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No. 54: Nov-Dec 1987

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The Uncertainty Of Knowledge

"Human beings of all societies in all periods of history believe that their ideas on the nature of the real world are the most secure, and that their ideas on religion, ethics and justice are the most enlightened. Like us, they think that final knowledge is at last within reach. Like us, they pity the people in earlier ages for not knowing the true facts. Unfailingly, human beings pity their ancestors for being so ignorant and forget that their descendants will pity them for the same reason."

E. Harrison, who penned the above, sees knowledge as perpetually uncertain and always changing. Scientists will always be surprised, he says, and scientific laws are never final. He concludes:

"I feel liberated by this philosophy. I find comfort in the thought that the creative mind fashions the world in which we live. For it means that the mind and reality are more profound than we normally suppose."

(Harrison, Edward; "The Uncertainty of Knowledge," New Scientist, p. 78, September 24, 1987.)

From Science Frontiers #54, NOV-DEC 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss