The twin impostors that are knowledge and certainty

The great thing about the development of social media platforms has been the way that anyone can have a voice. This obviously has downsides because anyone can have a voice, even those voices you don’t want to hear. Me, I’m happy to listen to all the voices and integrate the good and differentiate the bad. The only downside to all this for me is the growth of the absolutist voice, the one that says “this is the truth, that’s it, no need to argue or discuss the nuances”. It does sometimes seem to me that only voices from the extremes get heard, which is starting to make social media less helpful as a platform for discussion and discourse.

The history of science shows us that some truths are transitory, at best.

I was fortunate that my childhood coincided with an explosion of serious TV that was informative and formative. Below I include a clip of the sequence that has stayed with me more than most. “The Ascent of Man” viewed the growth of human society through the development and understanding of science. The book of the series is still on my shelf, the most read and definitely the most tattered volume in the house. The series and the clip I show below have had a life long impact on how I approach, well, everything.

Standing in the middle of Auschwitz Bronowski says:

Science is a very human form of knowledge, we are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgement in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know, although we are fallible. In the end, the words were said by Oliver Cromwell. “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken”.

You can if you want take this post to mean its possible to ignore science and believe whatever you want. Or you could take to mean I think that you should just ignore science so I can safely be ignored. But to think either would be to entirely miss the point.



Sadly, the BBC have required YouTube to remove the clip used as part of this post. I’ll add a new version as soon as I can source one.


Many thanks to        Christian Bokhove      for finding a working version of the video.


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