In this week’s spotlight I want to direct your attention to the nature of confusion. Believe it or not, there are actually several different forms of confusion. First there is the obvious, the recognition that you are confused about something, perhaps even where you are or what you’ve been doing. We’ve all read or seen some story of the person who wakes up after a drinking binge in someone else’s bed, and knows not where they are or who they are with. This is a state of confusion, one we might think of as induced confusion.
Most of us have experienced confusion over some subject, perhaps the message someone was sharing with us, or some new skill set we were attempting to learn like calculus. So in this sense, confusion is a failure to understand.
Then there is the state of ignorant confusion. I refer to this one again, as ignorant confusion, because we fail to be aware that we are confused. Indeed, we are quite certain that we have things right. As with cognitive dissonance, we are unable to witness our confusion due to our certainty that we are not confused at all.
Perhaps an example or two may be helpful in clarifying what I have in mind. Let’s take this simple situation. You were taught in school that at the time of Columbus the world was believed to be flat. You may have repeated this story to your parents and/or even your children. A flat earth implies that the idea of a circumference is a non-starter. Okay, a friend informs you that 250 years before Christ, the circumference of the earth was calculated with amazing accuracy. “B.S. you insist!”
Obviously if the earth was flat during the 1400s, no one calculated the circumference, and how could they possibly do that anyway? This makes no sense to you so you are willing to argue this one with great vehemence. Now the fact is, the story about a flat earth is a myth. Columbus knew well, as did everyone at that time with any scholarly learning, that the earth was round. As such, we have two points here. The first, why were you taught the earth was flat? Why were so many of us taught this nonsense? The second, you have now become aware of how easy it is to fall into the state of ignorant confusion.
You thought you were informed but you were not. You were confident in your knowledge but ignorant of its fallaciousness. This is ignorant confusion, for you are simply unaware that you are confused.
Now I don’t want to neglect the dissonance factor, for there are those who from our example know both that the earth was round, yet still teach the flat earth myth. You might ask how they manage this, and the answer is most interesting. While they possess both bits of information, they fail to integrate them and thereby remain ignorant of this dissonance. When asked, you hear answers such as, “Oh—I hadn’t thought of that.” Or better yet, “Well, I thought the knowledge might have become lost.” In other words, even when aware, there is an attempt to meld the two mutually exclusive ideas with an imaginary bridge.
Now why have I chosen this subject for today? The answer is simple. There is no limit to the allegations, untruths, ½ truths, nonsense and other dis and mis-information being distributed everywhere today. The fact is, I recently heard several news commentators lament the fact that even where they are concerned, there are no editors any more. Editors play a big role in the dissemination of truth for among their duties is fact checking. So whether it’s a post on some networking page or a line heard on the national news, it’s all subject to fact checking today.
I have heard arguments of all sorts throughout my life, some supposedly hard fact, like brain cells begin to die in your thirties and are unable to regenerate themselves—a statement that is completely false! It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s hard science or political science, or everything in between, before we take a hard fast position on anything, we owe it to ourselves to insure that we are not living in a state of ignorant confusion. My thoughts anyway.
As always, thanks for the read and I appreciate your feedback.
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions