When knowledge turns into wisdom

The evolution of the atomic theory has a glorious legacy that continues to expand.

At some point, a few brilliant minds thought of how every substance around us, regardless of how different its appearance or distinct its properties, was made of the same elemental particles. This eventually led to Dalton’s atomic theory, whereby he concluded that all of matter was made of indivisible particles called atoms.

Subsequently, we learnt that atoms were a collection of protons neutrons and electrons. While this stayed in place for a while, we kept discovering newer elementary particles and continue to do so. Today, we live a in universe where we understand at least 24 elementary particles – quarks, leptons, bosons, with 30 additional hypothetical particles.

The more we know, the more we discover how less we know.

And this is as true on the cosmic, inter-planetary scale as it is at the sub-atomic scale. Starting off with a view with the earth at the center and the sun and the planets going around it, we’ve expended our understanding to include hundreds of billions of galaxies with oddities such as black holes, supernovas and binary stars.

And yet, during all of these discoveries, there existed people who held on to their old beliefs and reacted with anger at anybody who sought to correct them. It was this mob of angry people who killed Socrates, Hypatia and Giordano Bruno. The lesser we know, the more we are likely to hold on to the little we know as gospel truth. A dedicated group of people believe that the earth is still flat. It is hard to argue with an idiot, because an idiot is blissfully unaware of his own ignorance.

The hallmark of wisdom, isn’t merely knowledge. It is knowledge that seeks to make us realize how little we know and fuel our humility rather than stoke our pride and turn us into an angry, ignorant mob.

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