“I Don’t Know”

“I Don’t Know”

It’s such a simple sentence.

“I Don’t Know”

None of the individual words are difficult to pronounce or spell.

“I Don’t Know”

So why is it such a difficult thing to say?

“I Don’t Know”

I’ve touched on this previously in: Climate change? Once more, ‘I don’t know’, which is Penn Jillett’s take on the phrase. The primary point Penn made was: “when you’re unaware of the truth, shouldn’t you be allowed to say “I don’t know” without it being a negative”.

“I Don’t Know”

And I think that is where I come down on the issue…

“I Don’t Know”

Of course, as Penn mentioned in his article:

To be fair (and it’s always important to be fair when one is being mean-spirited, sanctimonious and self-righteous), “I don’t know” can be a very bad answer when it is disingenuous. You can’t answer “I don’t know if that happened” about the Holocaust.

And that is a very valid point that Penn makes. On some subjects, “I don’t know” is just plain wrong.

But many times, I think it’s not only a fair thing to say, but the BEST thing to say.

“I Don’t Know”

And yet I know that I have a very hard time saying it myself.

“I Don’t Know”

Why is it so difficult so say those words?

“I Don’t Know”

Is it the admission of ignorance on a subject, that we just can’t stand?

“I Don’t Know”

Does it create a feeling of somehow being “less”, because we don’t have an opinion on everything?

“I Don’t Know”

Does not saying these words lead us to not search out answers, because we fool ourselves into thinking we already have them?

“I Don’t Know”

Why can’t we learn to say these few simple words more often?

“I Don’t Know”

Wouldn’t the world be better off if people were willing to admit their limitations, and look for answers, instead of pretending?

“I Don’t Know”


About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
This entry was posted in Debate, Psychology, Skepticism. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “I Don’t Know”

  1. Sarah says:

    Faith is a virtue – we must believe. “I don’t know” is doubt and this is sinful.

  2. Sarah says:

    To clarify, I meant CHRISTIANS believe this, and we are overwhelmingly a Christian country – in numbers – we are not a Christian country from the perspective of the Constitution of course. (& Treaty of Tripoli).

    I am a raging atheist.

  3. Sarah says:

    Oh, and the secular, pyschological answer is simply that there is the belief that “I don’t know” makes one sound intellectually weak, as you said. I’ve never bought into that crap. “I don’t know” keeps me honest. I say it ALL the time. I’m a philosopher though. Plato taught me years ago wisdom is knowing what you don’t know. Damn right. The philosopher Lil Jon might point out that by saying “I don’t know” we are “keeping it real” and “he ain’t gon’ front”.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      I’ve never found faith to be a virtue…
      Faith: belief that is not based on proof

      I’ve always found this to be a negative, and not something worthy of praise.
      As I said: Wouldn’t the world be better off if people were willing to admit their limitations, and look for answers, instead of pretending?

      However you are right when you implied that many people have the phrase “I don’t know” because it shows a lack of faith, and that goes against their religious ideals which rest on certainty and unquestioning blind faith in the bible, jesus, and god…

      But even more than that, I like your 3rd comment, because I think it’s a much more profound look into the psychology of humanity. The idea of looking or feeling “weak” is something that people try to avoid, because it is built in our evolutionary psychology to hide any weakness.

      And I applaud you for being one of the minority, who is willing to admit your own ignorance and by doing that start your journey towards filling those gaps in your knowledge…

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