Nothing is Certain – Of This I am Sure

There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” – Donald Rumsfeld

We live in a time where we can pretend we know things. Before there was science, Mankind had to have some humility toward the Universe and accept that much of the world was unknowable.

Then we invented science, and it explained many things quite well – and gave us this whiz-bang world of technological marvels and medical miracles where we can reattach severed limbs and transplant hearts.

Problem is: we are confused about the limits of science to explain things, and many people – including scientists themselves – think they know things that in fact, they haven’t a clue about.

Put aside our ego-centric world view and realize the Universe and everything in it was not created for us to understand – the fact that we do understand isolated little bits – somewhat – is remarkable, but it also lead us astray into the belief that it all can be understood.

It can’t.

What can we understand? We are great at mechanics – the engineering world can apply known principles and create computers, reattach limbs, build skyscrapers and bridges – and be pretty good at it. There’s some rules for dealing with the unknown – in engineering, for example, if you are building a bridge to carry a load of 1000 tons, you might double that just to be sure.

Things begin to get murky as we get more into the softer sciences. Our own biochemical processes are a great example.

When you really truly understand how little can be known, the first reaction is to despair – what am I to believe in?

But if you push through this, you come to the realization that the only thing to believe in comes from inside you.

This can be useful in all aspects of your life, but in low carb, it is applied through your experiences. Is low carb healthy for you? Doesn’t matter what the research says – it might or might not be true – or it might not be true for you. How do you feel? How is your bloodwork? Losing weight?

I mention this because I read a scientific paper titled: Why Most Published Research Findings Are False by John P. A. Ioannidis. It’s a tough read – you might want to check out this link or this link for some translations of what he’s talking about.

We low carbers might feel a bit alone in the world, but maybe it’s because we know we have to question everything – we have to think, and thinking is something most people avoid as much as possible.

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4 thoughts on “Nothing is Certain – Of This I am Sure

  1. As a college professor, I agree completely with your last statement. I find I spend more time teaching my students *how* to think (mind you, not *what* to think) than I ever thought I would.
    Thanks for another great post!

  2. Well, here I am in disagreement. It isn’t a matter that we can’t know or can’t understand. We just don’t YET. We’ll get there. Actually, it might not take that much longer if you consider how fast we’re picking up on things these days.

    There may be a day when a simple non-invasive test will reveal what your next 24 hours of nutrition should ideally consist of. The android that will probably be helping you run your life might ask you to pick from a menu of appropriate suggestions. It may even change the suggestions throughout the day as it monitors your bioreadings based on what hadn’t been planned for (that impromptu tennis match with Bill, for example). It might even be that the food we process in the future will somehow have the ability to change its properties to match the needs of the individual at the moment of consumption.

    The fantastic has always preceded reality. Our greatest accomplishments have come about because some wide-eyed dreamers shared their ideas with the rest of us, and some very bright practical types out there in the audience got it in their heads that they could figure out a way to make those ideas work.

    In the meantime, while we’re waiting, like LCC said, we’re going to have to think a little harder, read a little more, try to understand a little better, and be more conscious of our choices and how they’re affecting us. At least until the android comes along.

  3. I’ll let this quote from Joe Frank be my response:

    When you see the faces of true zealots – people with complete faith in their particular point of view, what you see is a glow of energy that comes not from spiritual development, but from the fact that they experience a sense of certainty, free of confusion. They are like a man in a forest. He has no idea where he is, but he sets up a campsite in a little clearing, builds a fire, draws a map of the immediate area and feels better because he’s created the illusion of order, even though he should know he is absolutely lost…If you look throughout history, you see the same questions asked over and over again…but the answers are forever changing. You can be certain that today’s answers will be replaced by tomorrow’s, and so on until eternity. The only thing that doesn’t change is the questions. The questions will always be there. They’re the only thing you can count on.

    Answers are for people who don’t have the courage to live with questions.

  4. Pingback: The Great Calorie Debate and the Search for the Metabolic Advantage « Low Carb Confidential

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