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Inquiry is fatal to certainty. Will Durant

During the current coronavirus crisis, Donald Trump has answers; Dr. Fauci has questions. Having the answer too soon, as Donald Trump wants, and as Dr. Fauci warns us, is not the best solution. Asking more questions is the best strategy. The surest way to lose the truth is to pretend that you already possess it, Gordon Allport.

Asking questions has always been a virtue of positive uncertainty. Asking questions is being curious. Questions lead to new possibilities, new learning, and to creativity. Certainty leads to nowhere new. Today’s environment is full of questions: personal, social, economic, political, etc. Asking no questions, only giving answers, could be dangerous in today’s environment.

People like certainty, not uncertainty. People like answers, not questions. Today, there is danger in rushing to answers, seeking certainty. I am not a medical, economic, social or political expert. I have studied decision making and believe deciding to answer today’s questions too soon is dangerous. Procrastination sometimes works but isn’t the best answer. Asking questions is. James Ryan says questions are like keys. They can open the mind to new ideas. The fact that inquiry is fatal to certainty explains its virtue. You could also say, certainty is fatal to inquiry.

Open-mindedness is a prerequisite of inquiry. And open-mindedness has been a theme of my writing. A closed mind has no door for questions. This is what sometimes makes closed-mindedness and certainty attractive. Questions get in the way of certainty. But doubt leads to questions. Uncertainty doesn’t feel good; certainty does. Science is a culture of doubt/uncertainty. The scientific method involves hypothesizing, testing and retesting. You could say that science is also a culture of inquiry. The scientific method in a nut shell: Understand and frame the problem, observe; hypothesize (or imagine); test and reduce; and repeat, Maria Konnikova in her book, MASTERMIND, How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, 2013.

Science, doubt, uncertainty and inquiry are all related, and part of learning. Certainty is not part of learning. Some synonyms of inquiry: investigation, analysis, examination, research. These are all sources of learning. Science at its best is an open-minded system of inquiry, not a belief system, Robert Sheldrake. Today’s current uncertain environment is full of the need for questions: personal, social, economic, political, etc. Answers put an end to inquiry. Inquiry puts an end to certainty. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science,  Albert Einstein. 

Truth exists, and it is discovered through inquiry.  Asking questions is the result of uncertainty and doubt. My advice: Increase your learning by asking more questions.

 You do not need to be a world-class scientist or artist to appreciate that the world contains mysteries and puzzles, or even to solve some of them. You just need to look around and ask questions. James Ryan

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