong. And if we find out that we are, we’ll have to change our ways. But we can be fairly certain that it isn’t caused by a god or gods, at least directly.

I make a joke to myself whenever I loose my keys. I say to myself “Well, I guess my keys don’t exist anymore!” It’s funny to me because I know they exist, but I’m using poor logic to justify a first guess. The correct response should be “I don’t know where my keys are. I’ll have to keep searching.” Sometimes, “I don’t know” is the right answer.