Agnotology, do we know? Part 1

Reading time: 2 min.
Translation: Régine Paradis

        “To ignore ignorance is to remain in the world of unawareness.”             – Mofaddel Abderrahim

Surprisingly, with easy access to a wealth of knowledge, are we more knowledgeable or ignorant?

The historian of science Proctor [1] observed the marked attention for epistemology (study of knowledge) at the expense of agnotology (study of ignorance). The interest of such an article is inspired by the social, political, psychological, and moral situation in which we have been immersed for some time and probably for a long time.

The idea of this column, which will be presented in two parts, is to sensitize the reader to the mechanisms of ignorance: 1) what we don’t know; 2) why we don’t know; 3) how to keep ourselves in ignorance; 4) how to use our “I don’t know” as a lever towards knowledge.

Let’s say at the first place that ignorance is necessary [2] for the search for knowledge. Let’s be more precise. Becoming aware of our ignorance is a key element that acts as a starting point and also as an ending point, and so on. This movement, fueled by a natural curiosity, can be obstructed by various mechanisms that have the effect of numbing us in our search for knowledge.

The first obstacle to our search for knowledge is ourselves. Apart from our involuntary ignorance characterized by a lack of information and expressed by “Oh, you’re telling me! I didn’t know that…“, there is voluntary ignorance.

Voluntary ignorance is characterized by the result of something we choose. We decide to refuse to know for various reasons e.g. lack of interest, fear of confronting our knowledge, denial of needing it, cognitive dissonance, mismatch between our emotions, and our knowledge creating reflective paralysis, etc. This denial is present even if the information is available and even relevant to consider. There is also the strategy of concentrating on what we are comfortable with, thus choosing what we want to know and ignoring what we are not comfortable with. This is a simple way to deal with the discomfort of a perceived paradoxical situation.

The choice to ignore (or to know) is ours; it is a matter of responsibility. “Each person is totally responsible for his/her actions…” – Rael[3]  

The second pitfall is the source of the information. Our search for knowledge leads us to consult various mediums: media, experts, scientists, producers, etc. We depend on these mediums to obtain the information we seek. By the same token, rightly or wrongly, we trust them since it seems logical to us to rely on those who know. We base our trust on the principle that these mediums cannot abuse the trust we place in them.

Some of these mediums (producers, industrialists, etc.) aim to sell and market their product by promoting the benefits while concealing information. Some of them, among others, drugstores, tobacco companies, even go as far as to parasitize the warnings and advice issued by third parties by orchestrating studies in order to distract and even give false information.

Other media, including independent scientific councils, aim to ensure control and regulation by informing the public of the impacts of the product or by proposing other avenues. And this, by various educational means or non-partisan studies corroborating their discoveries thus enriching the heritage of knowledge.

The third pitfall is what the Portuguese sociologist Santos[4] called, in reference to the elimination of knowledge, of social practices of the colonized peoples, “epistemicide”. For some time now, we have been confronted with a strategy on the part of certain mediums who aim to discredit those who present a message based on an honest intellectual approach supported by a rigorous scientific methodology giving positive and robust results over time. These mediums create doubt with a perverse approach that questions and even disregards the heritage of knowledge by making people believe that their so-called knowledge is backed by experienced experts. These claims give the illusion of legitimacy as they succeed in influencing decision makers. The latter use this so-called knowledge to orient their policies, thus formalizing this knowledge and implying the obsolescence of the knowledge heritage.

Trusting psychics who seem to have “interests” that are good for us, in addition to deafness and willful blindness to our own interests, we just follow everyone indiscriminately.

Because only a minority can be conscious, as for the majority, it is always a bleating flock that one must be wary of like the pest and stay away from if one wants to remain oneself and preserve one’s brain functioning at the top of its possibilities.[5] – Rael

How to avoid falling into the trap while considering the information? The doubt towards these mediums is a defense to preserve one’s critical spirit necessary to one’s free will. Let’s see what happens next in Part 2 of Agnotology, do we know?

Rachel Bluteau
Columnist for the Raelian Movement

[1] Godrie B., Bandini A.: What ignorance teaches us,

[2] L’ignorance est nécessaire (Ignorance is necessary) (Voltaire, the ignorant philosopher) (in French only)

[3] Rael: Words of Maitreya, from A to Z, P. 89

[4] Godrie B., Bandini A.: What ignorance teaches us,

[5] Rael: Words of Maitreya, from A to Z, P. 30