I have come to the conclusion that the moment you say “I know…” you are entering dangerous territory. “I believe…” – yes. “I have faith that…” – certainly. But “I know…”? The pharisees knew and they were wrong. The wise men in Herod’s court had been studying so long that they definitely knew. And then didn’t recognise the truth even when it was under their noses. Wars are fought between parties who all “know”.
To say that we know requires something particular – perfect vision – and we just don’t have that. We see God “through a glass, darkly…”
This is also true about work and science.
As an L&D consultant I help people and teams develop skills and perspectives that assist them to move to where they need to be. I have concluded that I am most helpful if I work from a position of “I don’t know”. This helps me be open to possibilities, ensures that I don’t foist my pet theory on someone and gives space for creativity and innovation. Most of the time I don’t need to know anyway; I just need to help them know – to explore and conclude for themselves.
Scientists also work from a position of “I don’t know”. A good scientist will admit that proof is really only a lack of an alternative conclusion. As Sherlock would say, you eliminate all the possibilities and what is left is the truth – probably. I say probably because this assumes that you have explored all of the possibilities. The joy in science comes when a new possibility is discovered.
So a good scientist doesn’t claim to know. A good consultant doesn’t claim to know. And a good Christian doesn’t claim to know – after all, that is what faith is.
Postscript – I published further thoughts on this here