The statement We know with confidence only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases adapted from JW von Goethe implies that, the less knowledge humans have, the more confident they are. This claim can either be true or false depending on the topic of interest. In as much as it is debatable, the counter claims always bear more weight. Firstly, with little knowledge, one doesnt know many things. This is further complicated by the fact that they dont know that they dont know. Therefore, they are very confident with the little that they know. This can be related to a scenario where C students employ A students; some C students are always confident with the knowledge they have and never hesitate to invest in risky ventures, as opposed to their A counterparts who are full of doubts and have to analyze all the variables involved. Since opportunities wait for no man, C students end up winning most of the time.
On the other hand, as knowledge increases more doubts set in; one begins to question little things that were obvious to them before. It also suggests that education increases ones curiosity to start questioning things around them; for example why certain objects have certain shapes. If a graphical representation of knowledge against doubt is plotted (knowledge on the x-axis and doubt on the y-axis), this statement produces a direct proportionality (a straight line). However, in more practical scenarios, a climax is reached beyond which further knowledge decreases doubts. This relationship can stabilize or fluctuate depending on new developments in those fields. In those fields where research is widespread, new knowledge comes in on regular intervals contributing to the fluctuating relationship (troughs and hills on the graph). Medicine is one such field. More knowledge can dispel doubts but there will never be a point where there is no doubt.
From a religious point of view, confidence has very little to do with knowledge; it is based on faith, complemented with other religious teachings. For example, Christians from an early age are taught that the universe was created by God in perfect shape and form. Such lessons are repeated during Sunday school bible studies until they stick to their minds. Once the children are able to read, they get the same information in the bible which further cements what they were taught in Sunday school. One can say brainwashed, for lack of a better word, and polarized at an early stage; no amount of countering information later in life will change their beliefs. Muslims on the other hand attend early childhood religious classes commonly known as madrasas which introduce them to Islamic believes. This is the most appropriate time to instill such information into a child so that they grow up with it. Children of this age bracket have no judgmental abilities and will believe whatever they are told the truth is; they cannot question anything because they do not possess background information. As such, they take in whatever they are taught as the truth, and believe in it as they grow up.
When Christian children join school, they are introduced to various theories explaining the existence of the universe, such as the Darwinian theory of evolution and the big bang theory. Charles Darwin proposed that every life form we see today came to exist as a result of evolution and survival for the fittest; those that could not evolve and adapt to the new conditions were faced out. However, he appreciated the existence of a supernatural being that was responsible for the first life form on our universe. The Big bang theory on the other hand postulates that the universe came into existence as a result of a big bang which took place a long time ago. As a result of the bang, all life forms and other objects came into existence. After going through all these classes, most Christians if not all, still stick to their belief that the universe was created in its perfect form by God. To them increase in knowledge does not shake their Christian beliefs and teachings. The same applies to other religions around the world. When it comes to religion, no amount of scientific information will shake religious beliefs; science comes second after religion.
In the areas of Mathematics and Natural sciences more knowledge provides more understanding of certain subjects hence dispelling doubts. If something is not clear in either of the two fields, research is undertaken to shed more light on the same. For example, in the 1980s very little was known about HIV/AIDS infection. When the first few cases were reported there were lots of doubts about its origin. Many explanations were brought forward which had several loopholes. Some communities, especially in Africa associated this condition to witchcraft. To get concrete information about the condition, research was initiated and it has been ongoing to date. Even though a cure has not been discovered yet, the pathophysiology of the virus has been studied and understood to satisfaction. The rigorous and continuous research made this possible proving the fact that more knowledge decreases doubt. Right now there is so much evidence-based information on HIV that anybody can access and study to know for sure how the virus operates.
After exhaustively understanding the pathophysiology, the next challenge was how the condition could be managed; which stages in the HIV lifecycle could be targeted for drug action? Which drug molecules could target these areas? What pharmacokinetic or pharamacodynamic characteristics could be favorable? All these questions in addition to many others raised more doubts. They had to be answered, and the only way to do this was through research. As a result, several research programs were initiated around the world to quench the thirst for knowledge which would later dispel doubts. Even though there are still some doubts is as far as HIV management is concerned, most of the drugs have been profiled complete with mechanisms of action, pharmacokinetic and pharamacodynamic properties, and a constantly updated side effects list. At the moment much of the doubt has been replaced with a certain degree of confidence because of the information coming out of research.
Several community enlightenment campaigns on HIV/AIDS have also been carried out and are still on-going, to empower the general public in an attempt to further dispel these doubts. In Africa voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) programs were initiated way back and are now widespread and accessible to most of the population. If one does not know the signs and symptoms of HIV, their level of doubt about their HIV status will be low and they can even be confident that they dont have the disease. But the moment they seek information about the same, their consciousness will be aroused about the symptoms, especially when they present with similar symptoms. In as far as an ignorant person is concerned, more knowledge increases doubt, which is a good thing when it comes to HIV/AIDS. This is because the increasing doubts will compel the person to seek VCT services so that they can know their status for sure. If found to be positive, the patient would want to know more about the condition in order to further dispel doubts and know how to take care of themselves. Such people will forever be inquisitive about their medication (how they work, their side effects, and many more), diet, and lifestyle in general.
Still on natural sciences, a scientist can decide to carry out a research about a topic that is doubtful and controversial. The main aim of such studies is to produce evidence based results which can be applied to solve given problems in the concerned field. Research requires extensive reading and problem solving which have to be done in order for any research to be successful. This is the reason why researchers always believe and have confidence in their work even if the rest of the world does not. In most if not all of these cases, the rest of the people do not have the knowledge possessed by the researcher hence increasing their level of doubt. The researcher on the other hand, has so much information about the topic concerned and is more confident. In this case, more knowledge increases the level of confidence.
A paradox is a contradictory or controversial statement that in the face value seems to be wrong but when in-depth analysis and investigations are done, it can be found to have some truth to it. A perfect example is the claim by JW von Goethe that We know with confidence only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases, discussed above. In order to appreciate the full flavor of such claims, deep analysis has to be done. As our level of knowledge advances we begin to question little things that we always took for granted; we become more curious and therefore start to look for explanations to everything in our environment. As such, our levels of doubts increase since we continue to have so many questions that need answers. It appears that once we answer a question and clear the doubts about it, another arises accompanied with its associated doubts. This is a good thing since we will always strive to dispel these doubts by seeking more knowledge.
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