“I Don’t Know” Is One Of The Most Powerful Things You Can Say


Where does science happen? Where does it exist? If you’ve taken a science class in school, first, I’m very sorry, and second, you probably learned a bunch of facts. Those facts and ideas were generated by scientists using the scientific method, but they’re just that – facts and ideas. That’s not science itself, that’s a result of science.

Science happens at the edges. At the margins. At the boundaries. Science happens where the known rubs up against the unknown. Science is a method, a process, a tool for converting unknowns into knowns. For gaining new knowledge. For revealing new information. For uncovering new processes.

Thus, science must begin from a place of ignorance. If something is already known – already studied, already analyzed, already investigated, already dealt with and reconciled and added to the annals of Human Knowledge – then it’s not the prime focus of scientific investigation. Sure, sometimes scientists look back and work to reconfirm or re-evaluate already-known things, but that’s more to make sure we’re on the right path than to expand into new domains.

The abstract of almost every scientific paper is “We don’t know, so we did some work. We figured out this little thing, but here are some thins we still don’t know about, and here are some new things we now need to figure out. The end.”

“I don’t know” is a surprisingly liberating phrase. Try saying it out loud. How do you feel? Do you feel confused or frustrated? Well then, you’re in the right place, a place of potential. A place where you can begin to learn new knowledge and begin to open doors of inquiry.

If you already know, then there’s no more work to be done. But if you assume that you don’t know, then you can start exploring.

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