“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Albert Einstein.
Humans have a lot of reasons to keep asking questions, real questions, not rhetorical ones to which we already know the answers. We should never stop asking questions unless we are one of three kinds of people.
First we all probably know people who think they know everything. No matter what the subject happens to be, they will tell us they know everything there is to know about it. If what they say goes against common sense, it makes no difference. They will tell us that common sense is not always right and they know better. And if we tell them that experts say otherwise, their response is that experts are not always right and they know more than the experts.
I readily admit that experts are not always right, but the simple facts are they are right more often than they are wrong, but their errors, like an airplane that crashes, are what get all the attention. An expert being right a thousand times garners no attention, and is not news, but an expert being wrong once makes the headlines. So just by saying, “I know more than the experts” usually means a person does not really know what is happening.
It is like the old saying, “When I was 17 I thought I knew more than my dad but when I was 21 I was amazed at how much he had learned.” It is only when we admit to not knowing everything and open our curiosity to the possibilities that we start to learn.
And some people think their status in the world will be threatened if they admit to not knowing everything, to being infallible. History is replete with examples of people and institutions who were wrong, but because they thought their status would be destroyed if they admitted to being wrong, they persisted in their wrong view.
Courts in America for over a hundred years held the view that people with brown or black skin were not “people” in the same sense that Caucasians were “people.” They ruled many times that slaves should be treated as property. The same was true in western civilizations where for centuries women were treated as property belonging to first their fathers and then their husbands.
We know now that just because we believe something strongly, and shout it loudly for a long time does not make it correct. What makes something correct is a careful analysis, an exercise of curiosity, an examination of facts and the willingness to let the facts and the evidence speak for themselves.
Then there are the people whose curiosity has simply left them. They are perhaps the most dangerous, because they don’t know what they don’t know and furthermore don’t care. It may be they don’t have the mental capacity to grasp the idea that there are things they don’t know; it may be that they believe what others tell them or it may be they are just too lazy to exercise their mental faculties to examine the possibilities.
It is, after all, a lot easier to let others do our thinking for us than to think for ourselves. It is easier to say that experts are not always right than to look at an issue itself and decide what we believe. It is easier to repeat a two or three word slogan than to express a complicated thought in a paragraph.
It was easy for a candidate to say he knew more about terrorists than what the generals knew, but apparently those generals learned a lot in the few months after the candidate became the president. It was also easy for a candidate to say that fixing the health care system would be easy, but once the candidate became the president, fixing the health care system became a whole lot harder.
Being curious is, after all, a habit, and habits are hard to change. If a boy thinks he has all the answers when he is 17, I doubt that he will be curious enough to look at all sides of an issue when he is 40 or 60 or 70. If a man has grown up making decisions based on what he thinks is right as opposed to what facts and figures and experts tell him, he will most likely keep on doing the same thing all his life.
We all can make decisions like that, decisions based on what we think could be done, based on what we hope will be done, based on what we think is popular, or we can do what Einstein proposed.
We can never stop questioning. We can look at facts as they are presented, ask people who know more than we know, apply our powers of reason and logic, and put a clutch between our brain and our mouth and hand, so that what we say and what we write is not a bumper slogan solution. We can realize that problems are complex and solving them will require all our curiosity, all our logic and all the combined expertise of science, economics, health care and defense. In short, we can solve problems by reasonable means or by our gut feelings. In the long run, the former works better.