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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


It’s ok to not know all the answers

I watched Cosmos as a young girl, when Carl Sagan hosted, and was enthralled. Now, as an adult I have been enjoying the inimitable Neil deGrasse Tyson’s version and once again am enthralled. However, not just by the science but also by the many important things he points out.
To me the most important thing he said in the entire series was this: “It’s OK not to know all the answers. It’s better to admit our ignorance, than to believe answers that might be wrong. Pretending to know everything closes the door to finding out what’s really there.”
How very true and how very sad that many have never learned this important lesson. I know that many foreigners find the unwillingness of some Thais to admit that they do now know something, be it directions or how to do something, to be very frustrating at times. However, if truth be told, this unwillingness to admit ignorance is not limited to Thai people. It is universal; otherwise he most likely would not have felt the need to say it in the first place!
I see this unwillingness to admit ignorance coming from all quarters and all ages, all nationalities and genders. The idea that one can simply say “I do not know the answer to that question” is as anathema to some as it is to say “I am wrong”. This has nothing to do with the notion of “Asian Face” but rather, I believe, the feeling most people have that it is humiliating to admit ignorance and disgraceful to admit a mistake. In the West we are often taught, starting from very young, to admit our mistakes but not so much to admit that we don’t know.
One of the most important points Neil deGrasse Tyson makes is not just that we should admit to ignorance but that by pretending to know everything we close the door to finding out what is real. Too often people refuse to look beyond what they think they know and see what is really truly out there. They blind themselves with their own beliefs, ignorance and prejudices and close their eyes and their minds to anyone else that may think or see differently from themselves. As he said, just because you believe something does not make it real, it does not make it right. A lesson we can all stand to learn.

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It’s ok to not know all the answers