A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS THING

Which is better? Starting off with an empty slate, or thinking you know something when what you “know” is not so.
(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com)

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is not an especially old saying. That saying probably only goes back to 1709, but what does it mean?

What’s the meaning of the phrase ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’?

The proverb ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ expresses the idea that a small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more expert than they really are, which can lead to mistakes being made.

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/a-little-knowledge-is-a-dangerous-thing.html

When speaking of his political opponents, President Ronald Reagan described the problem this way.

It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so. 

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/194830-it-isn-t-so-much-that-liberals-are-ignorant-it-s-just

Consider, for example, the support Liberal Democrats express for Socialist policies. Socialism has never worked, yet every time the programs Liberal Democrats support don’t work they just double down and angrily demand more money and power.

Is this “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” exclusive to Liberal Democrats? No. We all suffer from this problem. That is why I wrote WE ARE NOT SMART ENOUGH OR WISE ENOUGH TO VOTE SMART several years ago. We all think we know things that aren’t so. Too many of us even think we know how to run each other’s lives when we don’t even know how to run our own lives.

Consider how little most of us know about religion, politics, science, and philosophy.

  • How many people do “you” know who have read the Bible cover to cover? Have “you” read the Bible and taken the time to study it a bit? How about the Koran or the sacred works of other religions? When someone tells “you” that all religions are the same — that all Theists worship the same God — do “you” believe them? Has it occurred to “you” that “you know” something that is not true?
  • How many people do “you” know who have studied some of the documents our nation’s founders studied before they wrote our Constitution? How many people do “you” know who have read “The Federalist Papers”? How many people do “you” know who donate money to their favorite political leaders and actively participate in local party politics? Do “you”? Then what makes “you” think “you” actually understand how politics works in the USA?
  • How many people do “you” know who understand the scientific method? How many people do “you” know who think the following theories have been scientifically proven?
    • The Theory of Evolution.
    • Climate Change.
    • The Big Bang Theory.
    • The theory that same sex attraction is genetically determined.
  • How many people do “you” know who think logically? Do “you” know what it means to think logically?

Of course, I think I know the answers to the questions I asked, but like “you” I have this conundrum to solve. If I think I know something and what I think I know is not so, then how do I come to know that what I think is so is not so? Will it help if I try to force everyone else to believe what I believe?

What has made America unique? During most of human history humans fought each other for domination. Humans formed factions to force their beliefs and practices upon each other. Humans even fought to make slaves of each other. In America, however, people largely agreed that it made more sense to fight for each other’s Given-given rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The founders of this nation actually accepted the notion that God is our neighbor’s master, that we don’t have the right to run our neighbor’s lives.

What about “you”? Is it more important to “you” to have the right to run “your” own life, or do “you” think that our elected leaders could do a better job of running “your” life? Do “you” really think the people we elect have sufficient intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom to run everyone’s life, including “yours”? If “you” do, then I hope everyone else disagrees with “you,” but it is all too probable that they won’t.

What has made America unique? The people of this country once understood the difference between putting their trust in God and men.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 New American Standard Bible

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
For he will be like a bush in the desert,
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt that is not inhabited.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water
That extends its roots by a stream,
And does not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought,
Nor cease to yield fruit.

28 thoughts on “A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS THING

Add yours

  1. Tom,

    Your point on, reading the Bible from cover to cover, does not mean we know more than someone who has never done the same is spot on.

    Studying the Bible is a life time endeavor, in my opinion.

    Fortunately, in our computer internet times, I found Biblehub.com commentaries a good source to provide different opinions of ever verse written by men who spent a lifetime studying the bible and providing commentaries of other opinions to help us discern how any Bible verse can be discerned.

    Reading books on specific issues can help reinforce our faiths can help us when we need inspiration as we experience the different and passing times and challages.in life.

    Add that weekly sermon by priests and minister is also another needed source to obtain understanding.

    In other words, reading anything is only the beginning of wisdom.

    For example, another source
    https://www.bible.com/bible/compare/PRO.1.6:
    Proverbs 1:1-6 The Message (MSG)

    “These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.”

    “Encouraging and challenging you to seek intimacy with God every day.”

    Yes indeed, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing when you believe you have the same wissdom as our Creator, was a sad lesson learned by King Solomon.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

  2. Tom, I really enjoyed this post. A little more humility and less certainly in ones positions go a long way towards making good relationships. Also, it’s exhausting and restricting having to be “right” all the time. In fact I think I wrote a post awhile back called The Freedom of Being Wrong.

    1. It is something people forget. Because we are incapable of it, perfection is impossibly difficult work. Moreover, our mistakes have value. We learn from our mistakes. To learn from our mistakes — to be disciplined by them — we must be allowed to make them.

  3. Oh boy.. another of these “where do I start?” things.

    * “How many people do “you” know who have read the Bible cover to cover?”
    Do you know any of this to be actually, factually, TRUE, Tom? Seems to me your belief is based on faith that what is written is true. Seems to me none of us will know until the end. Until then we operate on faith.

    * “How many people do “you” know who have studied some of the documents our nation’s founders studied before they wrote our Constitution?”
    Is that even important to understanding our Constitution? Which, by the way, was written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and become effective in 1789. The Federalist Papers were not truly “before” the Constitution.. same time perhaps. More to the point, what makes YOU think YOU know more than the next guy (or girl) about how politics “works”?

    * “How many people do “you” know who understand the scientific method? How many people do “you” know who think the following theories have been scientifically proven?”
    You mean, how many people don’t know the difference between fact and theory? Maybe refer to point one above. Does simple faith override scientific method?

    * “How many people do “you” know who think logically?
    There is not one human being on this planet that can think logically all the time, or even a fraction of it. Humans all have built in biases and predispositions. My “logic” in the humanities tells me that it is a logical impossibility that followers of one level of political ideology has any greater “logic” applied toward why they follow what they do, any more than the opposing side.

    As for…
    “Of course, I think I know the answers to the questions I asked, but like “you” I have this conundrum to solve. If I think I know something and what I think I know is not so, then how do I come to know that what I think is so is not so? Will it help if I try to force everyone else to believe what I believe?”

    ..perhaps we survive better by not worrying how the next guy thinks, or why the next guy doesn’t think like you, and concern ourselves more about living in some level of co-existence that allows us both to survive. But, being human, that alone will always be the struggle.

    1. Doug

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I am afraid your comment illustrates the problem my post addresses. Coexistence doesn’t require us to force our beliefs and practices upon each other. Our history indicates the exact opposite is true. Yet we try to justify ourselves by stifling others in their beliefs and practices and forcing our own beliefs upon them.

      Is the Bible true? Using what others have written and said, I think I can make a logical case for the Bible. But my point was that most people denigrate the beliefs of others without even taking the time to understand what they believe. Yet all that is required is that we leave each other in peace.

      Is studying the ideas and beliefs that went into writing our Constitution a necessary prerequisite to making it work? I am amazed the answer to that question is not obvious.

      Do most people know the difference between a fact and a theory? Well, you you obviously think I substitute faith for facts, but I doubt we share the same definition of the word “faith.”
      Years ago I wrote this.

      Faith is not just believing something because we want to believe it. Faith is believing something for good reasons and then acting upon that belief. My favorite example of faith is swimming. When we swim in water that is over our head, that requires faith in our ability to swim.

      What does it mean to call faith a virtue? It means we believe God, and we trust — live by — what is taught in His Bible. Because the statist wants us to trust government, he sees faith in God as competition. That is why we see such a pronounced drive for secularization in our day. The statist wants to bury the competition. He want us to have faith only in the state.

      Anyway, I think you need to do some work on your definition of coexistence. To coexist with you, do others have to put their faith in that which you have put your faith?

      1. Yikes.. you really snaked that all around, Tom.

        “When we swim in water that is over our head, that requires faith in our ability to swim.”
        Huh? We certainly can have faith (and prayer) in a greater power to provide us the stamina to KEEP swimming, but the act of swimming itself is a learned.. acquired… skill and therefore performing that act is more of self-confidence in ourselves than faith in any deity.

        As for your observation toward me…
        “To coexist with you, do others have to put their faith in that which you have put your faith?”

        Where in anything I said had anything to do with controlling how others may choose to think?

        1. Doug

          I told you I don’t believe in the Bible just because I want to believe in the Bible. If you want to believe that I believe in the Bible just because I want to believe, I can’t stop you, but why do you want to believe something that is not true?

          I borrowed my definition of faith from C. S. Lewis. I am not going to argue semantics. I just think it revealing when non-Christians are so determined to define what the word “faith” means to Christians.

          Do you like my post? Nope! Why don’t you like it? Here is the theme of the post.

          In America, however, people largely agreed that it made more sense to fight for each other’s Given-given rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The founders of this nation actually accepted the notion that God is our neighbor’s master, that we don’t have the right to run our neighbor’s lives.

          The theme of the post is a proposed method — the one the founders chose — for co-existence. What is your alternative? The status quo? More humongous government? A demand that everyone recognize the brilliance of the politicians you vote for?

          Don’t allow me to put words in your mouth. Spit out your own defense.

          1. IF… we agree on who the “Founders” were/are (and I’ve assumed that’s anyone who were original signers), then we have to acknowledge that there were Founders representing any number of religious faiths.. some non-Christian. We can certainly think that each Founder brought to the signing table their own belief affirmations and moral proclivities, even the non-Christians, to promote our Constitution. Which in turn was ratified by persons with a myriad of other religious foundations of that day. By the way, the Constitution does not mention “God”. As for the Declaration.. that was a document declaring our independence from Britain and directed to the then King, outlining our reasons for doing so. It was never a governing document. I am all for assigning religious ideals being exhibited in the day by men of faith.. various faiths… but to presume it was entirely “Christian” ideals wouldn’t be correct.. to me.

          2. Doug

            You are changing the topic. Your comment is not a defense of your ideas about co-existence. It is an attack on what you think are my beliefs.

            I have not argued for forcing my religious ideals upon you. Instead, I have pointed out why using our government to force our beliefs and practices upon each other is foolish. That includes using government to secularize the people of our country.

            Here is a post I did on the religious beliefs of the founders: https://citizentom.com/2008/09/10/deism-and-the-founding-fathers/

            Our nation has a Christian heritage. Is our nation a Christian nation? That would be something only God could judge, but I doubt it. The Gospel message is not complicated, but I think most people are either ignorant of what is required to be Christian or don’t care.

            The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s founding document. We celebrate July 4th because that is the day the founders decided what kind of government we needed, and most people agreed with the sentiments expressed in the Declaration. The Constitution effectively implements what the Declaration expresses in spirit.

            The Constitution is a set of carefully considered rules. The Constitution does not explain exactly why its writers wrote what they wrote. The Preamble just provides an introduction to the Constitution, not an explanation of why the writers wrote what they wrote. The checks and balances, for example, are there, but we have to see them for ourselves.

            Explaining how the Constitution was supposed to work is the point of “The Federalist Papers,” which were intended to persuade the states to ratify the Constitution.

            Have you ever heard the expressions “positive rights” and “negative rights”? Here is a post on that subject.

            Positive rights are about the government giving us things. Since everything the government has to give it takes from us positive rights are about the government giving us other people’s things. Negative rights are about government protecting us from each other.

            Instead of “social justice,” which is what advocates for positive rights purport to support, negative rights are about using the government to enforce plain old justice, ideally tempered with a bit of mercy.

            The Declaration of Independence called for a government that enforced plain justice. If we want a society that allows us to co-exist without being bullied and punished for not obeying the whims of the powerful, then we want the kind of government advocated in the Declaration.

            Not your kind of government? Well, you may continue to get things your way. After all, this is probably not a Christian nation. But I doubt you will like what you get.

  4. Good post, Tom. One of my favorite sayings is, “don’t believe everything you think.” The Bible tells us, “lean not into your own understanding.”

    It’s good to practice a bit of intellectual humility and to engage in some critical thinking once in a while. Makes everyone wiser and also more compassionate.

  5. Lumping the Big Bang with climate change, evolution and homosexuality is an example of drinking out of the wrong bottle. Proof of the Big Bang has been stacking up for the last 60 years. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in April of 1990 for crying out loud. And now with the Webb Space Telescope operational, more and more proof will pile in.

    1. Really? How exactly does scientific proof work?

      I suggest that you consider the fact that the Big Bang Theory is based upon mathematical models using observational data from objects that are hugely separated from us in time and space, and we are gathering all that data from one point in space. Then we are taking that data and extrapolating back about 15 billion years. That’s inherently likely to produce a flawed model.

      How do we “prove” the Big Bang model is accurate? We use it to predict “finding” things. That is fairly similar to what they have done with The Theory of Evolution, and that only takes us back a half of a billion years.

      1. The Big Bang theory is not based on mathematical model. It is based on direct observation, measurement and the laws of nature. Of course, the language of science is mathematics. So the Big Bang will be expressed in mathematics.

        1. It is not based upon a mathematical model, but it is expressed in mathematics?

          What scientists do is model cause and effect relationships using mathematics. Then they test — validate — their models with reproducible experiments.

          What distinguishes a soft science from a hard science? We cannot figure out how to mathematically model what we are studying in the soft sciences. At best we can gather statistical data. That, for example, is what we do when we test drugs and vaccines.

          The Big Bang Model is physics, not biology or drug testing.

          1. Citizen, You just made my argument for me. The Big Bang is a fact which proves the universe had a beginning, which debunks atheism. Proof of the Big Bang was achieved through measurement, observation and understanding Einsteinian physics which are natural laws.

          2. Also, you are equating the Big Bang with climate change. Climate change is based on models only that were run through computers. Thus, climate change models are bogus. With the Big Bang, observation, measurement and physics came first and from their models were developed.

          3. SOM

            Both the Big Bang and Climate Change (global warming) are based upon computer modelling. Both the models incorporate physics and observational data. Climate change uses the gas laws for modelling and weather data from land stations, ships at sea, balloons, and satellites. We spend more gathering weather data than we do on astronomical data.

            Both the Big Bang models and the Climate Change models have to deal with lots of variables and things we just don’t know.

            There is nothing wrong with studying these things, but there is no point assuming we have a better grasp of these subjects than we do. If we continue to drastically cut our use of fossil fuels the way we are doing now, lots of people will die. Fortunately, taking the Big Bang Theory too seriously, does not seem likely to get anyone killed. But who knows. Like as not those fanatically devoted to the theory will think of something.

          4. There is no valid data upon which to create a model for climate. As have already said twice, the Big Bang model is based on measurement, observation and the laws of physics. Therefore, it is a logical fallacy to compare climate change and the Big Bang. Concerning the Big Bang you are about 20 years behind the times. You should take a college cosmology class. I recommend the cosmology class presented by The Great Courses. thegreatcourses.com

          5. SOM

            Those are not arguments. They are unsupported assertions of fact. Repetition of unsupported assertions may be appropriate for propaganda, but it does not much purpose in a debate.

            Am I a defender of Global Warming? No. I think the research has become way too politicized.

            What about the Big Bang Theory? I think it amusing that it backfired on the Atheists. That said I don’t regard scientists as some sort of priests who mystically divine the nature of God’s Creation. There may be something to the Big Bang Theory, but I am by nature a skeptic. I don’t think we have enough data sources, and I think extrapolating back in time 15 billion years based upon data from one point in time is a bit irregular, to say the least.

          6. Citizen, Educate your ignorance. Then you will understand that my “assertions” are correct and unfounded. My God! Why do you and the Great Lion cling to your ignorance so forcefully? Science and archeology are Christianity’s best friends.

          7. I think it will amuse the Great Lion that you lumped me with him as some sort of opponent of science and technology. When I was in the military, I did orbital calculations for launch and satellite trajectories. I am quite certain the earth is not flat.

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