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ETpro's avatar

How do we teach people to be able to admit, "I don't know."?

Asked by ETpro (34151 points ) December 29th, 2013

Humans seem to have an innate desire to have some answer for each question. This is fine when it leads us to seek actual answers. But all too often, it doesn’t lead to that. Instead we save time by either ascribing the answer to magic, or by claiming that because my kid got an MMR shot as a baby, and then developed autism, the vaccination was obviously the cause of the autism.

Interestingly, this article in Mother Jones shows that those who believe in one conspiracy theory are more apt to believe in others. So those who are convinced aliens are hidden in Area 51 and routinely abduct earthlings are also likely to deny climate change data, believe the phony MMR/autism link, accept as true the takeover of the New World Order, think GMO foods are a plot for mind control, etc. They essentially seem to prefer any answer other than one scientifically derived.

This appears to be a rather rapidly growing trend around the world, and if left unchecked could bring on another Dark Age, one where nuclear weapons abound. Rather than let that happen, how do we teach people to direct their skepticism where it belongs, and to be willing to say “I don’t know.” and then go look for an actual answer rather than the easy way of ascribing everything to magic or some vast conspiracy?

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98 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I make it a point to say so when it is so, especially around my children. I also make it a point to say that: a) let’s find out and b) let’s talk to someone who might know.

ibstubro's avatar

I’ve never been afraid to say, “I don’t know” or “I do not believe that.”

Maybe they could make it an option on multiple choice questions, and have a couple questions that can only correctly be answered, “I don’t know”.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Gee, I don’t know.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@elbanditoroso stole it. “hell if I know” (shrug) I think people are not skeptical enough in general. Many just accept things without looking into them beyond what some quick article says, especially if it’s a “feel good” spin. People love a good conspiracy theory and consequently they may become wrapped up in the lore and loose sight of the fact that it’s a form of entertainment. Coast-to-coast AM is a perfect example. It’s entertainment, it tickles the imagination like a fairy tale but it’s just that. There are two types of dangerous thinking here: Those who don’t understand science and reason and will believe any craziness. Those who think they understand and shut the door on alternative explanations and possibilities. (Especially those with no formal training in science or just enough to be dangerous but equally incompetent) Rational people can’t be either extreme. For both those types there is a potential sickness of ideology that will be a poison to their decision making as long as they remain infected by it. Most folks are pretty reasonable in their thinking when they have the proper background and information to work with. It’s unfortunate that our policy makers and politicians often don’t fall into that category.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

By “jumping to conclusions” you avoid having to use “Critical Thinking” , which is I don’t know.

I don’t know leads to let’s do an analysis with all the gathered information and get to an empirical answer.

YARNLADY's avatar

People learn by example.

Pachy's avatar

I think we teach people one person at a time. One response to “I don’t know” is, “Okay, then what do you believe or what is your opinion?” followed by ”‘What do you base that on?”

thorninmud's avatar

It’s not easy. We very much like feeling that we have things figured out, and we grow up in a culture that rewards knowing.

Zen practice is largely about teaching people to admit, “I don’t know”, so Zen has evolved a methodology for bringing people to an acceptance of this “deep agnosticism”. It does this by relentlessly confronting fundamental questions of existence (“the Great Matter of Birth and Death”, to use Zen terminology), and not accepting any facile answers. If pursued far enough, knowing is seen for the illusory palliative that it is. Not-knowing is not a vacuum to be filled, but the necessary condition for complete engagement with reality.

kess's avatar

The greater problem is to each people that they do know.
To be honest most people struggle with thinking that they do not know rather than understand that they do actually know.

The education system is is doing a great job is convincing people of their ignorance rather than knowledge.

Who needs more of that?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@thorninmud “deep agnosticism” Ooooh, I like this. Totally stealing it.

tom_g's avatar

I’m doing my best to teach my children that “I don’t know” is nothing to fear. Many times they will ask a question, and my genuine response is often, “I don’t know”. When this happens, it’s as if we were given a gift – a puzzle that needs solving. We will hit Google and do some research, etc. And if at the end of our research we are still left with “I don’t know”, I have tried to express how much more satisfying it is to be temporarily left here rather than to make up something.

My daughter seems to understand that the more she learns, the more that she doesn’t know increases. It seems that she honestly takes joy with this fact.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Adults need to believe that they’re fully capable and competent. Incomplete information, or a lack or knowledge, is frightening and often embarrassing. I know so many people who give long-winded, nonsensical answers rather than just admit, “I don’t have an answer” or “I’m not familiar.”

hearkat's avatar

As someone who was born a “Doubting Thomas”, I am usually amazed at the blind faith people have in so many things. I can also admit that sometimes, I envy the comfort and confidence of those with strong religious faith. I am gradually coming to terms with the fact that the most important questions in life are often unanswerable.

jerv's avatar

Intelligence isn’t knowing all the answers; it’s knowing what answers you don’t have and how to find them.

@ARE_you_kidding_me I prefer “Devout Agnostic”.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@jerv I’m not devout in the sense that when I actually do know something I’ll stand by it. I have almost gotten over the fact that my reluctance to follow the herd pisses everyone around me off one way or another. Around here where I live (in a southern college town) there is a sharp divide. Both sides annoy me to no end. I’m basically in the center and people in general are not tolerant if you don’t fit in completely to the left-right dichotomy. I piss off my conservative friends when I mention I’m agnostic and not into the Jesus thing or I’m a supporter of gay rights & believe in evolution. I piss off my liberal friends when I poopoo Marx or mention I’m a 2nd amendment supporter and question the magnitude of our climate impact.

jerv's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Yes, being a centrist isn’t easy inb this age of extremism and zealotry. I also know what I know, but I also know that I don’t know everything, and there are certain things I feel that no human can know. That last part is where devout Agnosticism comes in. My take is that, if there is a being (or group) that made the Universe, odds are that they have methods, motivations, and mindsets that us humans have no chance of comprehending.
I don’t understand String Theory very well, but at least that is something where I know that there are humans who have more comprehensive and accurate knowledge than I personally do; when it comes to the supernatural and divine though, I feel that it’s not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we ccan imagine, and leave it at that. It’s more like, “I don’t know, and I know you don’t really know either.”.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m also a follower of: “I don’t know and neither do you”

JLeslie's avatar

By saying I don’t know ourselves. The more people do it, the more people will do it. Our schools probably need to teach more about debate and research to our children.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie If our kids learned about debate and research, they would lose the ignorance and complicity that our society relies on, the status quo would crumble, and the world would end.

ibstubro's avatar

Walmart once forbid their employees from saying, “I don’t know.’ The idea was that they find the answers to customer questions. The reality was that they just made crap up to get you to go away. There was one time in particular that I asked a specific question about something in stationary and was told the items were on a cart outside in the clearance area. There wasn’t even an outside clearance area, and after more hunting, I found them myself, stocked on the shelf in the store.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro A completely horrible policy. We can say I don’t know and still try to find out the answer. Ugh.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree, @JLeslie. They’ve given that one up.

Actually, the last time I asked someone for help at Walmart (can you tell me the price of this refrigerated item?), they flat refused. As in, “No”. Worse yet, it was the assistant store manager.

JLeslie's avatar

That’s ridiculous. Your Walmart needs a serious adjustment of some sort.

ibstubro's avatar

He first suggested that I carry the item to a price check station. I told him that if I had to carry the refrigerated item ½ way across the store, when I found the price I would leave it lay. He was untroubled by that. Finally, he told me to just carry it up to the register, and if I didn’t want it, the cashier would take care of it. I headed straight to customer service to make a complaint, and by the time I got to the front of the store, he was already there, sucking up to a female customer who he appeared to be acquainted with.

JLeslie's avatar


ibstubro's avatar

I made a loud and long complaint, for all the good it did me. I should have emailed corporate, I suppose.

ibstubro's avatar

The manager at Lowes told me he was ‘Disappointed with my attitude’ last month. I asked a simple question about light bulbs and he proceeded to talk down to me. I told him I didn’t appreciate being talked down to, and if that was the best he could do, to hit the road and I’d figure it out myself. As soon as he was gone 2 employees ran over and fawned on me. Apparently I’m not the only one he talked down to. lol

ETpro's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Good strategy. Wish there were more parents like you.

@ibstubro Indeed. I have multiple choice questions where the answer I want to give, the honest answer, isn’t one of the radio buttons.

@elbanditoroso & @Dutchess_III Ha! I wondered how long it would be before I got the answer I asked for. :-)

@ARE_you_kidding_me Thanks and GA. Unfortunately, democracy often means that the lowest common denominator ends up getting elected.

@Tropical_Willie Yes, I’m sure laziness is a big part of gullibility.

@YARNLADY Yes and we now have lots of bad examples to play role model.

@Pachy Thanks. Perhaps every college should make Epistemology 101 a required course for a BA or BS. It’d be nice if you couldn’t escape your freshman year still thinking “It’s just a theory.” is an adequate dismissal of something that’s gone far enough to actually qualify as a theory.

@thorninmud Given the oddness of the reality we find ourselves in, that fellow Zen was a pretty uninformed dude, but at least he knew it.

@kess You know how much I disagree. I know how pointless it would be to debate it. So enough said.

@tom_g “My daughter seems to understand that the more she learns, the more that she doesn’t know increases. It seems that she honestly takes joy with this fact.” Amen and amen!

@SadieMartinPaul And which sounds more intellectually honest, “I don’t know.” or a long-winded, nonsensical exposé?

@hearkat Take heart. Questions that were once far, far beyond our ken are within our ability to observe today. The Ionian Philosopher, Democritus proposed back in 400 BC that everything was made up of tiny particles which he called atoms. We had to discover how to build colliders to see the effects of atoms colliding, and it was just a few years ago when we developed the first electron microscope actually able to let us look at an atom. The fun part is each breakthrough like the collider and the electron microscope answers a few previously unanswerable questions, but poses many new ones to figure out how to answer.

@jerv I am unsure whether there is or is not a creator deity/s. But I avoid calling myself agnostic because that comes with definition baggage I won’t own. It’s seen as a probabilistic statement saying that there is a 50/50 chance a deity created the Universe, and we can never know which is the case. First, I don’t agree with that probability assignment. And second, I think it’s perfectly possible we someday will know.

@JLeslie I would certainly second that idea. Thanks.

@ibstubro Good lord, it sounds like you live in some sort of customer service Hell.

jerv's avatar

@ETpro I never said it was 50/50, and (to quote House), I take comfort in knowing that life may be more than just a test.

kevbo's avatar

@ETpro, For someone so enamored with science, it’s curious that you exclude as starting points for this discussion the more encompassing and underpinning concepts and terms used by the researchers, namely cognitive style, system justification, and motivated reasoning. If, for example, conspiracist thinking is recognized (as the researchers are wont to do) as a cognitive style, then it is really not terribly surprising or sensational that conspiracists generally embrace a wide spectrum of conspiracy beliefs. Similarly, if system justification is understood, then it should not be surprising or remarkable that political conservatives doubt climate change science. Regarding the latter, the researchers go on to state that ”... a striking feature of the opposition to climate science is that worldview-driven polarization often increases with greater levels of education and greater science literacy, suggesting that the opposition reflects a cognitive style rather than a deficit of knowledge or ability.”

I don’t see the pejorative “magic” anywhere in their paper, and it would seem that use of pejoratives runs contrary to the tactics that the researchers themselves recommend for “teaching people to be able to admit, ‘I don’t know.’” They state, “The resistance of conspiracist ideation to contrary evidence renders its prominence in the rejection of science particularly troubling, because providing additional scientific information may only amplify the rejection of such evidence, rather than foster its acceptance. Instead, conspiracist misconceptions of scientific issues are best met by indirect means, such as affirmation of the competence and character of proponents of conspiracy theories, or affirmation of other beliefs they hold dearly. Such self-affirmation is known to facilitate the dislodging of attitudes in response to information that would otherwise be considered too threatening. Alternatively, efforts should be made to rebut many conspiracy theories at the same time because multiple rebuttals raise the complexity of possible conspiracist responses, thereby rendering it increasingly baroque and less believable to anyone outside a committed circle of conspiracy theorists.

They go on to refer to other citations for their paper as ”... general and robust findings [that] help identify communicative means by which the motivated reasoning can be attenuated or circumvented.” Referencing these papers (as available) might also be useful to include in the details of such a question.

To fairly float a personal response, though, I’d say that in my case I most certainly haven’t saved time by ascribing answers to what you refer to as magic. In fact, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on some of these things. I would say that I distrust some science for its incompleteness, but moreover, I’m just less inclined to refer to science in the course of my navigating the world. I would also say that your ascribing “actual answers” only to scientifically-derived answers smacks of scientism, which is a disposition I personally can’t relate to. A year or so ago, I would have said that I’m less fearful of a Dark Age than I am of a Fascist Age.

Today, I’ll say (and this is for anyone else participating who has gotten this far) that I don’t see this variety of belief or thinking as a problem. This is primarily because I’ve personally reframed these kinds of phenomena as (a greater) consciousness simply enjoying the breadth of human experience vis à vis our individual identities. Where @jerv, for example, says that there are things no human can know, I would say this is true on the level of mind. But, we are capable of observing ourselves prior to the mind and in directing our attention in this way can come to a seeing that is ante-human, so to speak, and more godlike. I’m sure that sounds like crazy talk, but it’s directly observable, which is very scientific method, I’m told. I would encourage anyone to give it a college try before decrying it.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I’m going to say it is your city. Some cities have overall better customer service than others. Although, I will say this, I received really bad customer service in TN all the frickin’ time, but in Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kroger and similar the customer service was always good. I had problems at doctor’s offices, and basically dealing with receptionists/people who answer the phones in general at all companies. Lazy with no motivation to help.

Also, in Memphis they were incredibly defensive. I think this plays into another thing regarding @ETpro‘s question. Some people are really horrified to think they are wrong or that they made a mistake. It isn’t just their construct of the world might crumble, it can be much more trivial. It is painful for them or something. If I informed an employee about something that was a problem, they immediately took a defensive stance instead of saying “thank you for letting me know.”

hearkat's avatar

@ETpro – My comment about the most important questions in life being unanswerable is more about our own philosophical questions about meaning and purpose and priorities, and about me finding those answers within this lifetime I have. As usual, @thorninmud has expressed it much more eloquently than I.

Also, your reply to me harkens to another recent question of yours about whether new information and knowledge gained simply lead to more questions…, so while we may have answered the question about whether atoms exist, we haven’t answered the true underlying question of what is everything made of and where did it come from – it’s a neverending rabbit-hole.

ibstubro's avatar

It’s not ‘city’, it’s “town” @ETpro & @JLeslie. People around here are cussedly independent. I find that a lot of the ‘big box’ management is sent here from challenging cities and treat the laid back locals and ‘hicky’ local culture with disdain. A Midwestern town of under 20,000 is a hell-hole if you’re sent here from, say, Boston.

The best bet around here is to avoid management and stick to the low level employees, but that’s not always possible or readily apparent.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro Well, they suck if that is the reason. It easily could be part of the reason. But, the service I complained about was people from the area. It was more of a cultural clash I think, some of that might be going on where you are also. I’m from the northeast and used to being direct, discussing things to improve them, and not easily offended. I found the midwest to generally to be similar, but the parts in the bible belt might be similar to the south. I never figured out how to deal with southerners when I was dissappointed with service, I take some ownership in it that maybe it was how I went about it. Although, they tend to be more passive aggressive than I am used to, I hate that, and it even crosses over into conducting business. Then there was also blatant stupidity and not my job attitudes, which can happen anywhere, but I just encountered it more in Memphis. Their service was fine until there was some sort of problem or unusual circumstance and then it fell apart.

ibstubro's avatar

I worked in a local multinational-corporation food factory with over 1,000 employees. Management was required to have a college degree, so there was little promoting-from-within. We were a ‘training facility’ for management, so it was constant management musical chairs, usually among a pool of recent college graduates from big cities. There is no nightlife here. Every one of them was hell bent on making a sweeping change in the system (the plant was started in 1964) so they could make a mark and get the hell out of Dodge. I see a lot of that in the Big Box Management. Total disdain for the locals and a burning desire to make a mark and move on.

Unfortunately, I’m neither stupid nor easily cowed.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro Interesting. I’m from retailers like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s and the formal management training is done at the flagship stores in NYC. Not that you can’t become a manager in the branch stores also. Those stores mostly have college degreed managers, but there are managers without degrees who worked their up. You couldn’t get into the formal NY training program without a degree. I don’t think there should be a hard fast rule about college degrees to move up.

I’m thinking both sides were maybe reluctant though. Your local people to listen to ideas from the big city, and the big city to listen to the wealth of experience of the people who had worked there a very long time. Plus, basic miscommunication about intent. You’re thinking they are talking down to you, might be totally nornal in how they communicate with each other where they are from. I believe you that sometimes they were dismissive and rude, but some of the time their rude was probably just how it is done where they are from. I’m just thinking how so many of my southern friends think yankees are rude, and sometimes they are, but sometimes they are being direct.

So, back to the Q at hand, do you think the northeasterns lacked having an open mind? Or, to be able to say they didn’t know?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@kevbo Damn, that’s a wall of text. Well said. I also have seen the difference in cognitive style. Most folks are some combination and all have their place in the spectra of our reasoning. Extremes are usually outliers, I have a tendency to ignore them but I probably shouldn’t. The largest difference I see everyday in my work is there are two basic styles in science and technology motivated folks. The first are those who will try to make something work and the other is those who will try to figure out what will go wrong. These people naturally annoy each other but when they team up and work together they can accomplish a lot.

ibstubro's avatar

@JLeslie I’m cool with direct and I’m good with ‘I don’t know.’ I’ll ask an employee for help and if they say, “I’ll take you there.” I say, “Oh, if you’re busy, just point me in the right direction…I’ll find it.”

I think the US has too much emphasis on education over experience, in many areas. What good is a 4 year business degree in managing 15 people making taco seasoning from 11–7? What good is an assistant Big Box Manager if he hasn’t paid his dues and learned the products? His customers? It’s not Northern so much as “educated” people thinking that a 4 year degree and a piece of paper make them superior to anyone with less.

@ARE_you_kidding_me. It’s not just science and tech people. When I worked in a food factory we had two distinct types of maintenance mechanics: “Make it run” and “Fix the problem.” Both necessary, but the rivalry could be hilarious.

YARNLADY's avatar

@ibstubro A person with a college degree is likely to be more mature than someone with the same amount of experience of exposure to a single business. There is far more to getting a college degree than those without one realize.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro It’s not about superior, the degree provides more than just classes as @YARNLADY mentioned. It goes to what this very question is about. A college education and discussions on college campuses tend to broaden the mind, help us think and question. Question even ourselves and beliefs and ideas we grew up with. People can have that without a tertiary degree, but take two people at a young age, the college educated one is more likely to have had more exposure to different ideas. However, over time, work experience definitely counts for something and life experience in general. Also, people can read management books on their own and take classes, and also some people just have a natural ability. @YARNLADY is right that someone without college experience doesnt know what college is like. Same as your point that a new manager to your company may not understand all the facets of your business in your market and the corporate culture.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@YARNLADY isn’t that the truth. I feel like certain jobs should require a degree of some kind. There needs to be at least some crude measure of competency and maturity. If there is no measure like that then only the “slick willies” will rise to the top. That’s not what we need. We do need to make higher education more affordable though.

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me You aren’t serious are you?

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Sick Willies? That seems pretty offensive. If someone has been working at a company for months or years they can prove competence through their work. Should they have zero chance of being promoted if they show the skills necessary for the next level and are willing to learn?

jerv's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me There are already jobs that require degrees that are often filled by incompetent people who know less than those without a degree. All a degree proves is that you (or your parents) have the money to pay tuition. I would rather have the uneducated guy with 5–10 years experience over the rich snot who graduated last month with a 2.6 GPA.

You say you want to keep “Slick Willies” from rising to the top, then propose an idea that ensures that only “Slick Willies” will even get off the ground.

BTW, guess why my wife cannot work in an Accounting job despite having done 3 years in Accounts Receivable for a fairly large company. Hint: same reason I can’t get an IT job.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We lost some of our BEST teachers at the Adult High School Diploma Completion program I worked in because they weren’t degreed. Out of the ones who were left who were accredited….well, there were a couple of idiots that couldn’t even spell Teacher, but they had that damned degree.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m really talking in the context of what @ibstubro was referring to. I worked sh**ty factory jobs in the past and it always seemed like those who were the best talkers and also the best work dodgers got the management jobs because they were able to talk their way into them. It was seldom based on performance. I have a deep lack of respect for those types and I’m sorry if it’s coming out in the wrong way. I have nothing but the most sincere respect for those working very hard, doing a great job and not getting anywhere. I have personally seen too many slick talkers who are useless somehow break out and move up when they are the least deserving. My bias is probably coming out a little here on this because of a few key examples that I am still fuming over even a decade and a half later. That said, those experiences even further cemented my “pay your dues” attitude.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv For the most part a degree proves more than that. It shows perserverance, committment, and we do learn a few things in school. My dad was dirt poor, but went to college for free, and he never could have had his profession without it. Not because they only hire people with degrees, which is true, but because the chance of learning everything he needed to know would be so terribly remote. Your slant sounds as bad as @ARE_you_kidding_me. But, now I understand @ARE_you_kidding_me better, and I understand where he is coming from. I think the best policy is somewhere in the middle.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie I tend to agree with you, there needs to be some room for exception in certain job types. I don’t feel like there should be any room for bypassing the filter for many jobs that require a specific skill set that is really only attainable and measurable by getting the paper to prove it. I have been on both sides of this and after going the academic route I know there is really no way in hell I’d be competent in my field without it. Before I went I thought differently. All school at it’s core is a filter that separates those who should and those who should not. For those who should it gives them the skills needed to be successful. It’s a massive commitment especially if you did it the way I did. I have seen many go when it seemed like an impossible task and get through. There is usually always a way if you want it bad enough. Those snot-nosed kids generally don’t graduate, they usually “party out” (flunk out, or drop out)

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie I have yet to see that, but I have seen lots of incompetent people hiding behind their diploma. Then again, I work in a field where incompetence is readily apparent, and the best people got good through experience, despite lacking degrees. Sometimes not even a GED.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@jerv You must work in the trades then? I have seen that also. Some of the best electricians, carpenters, mechanics, machinists and technicians are just naturally “good at it” They put the work in, they have an eye for detail and they are capable of doing much more with training. As you have seen there are others who just don’t need to be doing it. That that type of job requires is skill and someone with a degree isn’t going to be any more skilled doing that work unless it’s a knowledge based skill. Those skilled jobs, especially the union represented ones generally are well compensated but have little upward mobility. I have much more respect from someone with actual skills like those then someone with a degree in business who manages a supermarket. That could just be the hands-on guy in me talking though. My work & family ties have deep roots in the trades. It’s a very under appreciated section of our workforce. I honestly feel like a few years working in those positions should be REQUIRED for certain types of degrees like engineering.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@jerv just looked at your profile, yeah I understand where you are coming from.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv @ARE_you_kidding_me Someone in retail, which is the field I worked in for a long time, usually has a college degree if they manage a department or higher in a department store. There are a few managers who don’t have college degrees. I’m not sure why you used the supermarket example, I don’t know that business well, but I would guess a lot of supermarket managers have degrees, especially the buyers and senior executives would have degrees. Supermarket managers manage a large staff. They have vendor reps and jobbers in and out of the stores all the time. They also think about placement of goods, watch the inventory, make suggestions for new products, etc. They run their store like it is their business. My guess is they make $50k to maybe $90k. Department managers probably $25k to $60k. Just a guess from my retail background. I’m sure they need to be able to undertsand the numbers and deal with the corporate executives too.

I managed almost 30 people at one point, I communicated with the buyers (I was a buyer at one point, but for the purposes of this discussion I’ll talk about being a manager) evaluated the turn and gross sales in each department. Calculated sales per sq ft or linear ft depending on the department. Gave recommendations for areas of growth and I could talk the talk of the numbers and the lingo with the top executives because I have strong analytical skills. Even before my college degree I was good with math, but my marketing courses, merchandising courses and accounting courses did help. I understood gross margin, EBIT, etc. I actually took accounting in high school, but I don’t think most people get the opportunity to do that. Even still, my business classes counted for something even working in retail. We had a manager who was very good who did not have a degree, but she never could go past that level. She had a great feel for the business and was a hard worker, but I think she would have a really hard time getting through college, and she knew numbers good enough that she could grow her business, but not to the depth a higher level would need to understand. Still, retail does certainly have some people near the top or even at the top who don’t have degrees.

Now, my dad, he has a PhD in sociology. His undergrad also was in sociology, but he either double majored or minored in Psych also. He spent most of his career working for the government evaluating whether psych scientific studies were created well and were worthy of being done. He approved the studies once they met the standards necessary, basically approved federal grant money for the study.

He dealt with top scientists in their field. Many with both MD and PhD’s. He had to understand the scientific method, study reliability, validity, problems that can occur in studies, make sure the tests were actually evaluating what they were meant to evaluate, be able to suggest alternatives if he felt something was not appropriate, etc. Someone with a high school diploma could not do it, except for a very exceptional self taught person who basically studied the college level and post graduate level on their own and was exceptionally brilliant.

jerv's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Looking at the salaries a good lead or foreman pull down, there’s enough upward mobility for me ;)

And yes, in my field, a degree with no field/shop experience can lead to lost production, scrap parts, broken machines, or even human casualties.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie I actually had 2 years of vocational training as a CNC machinist back in high school, which is why I hit my first shop with the skills expected of a journeyman instead of an apprentice, but that education gave me nothing more than a head start. Now, as an electrician, at least a few weeks of classroom training are a must, but not a $60–200k degree I’m electrical engineering. In fact, my Navy EM training was closer to engineering than civilian electrician, so that education did little to help me become an electrician.

Education is conditionally useful.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@jerv From a cost-benefit vocational degrees often are the best educational (training) value. High schools need to get back to providing various vocational training IMO. You are not kidding about the foreman salary. Most people have no clue that some of those guys can pull six figures. Before I was in engineering I was an electronic technician for a little over a decade. I guesstimate that I spent less than 3k earning a two year tech degree. I made that money back in my first few paychecks. That education & experience segwayed right into engineering school and complimented it immensely. I’m still quite proud of the skills I acquired as a tech that the other engineering graduates just did not have.

@JLeslie I realize some retail managers need strong business & people skills. A store manger at a supermarket probably does not deal with that too much. I could be wrong though. My point was that trade type skills are not ubiquitous. It takes natural talent to be good at doing that kind of thing. Education can’t get you there. It’s the one glaring exception.

ETpro's avatar

@jerv Sorry if it was unclear, but I didn’t mean to accuse you to either holding that as a proper definition of agnosticism of of being such a person yourself. What I was trying to say is that it’s a definition that is often attached to the label.

@kevbo Did I touch a nerve? Sorry. But first taking me to task for not making the question details all about terms most here would be unfamiliar with—for being unscientific—then accusing me of scientism seems inconsistent.

I asked the question in terms I though would provoke the most discussion. No apologies for using the word “magic” because lots of the people the question addresses absolutely do believe things work by magic, and that ascribing something to magic takes care of defining its cause.

I do put great value in the scientific method. It’s the single best tool humanity has developed to constantly move toward a closer and closer understanding of the physical world around us, and to predict how it will behave in a given locality and set of conditions. But there are certainly a large set of things I don’t use science to understand. No science could capture the feelings of your first kiss such that reading the equation would recreate that moment for you. I get that.

As to the last link, I am too confident in the scientific method to buy that. I really wish I did have a free will, and that thoughts did emerge from self, but neuroscience is to close to nailing the lid shut on that concept for me to spend time immersing myself in it. It appears its nothing more than a very compelling and satisfying illusion that emerges from thoughts, which emerge from entirely deterministic processes within the brain.

@hearkat On a personal level, I totally agree about the most important questions being out of my grasp to answer.

@ibstubro Aha. That explains it. Ya had to get your dig in at folks from Boston, didn’t ya? :-)

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv Exactly, it depends on the job. I think we should not make sweeping comments about college degrees being necessary or pointless.

@ARE_you_kidding_me I have a friend who is an accountantant. She once was telling me that she had to go to college and get a real job or her dad would have killed her. She said, “I wasn’t going to end up working at the mall.” I told her, “half my career was at the mall.” I always find it entertaining that some people think so little of retail workers. I have several friends and former coworkers who stayed in that career path. The ones who became store managers easily make over $100k. Some work as district managers, others went to the corporate offices. All making good salaries. I do agree part of being a department manager could be called grunt work. We are physically exhausted doing stock work and working long areas with many of the retailers, some are more civilized than others, but we do treat our business like a business.

By the way, your comment about idiots being promoted, I didn’t specifically address it, but I agree that happens more often than it should. My company actually gave us management classes now and then and helped us grow as managers. A lot of companies just throw someone into it with a promotion and it is a sink or swim situation. If they have no college degree and basically are just reliable at their old job they easily can be terrible managers. College degreed people can be terrible managers also, but usually the careers they are in it is less likely. If that makes any sense.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie Please don’t get me wrong, I worked a couple of retail jobs and I learned I was not cut out for it pretty quickly. I’m no salesman that’s for sure. It was not really idiots getting promoted, many were smart and good at talking themselves up but when the rubber hit the road they were useless and flat out lazy. I have seen people who I thought were complete idiots but worked extremely hard day in, day out. I can’t help but hold them in higher esteem because they never seem to get the respect they deserve.

kevbo's avatar

@ETpro, honestly, most of your questions touch a nerve because I find them ridiculous (and “since the dawn of time” flavor of conventional) in their assumptions, but I’m working on being less reactive. I also think it’s inconsistent to cry “science” but frame the discussion in sensationalist and hyperbolic terms.

For example, your question addresses parents of autistic children and conspiracy types and now you are saying lots of them really do believe things work by magic. Have I missed something by not having read any Harry Potter? I know people give “magic” as an answer when they don’t know what the answer is, but usually when they say that it’s either prefaced with “I don’t know” (as in, “I don’t know… magic.”) or it’s implied, or they say “magic” when they know they answer but don’t want to reveal it. These scenarios would seem to take care of your primary concern in any case. But, if we have a burgeoning population of parents of autistic children and conspiracy buffs who believe in wizards and warlocks, please elucidate.

I’ll just add, too, that in some ways the information in the last link agrees with your assessments. It agrees that thoughts do come from deterministic processes and they do produce a satisfying and compelling illusion. Thoughts can also be observed, however, and the thrust of that piece is an exercise in determining who is the observer. My guess is you don’t buy that as anything more than gymnastics of thought, which is fine, but the endpoint of that effort also leads to a great sense of “I don’t know,” so it’s another way for people to get to “I don’t know.” I assume that’s something you’re interested in given your question.

ibstubro's avatar

Actually, I used Boston because in actual practice, we had a manager that was transferred from Boston that was so good at being Assistant Plant Manager of my building that his boss got him transferred out of fear of losing a comparison.

Once upon a time, even doctors and lawyers were trained through apprenticeship.

Oh, and I need to clarify that I quit college hours short of an English Education degree with speech/drama minor. I worked in an office, restaurants, with juvenile offenders and finally in a food factory for 20 years. Before the factory was bought out by multinationals, nearly all the promotions were from within. The plant manager for 15 of those years started out in sanitation out east. The assistant plant manager was a local boy. Efficiency (taking into account automation) was probably ⅓ better under the locals and company loyalty was at least 10 times greater. Now the locals are capped at merely doing all the work. They call them “lead people”, give them another $1 an hour and put them in charge of day-to-day, hour-to-hour operations. The “managers” take meetings, plan ‘team building events’ and look for ways to collect a feather so they can get promoted out of Dodge.

Another local factory closed and a friend of mine’s daughter had 15 years experience there operating a machine. No disciplinary problems, near perfect attendance, and a relative’s recommendation. Although she passed both her written tests and the interview, she didn’t get hired? Why? She didn’t pass her second interview. THIS the system the college grads came up with to hire people to run a friggin machine from 3–11, 5 days a week.

ETpro's avatar

@kevbo Thanks. I will work on that. I appreciate the feedback.

@ibstubro Ouch. My apologies. People here can be abrasive on the surface, but dig down and they are real softies.

jerv's avatar

@ETpro Most people think I’m an asshole; those who actually know me think otherwise.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My dad told me that a degree proves to people that you have the wherewithal to finish what you started.

snowberry's avatar

I certainly have the wherewithal to finish what I started, but for many years I couldn’t do college because of trauma, and now it’s too late. I can’t start college when I’m retired because I can’t pay for it.

Even though I can speak intelligently with folks with doctorates, and I homeschooled for 10 years, taught ESL for 4 more, written curriculum, and have been complemented many times on what I do, it means nothing to many people.

I can understand the issue with needing a degree to get a certain job, but some folks simply cannot hear you unless you have an alphabet behind your name. You just have to feel sorry for those guys. They miss so much.

JLeslie's avatar

Saying people with a degree have the wherewithal to finish what you start is not saying that people without a degree don’t. It is only a comment on those who have one.

People without a degree don’t have one for a huge variety of reasons.

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie What you say is true, however the degree leaves no doubt, and those without a degree have very little other than their word, or example, which must be observed.

It’s easier and more productive to take the proven worker than take a chance.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY I agree. What I find is people without a degree tend to regret, feel judged, or feel insecure about not having a degree. They feel it more than the degreed oerson thinks it. My point is, when @Dutchess_III stated a degree shows wherewithall to finish what you start, and I stated above it shows perserverance we are not saying that means all people without a degree are lazy and noncommittal. People without a degree tend to get defensive, I understand why. It’s a miscommunication to some extent though.

The finish what you start aspect matters more under the age of 30 when there is less work history to show. If a 30 year old has been steady with a company for many years, promoted, they have shown their ability to stick with it.

I think the tricky part is if you want to be in a field where most people have a degree or need a degree, you pretty much have to get one. My husband got his masters, because his career path required it. He already was working at a level most people have MBA’s but if he needed to seek a new job or wanted to get promoted he needed to be competitive. He fantasizes about going to automechanic school though. We actually went to check one out. I think if he can retire youngish he will take some classes or apprentice in some way. It just depends on what someone wants to do, one is not better than the other necessarily.

At the same time, as I said above, I do agree a college education is more than just taking classes, and it does make it easier for employers. I have a marketing degree, they know I have a certain level or math, finance, statistics, and economics under my belt, and can write a sentence. Although, you would never know it the way I write on fluther.

YARNLADY's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, that is so. My father was hired as a draftsman without any college. He completed an at home course over several months. When the company downsized, they kept him and let the two college degrees go, because Dad was being paid way less than they were, and his work was better.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY I hate that a college degree dictates higher pay in many professions, because I think pay should be assigned by the work done. There are some legal protections in place for employees that they must be paid similarly for the same job. Especially if they are in a protected class an employer would worry about exposure, but education level is not a protected class. Still, large companies do look to even up salaries to a certain extent within the same job description and work level. Sometimes employees that have been there a long time wind up way behind in salary compared to new hires, I see it all the time. Good companies do something about it. I guess the upside was your dad kept his job, but even if he had made a little more he probably would have been the one selected to stay on since his work was so good.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@YARNLADY Drafting is a very much a skill based job. It’s not a knowledge based job. For that a degree helps but is not required. My dad was also a draftsman and I spent one summer doing it. A knowledge based job will always require a degree. You are not really going to find any non-degreed physicists. That’s the big difference.

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Would you agree a good draftsmen with no degree should be paid the same as a draftsmen with one?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie yes, 100%. A degree can get you in the door easier for that type of work but that is about all it is good for. It’s different now though. Drafters need training in AutoCad, a degree does not matter at all but a few courses or training seminars in Cad will. Drafting used to be an art, I loved doing it the old fashioned way….

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III Degree = wherewithal? I thought it meant that you paid your tuition and managed to stagger into class at least three out of four times. Of course, that brings up how a degree from some places is worth more than others; I’d take a Harvard grad over somebody from the Tappa Kegga Brew frat of Party On U.

@YARNLADY How about somebody with no degree, but with a few years of actual work experience? Is 2–4 years in a classroom really that much more educational than 5–10 years actually doing the stuff that the classroom is supposed to train you for? I could see it for young whippersnappers who haven’t had a chance to really prove themselves to the world yet, but I think things change a bit between the time you’re old enough to drink and the time you’re old enough to have kids that can buy their own drinks.

Also, does Nikola Tesla count as “successful”? Sure, he didn’t make much profit from his inventions, but anybody who knows anything about science or technology would consider him a success even though he never finished his degree at Graz.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv You don’t think it takes some persistence to get a college degree? Doing anything for four years takes some persistence doesn’t it? Even if it takes more time it shows wherewithall I think. So does going to work every day. It’s not one or the other.

Naming people without a degree who were and are successful does not prove that college degrees are a waste of time. Extremely brilliant people have incredible capacity to learn on their own. I am not one of those people when it comes to extremely technical information. I could not become an engineer self taught, but I could definitely do it in a university setting. Less than 1% of the population is at the genius level. We can add in a percentage more for very gifted people close to genius level. Even those people usually get college degrees to pursue their interests. Not only because they might need one to get employed, but also because they know they will learn something in college.

Don’t you agree it depends on the career choice? Do you think a neurosurgeon can be self taught? What about an aerospace engineer? Chemist?

Why do you think people with college educations are saying the education in some fields does actually teach something that is difficult to acquire without the education? Do you think we are just trying to feel surperior about ourselves or something? No. We have a degree and we have worked, and we know our degree helped us in more ways than just being able to list it at the bottom of our resume. Of course some people never work in a field that truly utilizes their degree, but there certainly are some fields where a degree is very necessary.

Not everyone who goes to college is rich. Some people go on scholarships, others work their way through, some others take some loans.

I’m not sure why you are being so black and white about it?

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie Life itself takes persistence. I’ve been married for 12 years; that is persistence. I’ve mean employed for most of my adult life; l that takes persistence. I’ve been doing those things for far longer than it takes to earn a degree, even a medical one. Where is my fucking medal? Earning a degree only takes tuition money, and is no sign that one actually learned anything.

You are correct that it depends on career choice though. I may be a good machinist, but I know relatively little of metallurgy, which limits my abilities as an engineer. I won’t deny that some things really do require a post-secondary education. However, I think we have unrealistic perceptions on what does/doesn’t, and how much a degree really helps in many situations.

As for not all being rich, bear in mind that scholarships don’t grow on trees. Trust me, if they did, I never would’ve joined the Navy. And the economic situation and tuition costs are different enough now compared to 20 years ago that working your way through college is far less viable, if not outright impossible. (Hell, even with the GI bill, I couldn’t have got a degree from any of the colleges near where I lived working less than 60 hours a week! The 4-year benefits were less than 2 years tuition, not counting books, living expenses, or anything else.)

Let me reiterate that, as many seem to miss this: THE WORLD HAS CHANGED! That means that those in college are lucky enough to get a scholarship, rich, or amassing incredible debt. Most often the latter. Remember the days of struggling students working their way through college? I remember my mother going for her degree that way… back in the 70s/80s. Those days are pretty much gone now, along with 8-tracks and leaded gas.

I’m not being black-and-white, but my black is so dark and my white so bright that you’re missing the gray in between. If anything, you’re being a bit more black/white than me by insisting that degrees are a be-all, end-all sign of excellence. All I am saying is that they are more conditional in their utility, not nearly as affordable as they used to be, and not always needed for many of the things that people think they are mandatory for.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I insisted a degree is a be all end all? Have you read my answers? I have not said that. I am the one defending equal salary for equal work regardless of education level, and that college matters more to an employer at the point of hire when the person is <30 years old. Especially the persistance part.

Yes, you get credit for working, living responsibly, and your persistence in general.

Students do need to get at least C’s to get their degree; it proves some sort of learning most of the time. It would have to be a really sucky college full of really sucky professors who don’t care about education at all to be graduating students who didn’t get an answer right on a test or hand in a decent paper. I know some of that goes on, and I know too many colleges are full of students who really are not on the college level, but the majority of students are, and overall college does teach their students something.

I agree college tuition is out of control. There are still some schools that have reasonable tuition prices, but they are fewer and father inbetween. I also think a lot of people are in college who shouldn’t be.

Back when I went to college tuitions were a little better, still kind of expensive, but much better than now. Honestly, I think the easiest way for students to get through college financially is to have parents who value college education and help them with the costs. They might not afford all of the tuition, but affording part of it is a help obviously. Parents who save for their child’s education send a message that college is expected as at least an option. Some parents also reinforce to their children in high school to save for college and encourage them to work after school and summers. Maybe you are throwing around the word rich loosely? Tons of middle class parents make college for their kids a priority and save to help with their tuition. For the poor it is obviously more difficult, but they might qualify for low income help.

Do you have children? If I was your child and listened to what you said about college I would feel almost badly about wanting or needing to go. You would be holding me back psychologically from being upwardly mobile. That really bothers me in the world today. It bothers me when people sell a college education as necessity in life no matter what to get anywhere, and they imply without an education a person is less worthy. It also bothers me when people talk about education as pointless and don’t recognize what it does provide. To be clear, I am not assuming what you do or would tell your children, I realize fluther discussion is not necessarily what a person would present to their children.

I rather work on bringing tuition costs down than trying to convince people college is a waste and unnecessary. I want college education to be more accessible to everyone, but I don’t expect that all lines of work need a college education.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

A college degree is a good experience for anyone to have. It is only a requirement if you enter certain fields. Sometimes experience can get around that, sometimes it can’t. For most higher level STEM jobs it just can’t. For most of the successful people without degrees list most actually went and completed the most fundamental parts of their education. Steve Jobs is an exception, he did not get far in education. He was not a designer, that was big Woz. He was a visionary. College can’t give you that, that comes from within. Tesla completed Math, Physics and a modern equivalent of an internship. In that day this was more than enough. Same basic deal with Gates, he went for the most important part also. These people are also statistical outliers. 99% of us are nothing like these people and will need every bit of schooling that we can get to approach anything close to what they did. Overall it makes people’s perspective on life more meaningful and informed. It is not a guarantee of higher intelligence or higher political wisdom. It is almost a guarantee that you’ll be better off going rather than not, especially if you really earned it A.K.A. worked through, “made it happen.” People who never went always seem like they want to mitigate the value of it. This is simply wrong, it is extremely valuable.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie Maybe I’m a little biased as my mother worked 2–3 jobs just to pay rent and put food on the table. Yes, once things got a little better, she occasionally found time to take a night class when scheduling didn’t interfere, but often had to take me along (if allowed) since hiring a babysitter was not in the budget.

I was almost ready to graduate High School by the time we could manage with her working just one job, so her saving for my college wasn’t really feasible for much of my life, especially not with her own student loans, but she still earned too much to get “low income” assistance of any kind. And that was back when in-state tuition was less than my annual net income was 20 years later.

By the time I got my DD-214 and was ready to hit college myself, the combination of my GI bill’s max payout and other assistance wouldn’t cover an education, especially not if I wanted to eat and live indoors as well. In fact, earning enough to do that would’ve reduced assistance to make it even less affordable.

So I think my own background that is too rich to get assistance but too poor to be “middle class” really skews my perceptions on what is/isn’t affordable. My idea of “rich” in the context of this discussion means not worrying about living on the streets, knowing where your next meal will come from, and not falling through the cracks. In other words, not having a life like mine and many of the people I know.

I agree that we need to make college more accessible for the sake of those fields that actually do require such an education though. Hell, that might reduce healthcare costs and legal fees as doctors and lawyers have less need to recoup their education costs. And more trade schools would also be a good thing for those jobs that would benefit from some education but don’t require a full-on degree.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv I hate hearing anyone has to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Tuition in my state at several of the state schools are around $6k a year tuition. That’s not bad in my opinion. You have to add books and if you need to live on campus those fees too. There are still state schools that are not crazy expensive, but it probably veries a lot by state. I went to a state school and is easily double that $6k figure, but I would guess some of the state schools in that state are cheaper also.

YARNLADY's avatar

In an economy that has 100 applicants for each opening, employers use a college degree to narrow the list.

There were over 1,000 people in line for application for a new restaurant that had approximately 150 openings. My son, a recent graduate of culinary school, doesn’t really stand a chance.

jerv's avatar

@YARNLADY I heard that a Walmart in the DC area had 23,0000 applications for 600 positions. Given how their compensation package is, there’s no doubt people are desperate.

@JLeslie It varies considerably. I was looking at closer to $12–28k/yr at most of the schools near where I was. The latter involved crossing state lines, which raises tuition dramatically. Knock off ~$7k for the GI Bill, eliminate other aid since my wife’s income counted, and we’re talking more than $10–11/hr can handle.

jerv's avatar

”[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”
– Donald Rumsfeld

mattbrowne's avatar

The more people know the easier it gets to say ‘I don’t know’. So the key is good parenting and good education.

ETpro's avatar

I’ve debated some very bright people with great educations who, for whatever reason, found it impossible to admit that there was an important, big question about life, the Universe and everything that they didn’t know the answer to.

mattbrowne's avatar

Seems like an exception to me, @ETpro. I recently read a brand new book about the discovery of the Higgs boson. Lots of new answers. Lots of new questions, no physicist has an answer about yet. The author, a physicist himself, had no problem admitting the stuff he didn’t know. His name is Harald Lesch and he’s a kind of German Carl Sagan. Often appears on tv. He’s a wonderful communicator.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne Actually, Harald Lesch is an exception. Most people would rather make up some bullshit than admit ignorance. Well, at least here in the US where everybody is all-knowing and super-intelligent.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne As much as I would love to believe that people like Harald Lesch are the norm, I am certain that @jerv is right.

ibstubro's avatar

Perhaps we can get @jerv to expound upon the semantics of the semantics of “Most people would rather make up some bullshit”?

jerv's avatar

@ibstubro I leave that to @rexacoracofalipitorius, the only person I know that is able and often willing to turn a simple “Good morning.” into an hours-long debate about comparative morality before segueing into astronomy for the remainder of the day.

ibstubro's avatar

Bleh, spit. Glad I asked you instead, @jerv. Verbosity is a pet peeve of mind, even in everyday conversation.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ETpro and @jerv – How do US scientists justify new funding when they already have all the answers?

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne If they had all the answers, they would not be able to justify new funding.

From that question and your mention of Harald Lesch, it would appear that science works far differently in Germany than from anywhere else I have even heard of.

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne What on Earth led you to the conclusion that US scientists, or even world scientists even THINK they have all the answers? When I listen to lectures by the leading peer reviewed scientists in their field, they spend a great deal of time talking about what they don’t yet know.

mattbrowne's avatar

Now, I’m confused. Which is the case in the US?

1) Scientists don’t have all the answers and openly admit this, then ask for new funding
2) Scientists claim to have all the answers and there’s no need to ask for new funding

ETpro's avatar

@mattbrowne Case 1 certainly applies here and everywhere that I am aware of. Knowing what you do not know is fundamental to the scientific method.

I know of no scientist who claims to know how abiogenesis came about; what caused the Big Bang; whether the Universe in some form finite or infinite in time, space, or both; how do we unite Newtonian Physics, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics; or how human-like consciousness arises, for instance. Some will express confidence their current hunch or postulate is right. But when pressed, they admit they don’t know. They are working on answering these hard questions and others, but they do admit they do not know the answers yet.

In fact, even those things we think we do know in science need always to be open to question. Newtonian Gravity predicted many things, and was a great leap forward in our understanding of the motion of things as diverse as celestial bodies and Earth-bound cannon balls. But it was a tiny bit off, and if it hadn’t been improved by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) would not work at all.

In my reading, I think I may have come across the answer to my OP. The Socratic Method, accurately applied, can lead someone who is telling themselves they know things they actually don’t know to recognize the flaws in their epistemology.

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