Concept: Know how good your knowledge is
Wouldn’t it be great if you just knew when something was true? You knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt you weren’t being lied to, or tricked, or just plain told wrong information? You knew for yourself that you had the situation figured out, and you understood exactly what was going on? Wouldn’t that make you confident?
What is true? In everyone’s own mind, the conclusions they have come to are 100% certain. This is reality for that person, until proven otherwise. They have chosen this reality because out of all the things they have tried, it produces the most successful results in their life.
A man knows that fire is hot and will burn him, causing him much pain. This is a reality: the concept that fire is hot and dangerous is only a concept in his head from his own personal experience. Because he has this concept, though, he has saved himself from being hurt many times.
So can we know anything for certain? No. What is incredible, though, is that we can know things with such certainty that we are willing to stake our lives on them.
Let’s compare the statements “fire is hot” and “the moon landing was fake.”
(insert picture of fire and moon landing, drawn)
Well, there are two ways to tell whether or not these statements are true.
Inductive reasoning: the ability to notice that patterns have been formed and to make a reasonable prediction as to what will happen next.
Using inductive reasoning, I can compare the statement “fire is hot” to my own personal experience. I have noticed in my life that every single time I have encountered fire, it is indeed hot. So I would say, from my inductive experience, that it is a true statement. The statement “the moon landing was fake” is false in my mind, because my own personal experience of people is that large groups of people can not successfully keep secrets.
Deductive reasoning: The ability to know exactly what the root cause of any given effect is.
Deductive reasoning leads me down a slightly different road. The statement “fire is hot” can be compared with my knowledge of chemical energy and energy release. I know that when energy is released, especially chemically, the result is often thermal energy. “Fire is hot” is a true statement based on my knowledge of physics and chemistry. The statement “the moon landing was fake” can also be analyzed deductively. The inconsistent lighting that most conspiracy theorists point out can easily be explained by the reflective nature of dust on the moon.
You’re probably not likely to run across many people who question whether or not fire is hot, but you may run across a few people who genuinely believe that “the moon landing was fake.” It’s important to understand that they have come to that conclusion based on the life experience they have had. Moreover, if it does not matter, let them believe what ever they want. If, however, they are applying for a job at NASA, you may wish to offer them new life experiences…ones that they will experience and know to be true, and they can then examine their own conclusions against their new experiences. You will find that this is a much more effective way to get someone to agree with you than yelling at them. Some people, though, are very stubborn.
Am I right about fire or the moon landing? I don’t know. It’s just my experience. If I was shown compelling data to the contrary, I would have to take a good hard look at my conclusions. So, my mind can be changed.
You thought you were going to know something for certain, right? There is a simple method of how to know something is worth doing. Imagine that you need to make a life-altering decision and you think you might have all the facts, but you’re worried. Ask your self this question: “If my knowledge was how to put a parachute together, would I jump out of the plane?” If the answer is yes, then you are certain. If the answer is no and it’s a really important decision, you should do more research.
Let’s say you want to buy a used car. This is a pretty big decision for you, but not life or death. How do you know whether to buy a car? Well, you know the salesman has a good reputation (that’s inductive reasoning, you know from other customers that they were happy with their cars.) You also know a little bit about cars. You know that the engine sounds right, and that nothing is leaking, and the pedals don’t seem to be worn. This is deductive reasoning based on your knowledge of automobiles. Now the task is to take your knowledge of the salesmen’s reputation + your knowledge of a working car and ask yourself: “If that knowledge was the knowledge to pack a parachute, would I jump out of a plane with that pack?”
When you jump out of a plane with a parachute that you packed, you know you know you know. There is no such thing as pretty darn certain.