STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
It’s impossible to know everything. Here’s the smartest way to be ignorant
By Joe Jarvis - September 26, 2019

I spent 15 minutes reading tuna cans in the grocery store the other day. I could have spent hours if I decided to look up each type online.

Keeping the price in mind, I wanted a smaller variety of tuna to avoid high mercury content and something with few dangerous chemicals in the packaging.

Finally, I made a decent choice. A mid-price smaller variety of tuna.

I’m not really sure about the chemicals in the packaging… but one thing I read online suggests avoiding a can in favor of a plastic pouch.

Food is an information-overload minefield.

For years “experts” have gone back and forth about whether salt, eggs, and animal fats are good or bad for you. They’ve introduced sugar substitutes, only to later link them to cancer.

And the debate will forever rage between the vegan and paleo religious sects.

Trying to find the ultimate truth of the best diet will drive you mad.

People react differently to this confusion. You could:

  1. Abandon all attempts to eat healthily. Eat what tastes good, and resign yourself to being unhealthy or overweight.
  2. Choose a dietary dogma, stick to it with religious fervor, and evangelize to others about the one true dietary-deity.
  3. Do your due diligence to eat pretty healthy. Adapt the info to your own body and situation, and don’t stress since no one seems to know anyway.

I choose option 3 because missing from the others is individuality. Has anyone ever considered that perhaps there is no one diet that is perfect for everyone?

Some things that are obviously unhealthy–sugar and fast food. My body tells me to stop ingesting this stuff because I feel like crap.

But that doesn’t mean everyone reacts the same.

A friend of mine grew up on candy and fast food. He was the most athletic of my friends in high school. And he still looks pretty good approaching his 30s, despite a corporate job.

Maybe his body reacts better to that stuff. Or maybe he always does enough exercise so that it cancels out the damage. Or maybe his body is rotting from the inside out, and will only start showing the signs of years of abuse in another decade.

I don’t know. And despite what experts tell you, they don’t know either.

Certain tribes close to the Arctic circle lived on whale meat and blubber for half the year. And they were perfectly healthy.

But that doesn’t mean you or I could necessarily be perfectly healthy eating whale blubber for half the year.

There are too many external and internal factors at play: nutrient content, how it was grown, additives, processing, selective breeding, genetic modification, health conditions food interacts with, ancestral homeland, etc.

Some studies suggest most people are not wheat intolerant, but glyphosate (a dangerous herbicide) intolerant.

Asians are highly susceptible to lactose-intolerance. It makes much more sense for Asians to cut out dairy than it does for me to cut out dairy when my ancestors have been drinking milk and eating cheese for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years.

(I love cheese.)

But it isn’t just food that is so confusing and impossible to nail down.

Just like sugar, we can all agree that war is horrible.

But is war never necessary? Should we never defend ourselves against aggression? Should we never eat fruit, because of the sugar it contains?

Fruit is good for you! And standing up against aggressive violence is too.

We have the same choice of how to react to various “truths.”

  1. Reject all truth as unknowable. Resign yourself to being ignorant, and cynically mock others for attempting to understand anything, or holding any opinions whatsoever.
  2. Choose an ideology, adhere to it with religious zeal, spread the gospel, and attack non-believers.
  3. Do your due diligence to understand what’s relevant to you. But don’t stress since no one seems to know anyway.

People of all stripes present “facts.”

Can I, or even a team of 100, really confirm one of the hundreds of “facts” we read on the internet daily?

I can’t tell the difference between a Hollywood movie and clips from a real war.

So are we to be stuck in this perpetual state of uncertainty?

Perhaps at some level that is our fate. We cannot possibly learn the truth about all the things we are told. There is nothing wrong with being mainly interested in the truths most relevant to your own personal life.

So take a defensive approach:

  • What do the people telling me this want me to do with this information?
  • How do they want me to feel/ act?
    • Anger, sympathy, frustration, love, hopelessness, desire, fear?
    • Will that benefit them?
    • Will it lead to the desired result?

Take 9/11 for example.

Whether the official story is true or not, the government wants me to trust them to provide me security.

Without truly knowing what happened on 9/11, I can still ask myself, have I become safer as a result of post 9/11 “security”? Have the wars in the Middle East decreased terrorism?

In my assessment, the government’s actions afterward should not be trusted. I can arrive at that conclusion without knowing the truth about 9/11.

If 9/11 was an inside job, the U.S. government got everything they wanted, and all their “progress” should be rejected and reversed. If 9/11 was not an inside job, then the U.S. government has failed their expressed purpose, and all their “progress” should be rejected, and reversed.

We can arrive at the best course of action without knowing the ultimate truth.

A broad knowledge base still helps get as close as possible to the truth. Often you can triangulate which facts are true if you gather enough sources and data.

But there are infinite subjects to consider. It isn’t possible, or even worthwhile, to find the truth about most things you are presented with on a daily basis.

It is up to us to decide individually which subject matters are most deserving of our focus. And just like the best diet, it will be different for everyone.

And anyway, it’s probably more worthwhile studying which diet is best for you, versus studying if 9/11 was an inside job.

We can control our diets. We can’t control a rogue state.

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