Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

21st Century man is no more knowledgeable than his 19th Century predecessor: he simply thinks he is

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To answer this question entirely and accurately it is necessary to define quite what we mean by knowledge. Knowledge is the state or fact of knowing; the familiarity, understanding or awareness gained through experience or study; the sum or range of what has been perceived, studied or learned; learning, erudition: teachers of great knowledge or specific information about someone.

This question needs to be answered before we can say whether a layman has become more knowledgeable since the 19th century or not. I will focus on the first definition that states, "Knowledge is the state or fact of knowing. " A man's knowledge consists of facts and we cannot say whether these so-called facts are true because if somebody tells us something we merely take it for granted that it is the truth. We can mainly tell what the macroscopic properties of something are i. . if someone confronted us with a red baseball bat we would be able to see that it was red and metallic looking and nobody would be able to disprove these facts. If we looked at the baseball bat closer though, going into the realms of science and the theories surrounding it and somebody said that the rod was steel and the atomic structure of steel was such and such and the properties of it were such and such we wouldn't be able to see these things in reality.

What we are taught in schools and elsewhere is basically the thoughts of other supposedly clever men and women and we cannot that they are true - to be very honest we cannot prove that anything is true not even that the world we live in is real and that we actually exist as people. An instance of everyone believing the words of some supposedly clever men is when before the time of Galileo (who proved this to be utter rubbish) it was widely believed that the world was flat and anyone who disagreed with this was joshed and laughed at, as everyone knew that the fact was that the earth was flat.

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This leads to my belief that in years to come things that we take for granted such as that we have landed on the moon will be proved to be complete rubbish and an immense cover-up by an embarrassed nation who could give its people what they wanted and so had to trick them into believing about space flight. From this we discover that knowledge is purely subjective and could not be any other way. Our knowledge of science or at least our layman's grasp of it is in fact a jumble of half-remembered "facts" which we regurgitate when necessary.

My view at the moment would be that a layman in the 21st century does know more a bout science than his predecessor in the 19th century. In the 19th century education was neither compulsory nor state-funded as it is today and so only the rich would have the benefit of a sound education and they could not be counted as lay. Even if they could be counted as lay though due to the fact that there has apparently been extremely large amounts of scientific discoveries made, such as that of electricity, between the 19th century and the present day.

Other resources such as the media and the internet help to make information more widely available to us today and these certainly wouldn't have been available or even existed in the 19th century. Every bit of this contributes to our so-called knowledge making us a more knowledgeable human being. We at Winchester College are in a slightly different situation to the your Joe Public on the street but even we have no idea what Phenyl Cyclo Hexyl Hyperidine (otherwise known as PCP) actually is.

Now we ask ourselves do the scientists who do these things actually know that they are true or are they merely making educated guesses about them. They don't; they merely speculate and that is the most that anyone can do. The fact that these scientists are always improving their theories suggests even more so that they are speculatory, as a fact cannot be changed in such a way by definition. The only thing that can be said to be a fact upon this apparently realistic earth, actually a simulation, is the Ultimate fact - that God exists.

Unfortunately this is only the Ultimate fact to those who believe in God so even this can be argued against. Humans, at least in my knowledge, has not evolved at all since the 19th century thus our brains have no more capacity for extra knowledge, merely that we have extra information crammed into our head due to the fact that information is more readily available to us, rather than actually having more knowledge than we did in the 19th century. We could thus be called more knowledgeable but we don't even know whether this so-called information is actually true or not.

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