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phoenyx's avatar

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?

Asked by phoenyx (7361 points ) May 21st, 2009

A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

—Alexander Pope, from An Essay on Criticism

Do you agree or disagree (and why)? If you agree, can you provide examples? Where is the line between dangerous and not?

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27 Answers

Loried2008's avatar

Ignorance is be bliss. Once you understand, you can be held accountable. In the end it’s up to you if you wanna learn and grow. Life demands changes, I’m not going to let that “danger” come between me and what I’m going to do with my life. Bring it on!! =)

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes. But isn’t no knowledge even worse?

Glow's avatar

I very much so agree. Some things I have learned already I wish I never knew. I wish I never saw. Sure, the knowledge of it broadens my mind, but sometimes it stretches it so far out I feel like I might lose it ):

oratio's avatar

I never understood how wonderful being innocent and naïve was, until I wasn’t. Being a dreamer is more fun. But I figure I have some left in me.

Dog's avatar

If one is planning to have children it is not a good idea to take microbiology. In depth knowledge of microbes, germs and pathogens can drive a parent to the brink of insanity.

westy81585's avatar

I hate philosophy.

CMaz's avatar

Even a little knowledge is still knowledge. What is considered “a little knowledge” could in fact be a great archive of information, depending on the individual and the situation. The Aztecs were highly intelligent people of their time. But, by today’s standards how knowledgeable were they really?

PapaLeo's avatar

I agree. The essay points to the dangers of dilletantism and shallow learning. You know the type: they’ve read one article on the subject and suddenly they’re an expert. Those who are life-long learners, true learners, come quickly to the lesson that the more you learn, the more aware you are of how little you know.

Darwin's avatar

@Dog – Actually I have found that parasitology is also a subject to avoid, if you have children, pets, go outside, or even eat anything.

cwilbur's avatar

I agree. I’ve seen too many people who have a very shallow knowledge of something but consider themselves experts—they’re the ones who make all the colossal fuckups. The people who actually have a deep knowledge of whatever it is rarely make the same caliber of mistakes.

spresto's avatar

I’ve noticed a lot of individuals with little intellegence lately.

Dog's avatar

@Darwin I agree.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, it’s a dangerous thing when you are a tourist in Thailand and think the untimely retreat of the ocean is a curious weather phenomenon. Honey, go get the video camera. Too little knowledge can sometimes harm or kill people.

PapaLeo's avatar

@mattbrowne Fascinating example. Especially considering the locals reacted differently by running to the hills. But what’s interesting, is the indigineous peoples’ reaction was not learning, but knowledge. How so? They didn’t learn from direct experience that when the water retreats they should run to the hills (learning), but from their ancestors’ stories and folk tales (knowledge).

mattbrowne's avatar

@PapaLeo – I’ve heard that the people on the Nicobar Islands interpreted the signs of animals that there was danger and sought refuge on higher grounds. Yes, ancestors’ stories and folk tales are knowledge. A lot of myths are actually related to natural disasters of the past.

jlm11f's avatar

I think this definitely applies to medical students (and probably most other students). Every time we learn about a disease, we are convinced the next person that is sick has THAT disease. I feel bad for all the people that have made just a dry cough in my presence and I look at them suspiciously when I say “Ohhhhhh you have walking pneumonia!!!” It is horrible to get sick in a med students filled apt/building too. They pounce on you, trying to diagnose you with all the wrong questions and only in these circles is it considered OKAY to decide someone (another med student) is suffering from something fatal without even properly considering the facts.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, unless it is coupled with wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge complement each other, and must develop together. Either one without the other is dangerous. How can you make wise judgements without knowing? How can you apply your knowledge appropriately without wisdom?

On the other hand, a large measure of knowledge and wisdom is a great thing, reserved for a lucky few.

bea2345's avatar

Insufficient information, in the long run, is more dangerous than too much. My favourite example comes from Mark Twain’s book, Roughing It. Twain, one of a party traveling west, met a tribe of Indians camped close by and observed that they were packing up in preparation to depart. When asked why, they said, “Big water coming.” Or words to that effect. Of course, the white men laughed at them: the country had not seen rain in weeks, the river was a mere trickle. During the night the river came down – it had been raining in the mountains – and Twain describes days of discomfort, boredom and occasional excitement, as they waited for the water to go down. The Indians were long gone: they were not misled by the dry weather. Experience had taught them that at certain seasons the river rose suddenly and dangerously. Twain does not say if they made the connection (rain in the hills = water in the plain).

Twain’s party lacked a key bit of information.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Darwin & @Dog…I feel that way about watching the evening news.

wundayatta's avatar

I love learning new stuff. Fluther helps. I attend talks at my work (a university) whenever I can. I don’t care if it’s useful. I just love it. Hasn’t killed me yet.

Dog's avatar

@Blondesjon I learn more on Fluther than I do watching the evening news.

bea2345's avatar

Mind you, Pope’s rhyme sounds good: nice metre, pleasing word order, etc. etc. Hitler himself could not have done better.

oratio's avatar

@PapaLeo Lol, yeah, kind of share your sentiments there.

bea2345's avatar

@PapaLeo, as one of my brothers said in a different context, who cares what he said? it sounding good (it is impossible to recreate his intonation and expression in print). Hitler was a master of making things sound good: the truth was secondary. I have doubts about this particular quotation; it can be challenged, especially in an age where there is a series of books called Instant Erudition. In addition, there is a lurking sense that sometimes the content of the verse was sacrificed to the metre and rhyme. which is why I have always preferred E.V. Rieu’s prose translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

bea2345's avatar

or rather, there was a book series of that name. One of them dealt with antiques and I saw it at Foyles, bought it for my sister in law, it made her laugh.

livingchoice's avatar

People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge and understanding. We need more wisdom in these days. So I disagree with the above statement.

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