The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.Bertrand Russell

Galileo Galilei showing the Doge of Venice how to use a Telescope, some 7 years before things got ugly for Helio-Centric scientists.

What does that mean?
This quote claims that the bulk of the difficulties in the world are caused by stupid people. The stupid people, it says, are so confident and bold, and certain of the correctness of their ideas, that the rest of us tend to believe what they say and do what they suggest. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t go so well.

Unfortunately, the quote continues, the intelligent are full of doubt. They hesitate, they project their uncertainty in their words and body language. The rest of us, noticing these cues, are not prepared to move forward with their plans or believe what they say. At least I think that’s what it means. 8)

Why are both doubt and certainty important?  
In this quote, the certainty is used (perhaps unconsciously) by the ‘stupid’ people to convince everyone else to do what they say, and believe what they believe. This certainty often comes from ignorance, just as everyone once believed the world was flat and the Sun revolved around the Earth. Certainty is very influential and is an excellent method of persuasion, but like all tools, must be used properly and with care, never abused.

Doubt is the exact opposite opposite, and is useful for when one isn’t certain. If you are dealing with science, rarely is anything known with certainty until well after research has begun. To say with certainty that something newly discovered is a scientific fact is just stupid, right? This applies to the non-scientific aspects of the world as well. Don’t say you’re certain unless you are. Otherwise someone might believe you and do something stupid, firm in the belief that it’s not stupid.

Where can I apply this in my life?
Consider two major scientific announcements, that of Cold Fusion and the Faster Than Light Neutrinos. One was done with great fanfare and was spoken of with certainty. It was proven to be absolutely false within weeks. The other is still under investigation, and was announced with great trepidation and warnings about the questionable nature of the results.

The scientists announced with great certainty (and haste) the discovery of cold fusion, which was quickly shown to be fraught with errors. Fermilab’s MINOS experiment (in 2005), and more recently CERN’s OPERA experiment (2011) measured neutrinos moving at speeds that seemed to be faster than the speed of light. Because Einstein’s equations say it’s impossible, they were very much in doubt of what they found, and were very hesitant to announce that it was true.

To me, the lesson shown by these scientists is that when you aren’t certain, say so. If you are certain, you better double check your work a few times (just in case) before you announce to the world that you are a member of the ‘stupid’ group of people, right?

What in your life are you certain about? Have you double checked? Have you asked others to verify your idea? Whether it’s who you’re in love with or your bank balance, your lottery ticket or your car’s gas mileage, check it.

Eliminate all possibility of being uncertain. Then, with it verified, how will you act? Will there be more confidence and certainty in your discussions and actions? Will it change your choice of words? I would imagine so.

What in your life are you unsure of? What can you do to help nail things down, to find out for sure what the answer is? Who can you get to help you gain some certainty? Whether it’s who you’re in love with or your bank balance, your lottery ticket or your car’s gas mileage, figure out how to be certain, if at all possible.

If you cannot become certain, then you must remember to act and speak in a manner that has no certainty. To do otherwise might just get you labeled as one of the ‘stupid,’ and you wouldn’t want that right?

Be certain, or be in doubt. It doesn’t matter, so long as you are accurate. It’s less than optimal when someone who is right isn’t certain, but is tragic when someone who isn’t right is certain. Don’t be that person, as that would be pretty stupid, right?

From: Twitter, @GreatestQuotes
confirmed at :
Artwork by


About philosiblog

I am a thinker, who is spending some time examining those short twitter quotes in greater detail on my blog.
This entry was posted in belief, foolish, honest, intelligence, skepticism, understanding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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