From Ignorant Militance to Militant Ignorance

I love this piece from ‘Why Model’ lecture by Joshua Epstein 

To me, however, the most important contribution of the modeling enterprise–as distinct from any particular model, or modeling technique–is that it enforces a scientific habit of mind, which I would characterize as one of militant ignorance–an iron commitment to “I don’t know.” That all scientific knowledge is uncertain, contingent, subject to revision, and falsifiable in principle. (This, of course, does not mean readily falsified. It means that one can in principle specify observations that, if made, would falsify it). One does not base beliefs on authority, but ultimately on evidence. This, of course, is a very dangerous idea. It levels the playing field, and permits the lowliest peasant to challenge the most exalted ruler–obviously an intolerable risk.

This is why science, as a mode of inquiry, is fundamentally antithetical to all monolithic
intellectual systems. In a beautiful essay, Feynman talks about the hard-won “freedom
to doubt.” It was born of a long and brutal struggle, and is essential to a functioning
democracy. Intellectuals have a solemn duty to doubt, and to teach doubt. Education, in
its truest sense, is not about “a saleable skill set.” It’s about freedom, from inherited
prejudice and argument by authority. This is the deepest contribution of the modeling
enterprise. It enforces habits of mind essential to freedom.

Based on the author’s 2008 Bastille Day keynote address to the Second World Congress on Social Simulation, George Mason University, and earlier addresses at the Institute of Medicine, the University of Michigan, and the Santa Fe Institute.




About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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