If you're absolutely certain that you know what is true, this is a very good sign that you're wrong. Also, that you are religious rather than scientific.
This is one of the compelling insights theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli talks about in the concluding chapter of his book, "Reality is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity."
In another post I'll describe why Rovelli views the as-yet-unproven theory of quantum gravity as the best approach to resolving the divide between relativity theory and quantum mechanics. For now, I liked what Rovelli had to say about the approach of science so much, I'm sharing portions of it below.
This really is brilliant. Nothing astoundingly new. Just stated in a fresh appealing fashion. Rovelli captures why I love science so much, and why I've come to dislike religiosity so much.
This acute awareness of our ignorance is the heart of scientific thinking. It is thanks to this awareness of the limits of our knowledge that we have learned so much. We are not certain of all that we suspect, just as Socrates was not sure of the spherical nature of Earth.
We are exploring at the borders of our knowledge.
Awareness of the limits of our knowledge is also awareness of the fact that what we know may turn out to be wrong, or inexact. Only by keeping in mind that our beliefs may turn out to be wrong is it possible to free ourselves from wrong ideas, and to learn.
To learn something, it is necessary to have the courage to accept that what we think we know, including our most rooted convictions, may be wrong, or at least naive: shadows on the walls of Plato's cave.
Science is born from this act of humility: not trusting blindly in our past knowledge and our intuition. Not believing in what everyone says. Not having absolute faith in the accumulated knowledge of our fathers and grandfathers.
We learn nothing if we think that we already know the essentials, if we assume that they were written in a book or known by the elders of the tribe. The centuries in which people had faith in what they believed were the centuries in which little new was learned.
Had they trusted the knowledge of their fathers, Einstein, Newton, and Copernicus would never have called things into question and would never have been able to move our knowledge forward. If no one had raised doubts, we would be still worshipping pharaohs and thinking that Earth is supported on the back of a giant turtle.
...A scientist is someone who lives immersed in the awareness of our deep ignorance, in direct contact with our own innumerable limits, with the limits of our understanding.
But if we are certain of nothing, how can we possibly rely on what science tells us? The answer is simple. Science is not reliable because it provides certainty. It is reliable because it provides us with the best answers we have at present. Science is the most we know so far about the problems confronting us.
It is precisely its openness, its constant putting of current knowledge in question, that guarantees that the answers it offers are the best so far available: if you find better answers, these new answers become science.
When Einstein found better answers than Newton, he didn't question the capacity of science to give the best possible answers -- on the contrary, he confirmed it.
...The nature of scientific thinking is critical, rebellious, and dissatisfied with a priori conceptions, reverence, and sacred or untouchable truth. The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty: it is nourished by a radical distrust in certainty.
This means not giving credence to those who say they are in possession of the truth.
For this reason, science and religion frequently find themselves on a collision course. Not because science pretends to know ultimate answers, but precisely for the opposite reason: because the scientific spirit distrusts whoever claims to be the one having ultimate answers or privileged access to Truth.
This distrust is found to be disturbing in some religious quarters. It is not science that is disturbed by religion: there are certain religions that are disturbed by scientific thinking.
...To live with uncertainty may be difficult. There are those who prefer any certainty, even if unfounded, to the uncertainty that comes from recognizing our own limits. There are some who prefer to believe in a story just because it was believed by the tribe's ancestors, rather than bravely accept uncertainty.
Ignorance can be scary. Our of fear, we can tell ourselves calming stories: up there beyond the stars there is an enchanted garden, with a gentle father who will welcome us into his arms. It doesn't matter if this is true -- it is reassuring.
There is always, in this world, someone who pretends to tell us the ultimate answers. The world is full of people who say that they have The Truth. Because they have got it from the fathers; they have read it in a Great Book; they have received it directly from a god; they have found it in the depths of themselves.
There is always someone who has the presumption to be the depository of Truth, neglecting to notice that the world is full of other depositories of Truth, each one with his own real Truth, different from that of the others.
There is always some prophet dressed in white, uttering the words: "Follow me, I am the true way."
...For my part, I prefer to look our ignorance in the face, accept it, and seek to look just a bit further: to try to understand that which we are able to understand.
Not just because accepting this ignorance is the way to avoid being entangled in superstitions and prejudices but because to accept our ignorance in the first place seems to me to be the truest, the most beautiful, and above all, the most honest way.