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Those things that we don’t know we don’t know should lead us to be intellectually humble

There are things that we know that we know. For example, two plus two is four, and water is made up of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. And there are things that we know that we don't know. For example, the exact number of stars in the universe or the exact number of grains of sand on the beaches of our planet.

But there are also things that we do not know that we do not know until we discover that we do not know. 

For example, NASA scientists recently announced that the Perseverance rover managed to open a Martian rock inside which "something never seen before was seen." In fact, it is not yet known exactly what was found in the rock, but it is believed that they could be signs of Martian microbial life from billions of years ago.

In other words, we did not know that we did not know that (if the finding is confirmed) there were traces of microbes on the rocks of Mars.

Also, we did not know that we did not know that in the center of the Milky Way there is a mysterious barrier that prevents half of the cosmic rays from reaching the center of our galaxy. But recently a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences detected the presence of this barrier, surrounding the central molecular zone of the galaxy.

We did not know that we did not know that this barrier existed and until now we do not know what it is.

And according to the English scientist Michael Rowan-Robinson, of the Imperial College of London, he and colleagues would have found a new planet in our solar system, orbiting about 15 astronomical units from the sun (that is, 15 times the distance from the sun to the earth).

We did not know that we did not know that there could be a planet several times larger than the earth at that distance from the sun.

The examples could be multiplied, but the teaching is clear: we do not know what we do not know until we begin to know it. Meanwhile, everything we think, say and do is based on our ignorance.

There was a time, until not long ago, when we recognized that there are things that we do not know, but could know (for example, the exact age of the earth) and things that we do not even know that we do not know, recognizing those situations, we say, led to an attitude of intellectual (and existential) humility.

However, ignorance has now ceased to be the learned ignorance of which Cusa spoke to become an arrogant ignorance that falls into the dangerous trap of believing that it knows, but it does not. Believing that you know when you don't know is worse than ignorance itself.

Therefore, discoveries like those mentioned and like many other similar discoveries throughout history are a constant invitation to be cautiously humble about what we think we know.

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