A Bright, Vibrant Blue Diamond
A Bright, Vibrant Blue Diamond
John Æonid, Reflections in a Personal Web Site
John Æonid, Reflections in a Personal Web Site

The Incompletist

Dec. 19, 2020, John Æonid — DRAFT, NOT PROOFED

Always remember: "but, that's not the whole story."

With the recent rise of conspiracy theories in every day culture, I've been thinking a lot about how we know what we know; or more importantly what we can know.  It's actually a vast subject.  I think I could actually write an entire book on the topic—and still keep it at a level most could understand.  But, that makes writing a single article on the topic a bit daunting.  What could I possibly fit here and avoid having to end with: “but, that's not the whole story.”  Indeed, if I did write a whole book, I would still have to end with: “but, that's not the whole story.”  And then, it would just be one more book on the topic.  You could read all the books on the topic that might exist—or might ever exist, and still have to say: “but, that's not the whole story.”  And, it goes on from there.  You could never read all the books in all the libaries within your life time or even a hundred life times.  No matter what it is that can be held within your mind or written in all the libaries--even those on alien planets, it still has to end with: “but, that's not the whole story.”

I started my writing here four years ago.  Lately, I haven't been writing much.  Every topic I've been pondering lately is either too political or to vast for me to be satisfied with anything I write.  There are many drafts of articles.  And, there are some topics for which I've set out to tackle several times--and just not been satisfied with how it came together.  But now with the rise of so many consipiracy theories, I find myself thinking even more and more on the topic of how we know what we know. 

Yet, this isn't a new area for me.   I deal with both scientific and spiritual topics, and one has to be very careful about not intermingling the two in a bad way.  And, that means being very careful about what constitutes knowledge in both those realms.  One is impirical, while the other is experiential (which I'll have to clarify some other time).

I'm the sort of person who finds self-referential concepts kind of funny.  And, this is one of them.  We say that we can't know everything.  And, the funny thing about that is that we can't even know everything about how we know anything.

Yet, there are now a lot of people running around spouting claims of conspiracy theories—who sound as if they have only been introduced to the notion that there are things unknown.  And like many true believers, they seem to think that their recent experience of being "clued in" makes them the only ones who know what being clued in means—which is very typical for recent converts.  It's the experieced one expresses like: "OMG, I never knew that before; how come nobody has been talking about this?"  Yes, I've had that experience.  Guess what?  There's nothing here that I've written that wasn't already covered by somebody else.  You're only here because this is a time in which this is interesting enough for you (assuming you've read this far), and it's simply not interesting in other culturally dominant media.  "But, that's not the whole story."

So, this article is just an introduction.  Again, it's a topic that can has filled entire books.  So, I'll have to deal with it over multiple articles.  Here's a brief list of potential topics:

  1. Dunning Kruger Effect: we don't know what we don't know, but experts have a sense of what expert knowledge is—and know when to defer to other experts.
  2. Derren Brown and the BMX bike: is there really such a thing as hypnotism and can people be brainwashed?
  3. Alien Encounters: what would Mulder say?
  4. Emergent phenomena and what Sociologists might say about conspiracy.
  5. How to tell if a conspiracy theory is falty.  How many people have to keep the secret?
  6. The Incompletist and Scientific Skepticism vs. Philosophical Skepticism.

What Can We Know is like What We Can Have

Steven Wright said "You can't have everthing; where would you put it?"  Well if I really did have everything, I would pretty much just leave it everywhere.  But, what does it mean to "have" anything?  Imagine a Zen Master presenting that in the form of a Koan, such as: "do you have a body?"  How would you answer?  Then assuming you're inside during the session with Zen Master (and not in a garage or such), you're asked: "do you have a car?"  How would you answer?  Legal ownership and physical ownership are simply not the same thing.

Then, what does it mean to have knowledge?  Can you know everything?  "Were would you put it?"  Every piece of information contained within your brain, and accessible by your mind (or not), is inside the space of your body.  And, that is contained on the planet where you live, among the billions of other minds on this planet, along with all the books in all the libraries, within this solar system, galaxy, universe, and whatever contains everything (or whatever that means).  And, there's no way that all the information in your brain is perfectly precise.  It's a basic engineering concept that nothing we work with is accurate to within the span of a molecule, atom, electron, or quark.  And, then there are those things which we are just plain wrong about.  You just can't know everything.  Knowing everything would mean knowing the location of every atom of every grain of sand in the Universe--along with everything about everthing and everything contained within that.  And, that's still not the whole story.

There is no topic of any kind for which our knowledge is complete.  So, all knowledge is incomplete.  And if all knowledge is incomplete, then all knowledge is imprecise.  Do you get the impression that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what we can know?  Would it be wise for me to think that I'm some kind of an expert on this (Dunning Kruger)?  There are people who get degrees on the topic, and those who go on to get doctorates on the topic.  Some even become professors and get tenure.  Knowing what we can and can't know is not a small topic.  And, I've barely touched on the various theories within this realm.  So, there's still more to the story.


Nov. 8, 2019 Shadow
I've replaced the home page, though the old is retained, and I'm going deeper into shining light on the shadow, taking more risks..

May 14, 2017 Listing
I'm now generating a chronological list of postings here (in addition to the sitemap).

Jan. 14, 2017 WOT
I now participate in WOT.

Oct. 20, 2016 New Website!
This is truly in its infancy.  There is much that I want to share, yet it's just beginning.

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