Bob Edwards

“A little learning is a dangerous thing but a lot of ignorance is just as bad.”

They say that a little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing. I remember when I was going through school as a psychology student, I found myself suffering from the psychology equivalent of medical student syndrome. I was self-diagnosing myself (and those around me) with just about everything, recognizing this symptom and that.

Of course, I was only armed with a little bit of information. I had only taken a handful of introductory courses on psychology and I certainly was not qualified to make those diagnoses. You see the same thing all the time in the world of politics and public policy. Suddenly, with access to the Internet and reading little tidbits of information, everyone thinks they’re an expert. Of course, they’re equally likely to fall into the trap of collective ignorance and the echo chamber will simply reinforce that false knowledge and lack of context.

The Tip of the Iceberg

But I’d rather know a little something than not know anything at all. Armed with that little nugget of knowledge, I must then seek out supplementary information. I must learn more about that topic. And that’s how you slowly develop your knowledge base on any particular subject. Especially when we have a world of knowledge at our fingertips, ignorance is no excuse. As Neil deGrasse Tyson once told us, the “smart” person is not the one who can memorize facts; it’s the person who “can figure stuff out.”

I’d imagine that Bob Edwards would agree. Best known as the host of The Bob Edwards Show on XM Satellite Radio, as well as being the one-time host of Morning Edition on NPR, Edwards reminds us that while it is true that a little bit of knowledge can be bad, “a lot of ignorance is just as bad.”

A Good Slippery Slope

I’d argue that a lot of ignorance is actually worse, because “a little learning” can lend itself to more learning. That’s how we grow and evolve. That’s how we become more knowledgeable. In fact, while it may be true that ignorance is bliss, it seems like the more you learn, the more you realize how little you really know. I think that the real experts in any field should almost be the most skeptical too. Indeed, the very nature of science is to “know” nothing and question everything.

So, get out there and learn something. Then, you can realize how much more learning you have to do.