Celebrating Ignorance

Contributed by Muhammad Bashir Baloch

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There is a famed saying by Sophocles, a great playwright of ancient Greece:

“How dreadful knowledge of truth can be when there is no help in truth.”

This is the real problem in our society. We have been desensitized about truth. It seems truth, reality, rationality and even science don’t matter to us. Even our educated youth and professors are not much interested in truth. They consider their particular field just a source of earning not a method to find truth.

Here is an anecdote. There is a professor in University of Sargodha in department of Biology. He has doctorate in his field. He, according to his students, confesses that there is an overwhelming evidence for biological evolution and natural selection but he says he does not accept this idea. Why? Simply because it does not agree with his opinion. Even though one’s belief is just one’s opinion, still if some theory appears to go against one’s particular interpretation or point of view of religion, one will conveniently reject it. The irony is that the same theory could be acceptable to Javed Ghamidi or Usaman Hassan of London Mosque in their interpretation.

This is really a sorry and mourning state for us because our so called scholars do not have an exercise of adopting logics. What does it make sense when you say that you know there is evidence but you’re unwilling to value that evidence? Sam would say what argument would you provide to a person to act logically when he is not accepting  any logic. This is the time when efforts of every scholar seem to fail. His student of biology with whom I argued said that he also does not accept because it is against his belief. Why are we not accepting that one’s belief doesn’t have any value in rational evaluation? The change, however, could come through educational institutions if they follow scientific mode of thinking.

Is there any example in history when a civilization has been ruined just because they preferred evidence and logic. On the contrary, we may find such examples where irrationality spoiled the nations and perished their civilizations. One wonders why people celebrate ignorance? This is true from this example and many others. We have to know that ignorance is a choice and this choice matters a lot; rather it is going to shape our future.

Unfortunately, we have been celebrating ignorance since Pakistan emerged. This choice has destroyed our generations. We must adopt a pragmatic attitude and get rid of ignorance whether it be political, religious, historical, or most importantly scientific. As K.K Aziz, a renowned historian, once said if you distort history, eventually it will distort you. It has happened to us in the form of cold war decades ago. This was our indifference towards past stupidities and crimes we committed that led us there.

The main difference between modern Europe and that of the dark ages is the difference of celebrating ignorance and combating it. All writers of Renaissance like Voltaire, and Rousseau combated ignorance. If you want to know a person whether he is celebrating ignorance or not, ask him a simple question: What would it take you stop believing to be true what you believe it’s true?

First step toward the solution would be that we should stop celebrating ignorance. Is that too much to ask?

Answer will be in most cases none. Than how can one argue? There is no possible evidence for him. This is a dangerous thought. We must discourage this behavior. Scientists and philosophers always know what would take them to stop believing something;   the term belief really does not make sense to them. Newton would say if you throw an apple and it does not come back, then I would admit gravitation isn’t true. Einstein would say if relativity works, there would be a solar eclipse on May 29, 1919. His theory worked fine, and there was an eclipse observed on the said date. You can test if a theory works or not. Scientists are willing to change their minds based on new data and information. Actually it is the same tendency to change their minds that ensures progress.  This tendency defeats the ignorance.

It’s important to keep an eye on such illogical behavior in our academic institutions if we want progress in near future. There is a huge gap between Muslim world and West in science and technology and we will take a long time to recover from this loss, but first we need to diagnose the problem and think about remedies. I believe students should be taught to value logic and evidence, rather than blind faith and following traditions. Science suggests  that one must learn to say no to irrationality and one should keep oneself away from ignorance and stupidity. Teachers should teach students how to think rather than what to think. It really does not matter what you think, but what matters is how you think. And our teachers unfortunately don’t really know how to think. We have an intellectual vacuum.

First step toward the solution would be that we should stop celebrating ignorance. Is that too much to ask?

About the Author:

The writer is doing F.Sc (Pre-Engineering). He has a deep enthusiasm for physics and mathematics. He is also a member of Science Talent Farming Scheme (STFS) of Pakistan science foundation (PSF).

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