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The Un-Comfort Zone II by Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. What Were You CERTAIN About? When I was 11, I was certain kissing caused pregnancy - boy, did I take a ribbing for it. I used to be certain butter, salt, red wine, and coffee were bad for me. Now I hear all of those in moderation may actually be healthy for me to consume. There’s a problem with certainty . . . nothing is really certain. Most people in the world used to be certain malaria is caused by bad-smelling air from swamps; the sun revolves around the earth; the earth is flat (notwithstanding the current fad); bloodletting or draining the blood out of people improves health; swimming within an hour of eating causes cramps and drowning; bats are blind, and eating tapeworms will help you lose weight (remarkably there are still a few idiots doing this). Certainty makes people comfortable, and it gives them a sense of security. It also generates confidence, which can some- times turn into arrogance. The problem of certainty is nicely illustrated in the classic parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Five blind men touch different parts of an elephant then argue among themselves about what an elephant is. The blind man who touched the ele- phant’s side said, “It is a wall.” The man who touched the tusk said, “It is a spear.” The one who touched the trunk said, “It is a snake.” The man who touched the leg said, “It is a tree.” The one who touched the tail said, “It is a rope.” Each was certain of the whole truth even though his knowledge was limited. Certainty stifles freedom and creativity. Lately, I’ve heard phrases like: “the science is settled” and “a consensus of scientists agree.” Science isn't about consensus, politics is. Science is about evidence, provable - repeatable - evidence. In science, one person can be right and everyone else wrong. In 1848, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis discovered handwashing between patients stopped the spread of disease and saved lives. He promoted this concept, but all other doctors believed bad air caused disease and wouldn't listen to him. Semmelwies con- tinued to promote his idea, so a colleague had him locked up in an insane asylum where he died. Today, handwashing is pre- venting the worldwide spread of disease. Thankfully, now, we have the Scientific Method: start with a question you are curious about; do some research, make a hypothesis (an educated guess), predict a conclusion; test your hypothesis by conducting experiments; analyze your data and draw a conclusion. Rinse and repeat. Once you think you’ve proven something, your theory will gain credence when someone else is able to duplicate your experiments. Others may try to disprove it, or see if another theory works even better. There is no certainty in science. During times of political upheaval and violence, people start seeking stability, authority, and certainty. Religious certainty has led to persecution, massacres, and war. Political certainty in the 20th century led to an estimated 100 to 200 million deaths. Journalist Henry L. Mencken once observed, “Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure.” I recently read L. Neil Smith’s sci-fi short story: A Matter of Certainty . In fact, it inspired me to write this article. It’s about two alien armies battling over a planet in the middle of nowhere. Both armies have exhausted their resources, and the moth- er planets have sent word that no supplies are coming, and to survive they must cease hostilities and colonize their respective sides of the planet. A pair of emis- saries arrive, from a third alien culture, who have been hired by both sides to teach the combatants how to stop fighting and save their species. The story is told via a conversation between the ranking officer from one army and one of the envoys, who explains how his species stopped warring when it came to realize: “The real crime is acting on a belief that certainty entitles you to impose your views on others.” The real problem with certainty is it doesn’t offer a tolerance to, or a strategy for, dealing with change. Change is constant, and certainty inevitably yields to it. Instead of certainty, we need a healthy skepticism, and the courage to question authority. Robert Robert is an innovation/change speaker, author, and consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive through innovation and with people who want to think more creatively. Contact him via e-mail to New & Used Tricones PDCs Drag & Claw Bits Drill Collars Bit Tipping Subs & Stabilizers HDD Bits & Reamers DTH Hammer & Bits Custom Fabrication Junk Mills / Fishing Tools Rod Henderson 661-201-6259 Eran Henderson 661-330-0790 14 SEPTEMBER 2020 WorldWide Drilling Resource ®