Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dr. Bronowski and the Dangers of Certainty

This meditation, The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson from Auschwitz, touches on several recurring themes in this blog: (1) the moral dangers of certainty; and (2) science's disavowal of any claim to final knowelge, or as  Jacob Bronowski  says in the old TV show, "The Ascent of Man," science is always at the brink of the known.  It demands that we always consider Oliver Cromwell's plea: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

This was published in a New York Times feature called "The Stone," described as "a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless."  This online feature is usually worth checking out.


James R said...

Well said. Very well said; both the 'meditation' and the video clip.

Peter H of Lebo said...

A bit ironic, unless I am thinking of a different Cromwell but ask an irishman to consider Oliver's plea they would curse you with a traditional Irish curse, mallacht Chromail ort, or "the curse of Cromwell upon you". Seeing how that dude murdered 100s of thousands of Irish and his laws still plague the country nearly 400 afterwards because he created northern Ireland.

Big Myk said...

After Cromwell had taken over the government in England and brutally conquered Ireland, he turned his attentions to Scotland. The Scots had him upset because they had proclaimed Charles II as king. Cromwell made his famous appeal to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, urging them to see the error of supporting the monarchy: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."

It doesn't appear that Cromwell ever considered it possible that he might be mistaken, believing as he did that his many victories, some against much larger forces, were evidence that God stood with him. So, as Pete suggests, perhaps Dr. Bronowski could have come up with a better spokesman.

James R said...

As fine as Simon Critchley's article was, I learned more history from the two comments. As certain as that history is, Cromwell had a small range of tolerance for it.