Knowledge is Good
-- Emil Faber
Knowledge is Good
A possible motto for Everything2
It can be a thrill to learn something new.
Adding to the store of facts in my brain
-- and sometimes diminishing it (in quantity), when I unlearn
a falsehood --
is always worthwhile, in my opinion. And, even though I've never been
a great fan of studying, I've always enjoyed learning (though not to the point of sophophilia).
Go ahead, teach me something; I dare you!
I feel this way on the day that I learn
what a dubplate is, and I feel the same when I learn
how to catch a fish with your bare hands. Perhaps a bit of knowledge
(a knowledge knugget as I used to call them when I would
teach coworkers one thing every day about the computer programs they
were using) seems like it will never come in handy; perhaps it's the sort
of thing that might save my life someday.
Some famous dead people have opined that the mere joy of
acquiring knowledge is, in and of itself, only the first step:
The great end of knowledge is not knowledge, but action.
-- Thomas Henry Huxley
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
But debate has occasionally ensued, and probably will more and more often
in the future, as to whether some knowledge should
be used at all. The canonical example of this is the corpus of knowledge
from the infamous Nazi medical experiments. While the point is always
brought up that many of those experiments were really just sadism
poorly cloaked as science, that is really beside the point. The
reason most of that knowledge can be thrown out, even before the ethical
debate begins, is that it is not relevant to any real medical situation,
but rather only to whatever grotesquely artificial predicament the doctor
placed the victim in to begin with. But the few cases that did result
in real medical knowledge need to be thought about seriously.
This problem comes up in the news occasionally these days with regard
to the question of valuable tissues found only in aborted human babies.
(Whether or not that is the only source of, e.g., stem cells,
may be something that the medical community changes its mind about a
few times before coming to a final conclusion, but the ethical questions
remain, and will surely come up in other contexts.)
However, essentially the same dilemma is glossed over on a daily basis
when, for instance, somebody's life is saved by the transplantation
into em of the heart of a person murdered hours before.
It has become a political football, which means that it will be
discussed in less depth than it deserves, and probably will
be resolved, if at all, to nobody's satisfaction.
It is a difficult question. Religious fanatics
will give a knee-jerk opinion, as will die-hard humanists. But it is
not black and white. What I do know is that, if a person I love
is found in a snowbank and about to die of hypothermia, I won't let the
doctor refuse to employ Rapid Active Rewarming
just because it was validated by experiments at Dachau.
 The founder of Faber College, that esteemed center of
higher learning in the National Lampoon movie, Animal House.
 It amused me to no end that I was voted
most scholastic in high school, simply because I was
generally regarded as the smartest student there. Scholastic I was not!