I was talking with a friend about a new scientific discovery when she replied:
"But the ancient already knew that. Old civilizations knew things that science is just starting to prove now".
It's not uncommon to see people who believe that the wisdom of old civilizations are somehow superior to our current knowledge or at least that they knew things we didn't.
No they didn't know shit.
Science is the most fantastic discover of humanity. Yet, most people don't know how it works.
What set science apart from other forms knowledge is that science is not about what you know. It's about how you know what you know.
Suppose that an old civilization had the idea that the universe is expanding because it's the breath of the old God. Science now knows that in fact the universe is expanding.
At first glance it would seem that this civilization had a profound understanding of how the universe works. This implies that we should be careful to not dismiss those ancient beliefs about the universe.
What if I told you that the same civilization believed that the earth was sustained by a giant turtle? You would find this ridiculous, right? Well. If they really had a profound understand of the laws of the universe they would know that.
Science shows that the universe is expanding because we have evidence of that. We can prove that it's in fact expanding. Our fictional civilization didn't have any proof, any real knowledge. They just got lucky.
You can be right by being lucky. Those same ancient civilizations got somethings right but a lot of things really wrong. For most of mankind history we actually didn't have a clue about how the universe really works.
The way you come to a conclusion is more important than the conclusion itself.
This is why not all knowledge has the same value. Science is a way to be less wrong a little bit at a time. It's the only path for truth mankind has at it's disposal.
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