>It’s Hard to be Humble


I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth. – John Keats

I’ve recently been reading through a few books on the rise of Terrorism in the west and the declining influence of the UN and I had this thought;

Whatever Happened to Humility?

Everyone assumes they have the answers. Nobody stops long enough to think that maybe, just maybe they might be wrong.

What these recent books have been alluding to but never really admitting is that the rise of fundamentalist thought has paralyzed growth across a broad spectrum of disciplines and has coincided with the decline in broad based “liberal” education, not just here in North America but all over the world. In short; the Renaissance man is dead, killed jointly by the nuclear physicist and the fire and brimstone preacher.

In the west the result has been the rise of atheism while in other parts of the world it has led to militant forms of tribalism. We see it here in Canada very clearly. The most recent census data shows 23% of Canadians claiming “no religion.” That’s an increase from less than 1% as recently as the 1930s. In that same time span fundamentalist views of Islam in the Middle-East and around the world have similarly increased.

When you look at the numbers in terms of educated professionals they tell an interesting story. A western trained scientist is more likely to claim atheism while a Middle-Eastern scientist is more likely to adopt a fundamentalist view of Islam. By comparison the more educated you are in the arts and humanities, regardless of where you come from, the more tolerant you are of opposing viewpoints. The reason seems clear to me; when we train people to think in terms of black and white, they tend to view the whole world that way and can’t tolerate ambiguity. Tolerance lives in shades of grey.

Most of the more militant atheists tend to claim a monopoly on reason with a zeal that rivals that of any religious leader. But that reason goes out the window when a theist enters the conversation, the contempt goes beyond all reason. By the same token religion has a bad track record of denying proven facts when the truth of the matter is staring it in the face.

I blame the education system. Simply put, a system that is married to facts above all else kills tolerance and mortally wounds creativity. What we need isn’t more reason or even better proof, what we need is more humility on all sides.

The definition of humility is to know, what you don’t know. Humility loves questions, searches for answers and is always open to new ideas. You would think that professions that seek answers like scientists and preachers would both be among the most humble and open minded people on earth but they have been taught to be closed minded and arrogant. If our society is to evolved beyond sectarian violence and intolerance it will be the humble that lead the way.


  1. >A liberal education (classically liberal) does not preclude rational thought. Rational thought does result in seeking and determining truths. On the other hand, a 'liberal' society does its best to NOT determine 'truth'. In fact, it does not believe that truth can be determined. SOunds a lot like atheism.The rise in fundamentalism, "the strict maintenance of ancient or fundamental doctrines of any religion or ideology"(Oxford Dict.), is only a 'bad' result if the doctrines are not true, or the use of reason is not employed. One of the things holding back true enquiry is the arrogance of a society that claims that all 'opinions' are of equal value, even the most ignorant,yet at the same time ridicules any discussion of absolute truth.The public education system in Canada has been corrupted, not only by a strict adherence to anti- think political correctness, but also by union mandated 'special purposes'. Its hopelessly mired in ;social justice' politics, to the detrimant of the students' best interests, the structure and maintenance of healthy families, and the needs and desires of parents.I recommend homeschooling.

  2. Lauren Sheil says:

    >island breezes…Any discussion of truth or open mindedness needs to be seasoned with humility. I humbly submit that even your definition of fundamentalism is too narrow, it need not include religion at all, it is simply the strict adherance to any ideology and the exclusion of all competing thought.When I put the term "liberal" in quotations I was attempting to remove the political overtones but it seems I should have used the term "multi-disciplinary" instead since you misunderstood. I agree that values education is best done in the home but homeschooling only serves to isolate your children and stunt the growth of interpersonal skills. Children must learn to function in a society full of people who do not share their values, otherwise they grow up thinking that everyone is (or should be) like them. The best place to teach that is in a public school.The longer you delay that interaction and the sooner you force specialization the more likely it is for your child to end up entrenched in a worldview that may be incompatible with society.

  3. >I didn't misunderstand your use of liberal. Just making sure my use was understood, as I used it two ways. Homeschooling has done the opposite of isolate my eight children. They are more involved in church and sports and work and their own families than any of their private or public school friends- of which they have many. They have no trouble communicating and socializing with people of any background, race or age. Perhaps they are anomalies, but I doubt it. In fact the classical liberal education begins with teaching the student the 'passed on' values as a base- then as they learn to think and reason , encouraging them to accept or reject the 'passed on' based on their own experience of its truth or falsity. In other words they 'own' their values rather than follow blindly. This process alone helps to encourage both a search for truth and a tolerance for others. (Not necessarily an acceptance of their values- there's a difference). Statistics on success in university would tend to prove that homeschoolers are more capable of being independent than state-dependent students. My experience and knowledge of public school mandates and teachers (via being married to a teacher/principal) is that public school provides a low quality of graduate in areas of world knowledge, reasoning and communication – and aims to 'mold' society into – well, look around. 'Values' education is called life. Where you spend most of your day, will be your experience of life. While homeschooling is not possible or even a good idea for everyone, it does serve to make the child's experience of life one that the parent, rather than the dept of education/teachers' union determines. In most cases, this will be a good thing, as , in spite of gov't etc.. propaganda to the contrary, no one cares for or will sacrifice more for a child than his own parent. In other words, I agree with you. Education is largely to blame for actual intolerance and ignorance in our 'liberal' Canadian society.

  4. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Ah – then we are in agreement on something. My experience with homeschooled children, if not exactly opposite of yours hasn't been nearly as possitive. Especially in primary grades, the purpose of a public education is to socialize children beyond their family unit. Most of the homeschooled children I have know, regardless of their intelligence, have remained too isolated and ended up social misfits as a result.

  5. Andrew33 says:

    >Two things: I once heard humility defined this way: true humility will make the best of us realize that the least of us come first and is often ignored by the least of us who don't realize their true position in life.As for schooling, if one sends their child to a Catholic school, one expects their child to be taught that the catholic way is the right way. Same with a Mormon, Presbyterian, or going beyond the Christian denominations, Muslim and Jewish schools all teach that THEIR way is the right way. Given that this is so, why are people so naive when it comes to liberal atheist government run schools? Apparently the fact that atheists believe in no "grand creator" gives them immunity in the American "separation of Church and state" (or Church FROM State as the sorosites preach) debate. Isn't it obvious that state run schools are going to teach your children to worship the state just as a catholic school teaches worship of the pope as the "vicar of Christ"? Note: I have no problem with Catholics or their schools, but am simply using such schools as examples. This was a good post and is well worth discussing. I look forward to your reply.

  6. >My devout sister homeschools her four children. The kids tend to oversocialized, thanks to membership in a group of homeschooling parents. On the other hand, they are seriously lacking in the actual education category; as in grade-levels behind in mathematics for example.On to my main point…It's a tough problem to sort out. Humility doesn't lend itself well to a Capitalist system (in the broad sense of the term). In our psychology, we gravitate towards people who appear confident in their answers. That is where we invest, be it time, money, faith, or all of the above. Confidence sells, while humility loiters off the market in the realm of honest philosophers. (Sort of related to your post about how a true artist sells.)There is a cost with humility, a cost with being wrong. Besides possible embarrassment or wounded pride, the former investment of time, money, faith, or all of the above would all go to waste. Understanding this potential cost is enough to dissuade people from humbly seeking the truth, or even sometimes from accepting the truth when it is irrefutably presented to them.I don't have an answer about what to do about our polarizing tendencies. I'm sure education is one component of the solution, but there needs to be a community paradigm shift as well. Someday, if we can realize that helping our neighbor really does strengthen us and our community more than competing against him, we'll make great strides.

  7. >My guess is that you don't know too many homeschooled children. Of course, socialization is much easier if you attempt it from within a large family . On the other hand, I've always been proud of the ways in which my family does not 'fit'. Its part of what makes us confident, intelligent individuals. The 'keep your head down' indifference exhibited by many Canadians is not exactly inspiring 🙂

  8. Lauren Sheil says:

    >I never intended this to become a debate on homeschooling. I am not a teacher and I have no children. Two reason why I do not feel qualified to continue this debate, should any of my readers be interested in continuing a discussion of homeschooling just click on one another's profiles and email amongst yourselves.My main point was summed up nicely by The Wise Fool, there is a cost associated with humility. One that most people aren't willing to pay so we gravitate to the confident and charismatic and dilude ourselves into thinking that "might is right" even when the falicity of it all is humbly and quietly staring us in the face.

  9. >I wouldn't say preachers and scientists are taught to be closed minded and arrogant. It depends who taught them and many develop beyond their teachers. I've been equally impressed by opposite points of view before. Eloquent speech can sound like true knowledge. We have much to learn and much more that we can not learn ever. (Probably) A true willingness to be ignorant (not just admit ignorance) might be valuable to us. http://bumpker.com

  10. Lauren Sheil says:

    >bumbker jhymes…The trend in recent years has been precisely that. People are taught to think that their way of thinking is right. That is the very definition of arrogance. Ignorance is viewed as laziness or stupidity and a willingness to admit ignorance is viewed as weak.There is no creativity in science any more. There is creativity in application to be sure but the core sciences haven't given us anything new since String Theory, over 80 years ago.

  11. Jeff says:

    >I think that the ever increasing complexity of society also contributes to polarization. Years ago, life was simpler and it was easier to be a "Renaissance Man". But today, life is complicated to the point that many young people don't even know when or if they are a man. With such complexity, it is easier to figuratively speaking "lose sight of the whole picture" and instead get locked into a single viewpoint or narrative.

  12. >I came across this in a book – in the woods of God Realisation.BETWEEN THE BANKS OF PAIN & PLEASURE THE RIVER OF LIFE FLOWS. IT IS ONLY WHEN THE MIND REFUSES TO FLOW WITH LIFE, AND GETS STUCK AT THE BANKS, THAT IT BECOMES A PROBLEM.The is something we need to reflect upon.

  13. Andrew33 says:

    >Your point about creativity in science is absolutely true. I believe a large part of that is the removal of God from Science. Until the 20th Century in the USA, many of our advancements in science were brought about by those who believed in God and had a burning desire to get to know God by studying his creation. Einstein is a perfect example. When ridiculed because of his belief in a God that cannot be seen or heard by his fellow scientists in Europe, Einstien replied; air cannot be seen yet you believe in it. There is evidence of it every time the wind blows or you draw breath. While I probably didn't get the quote exactly right, his point was and is obvious.If the scientific community continues to abandon God in favor of human arrogance, it will not be long until God decides we are no longer deserving of our technological luxuries and that will be a sad time for mankind.

  14. Andrew33 says:

    >Here in America, our education has deteriorated far further than in Canada for the same reasons mentioned before. The notion that a family should hand their children to the government to raise and educate them is unwise at best. While you were told that the public school system was about improving social skills in children, that is not true. Until the 20th century, children below 11 years old were homeschooled, then sent to private institutions known as "boarding" or "prep" schools that were dedicated to preparing children for higher education at private universities. The term "kindergarten" which is the 1st year of school for children in the USA sounds German. That is because the concept took off in Nazi Germany and was intended to begin the indoctrination of "Hitler Youth" at the age where children are most impressionable. While homeschooling wasn't the goal of your post here, it is most relevant. The reason being as God has been ripped out of school and replaced with the religion of Atheism and government, the scientific community has undergone a "brain drain". Now concepts that are hostile to any notion of Christianity are being taught in American public schools and American families are taking their kids out of public schools at an unbelievable pace. There are already more American children homeschooling that using the public school system. Christian families are also forming private "education co-ops" where family members educated in one area or another take time out of their schedules to teach small groups of children their particular skills. This is because third graders in public schools in the USA are being taught that Islam was the historical pinnacle of civilization and sex with animals is good, but not American History, Reading or math. My Aunt is on the Board of Education in Houston, TX and recommends homeschooling or private/charter schools to anyone that will listen. Worry not though, California has already banned homeschooling and other more liberal States are moving to follow their lead thanks to the Teachers' Unions who are lobbying to get such things banned out of fear of losing their precious government jobs. A recent poll showed more than half of all Americans support the dissolving of the Federal Education system in favor of State or Local based education where parents would have far more input into what and how their children are taught. I personally belong to a group that advocates the option of homeschooling because of the very reasons I mentioned above. If you want to know more on the subject, I will be happy to introduce you to a friend of mine who is a theoretical physicist and homeschooled his 5 children who are all very successful in their respective careers.

  15. Lauren Sheil says:

    >jeff…Getting locked into a view point isn't necessarily the problem. The problem is being so sure that your view point is 100% correct to the exclusion of all other competeting, or even enhancing ideas. Kind of like trying to explain the beauty and complexity of a rainbow to a color-blind man.

  16. >Lauren,Not sure what I want to say here, other than thank you and everyone else who has commented. this is an excellent thought provoking discussion and topic.

  17. Lauren Sheil says:

    >wired journal…Sometimes you don't need to say anything, just spread the word.

  18. Ralph says:

    >I have much thoughts on the topic but have read the post and all the comments and tis being my first visit I will hol my thoughts to myself for the moment. I will though take the time to thank you for the openess of some of the discussion.

  19. Karl says:

    >I would tell you how it is, but the topic of your post has made my arrogance salient enough to me for me to keep myself in check. Instead, I'll just say one quick thing: I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "Tolerance lives in shades of grey", but if you mean what I think you do then I think you are deeply mistaken. Because to tolerate a thing is NOT to recognize that there is no fact-of-the-matter about the goodness or badness of that thing (that it is grey) – tolerated things are not acted against DESPITE THAT THEY ARE VIEWED AS BAD (by the agent).So why be tolerant? Perhaps what you meant by that grey comment is that sometimes we can't KNOW whether a thing is black or white or grey and so we should default our evaluation of it to gray – to neither act in support of it or against it. If that is what you mean, that's great. But even so I don't think that is very virtuous. When I think about someone who is tolerant in a virtuous way (as opposed to say, someone who is deeply depressed and tolerates everything including their own physical abuse), I think of someone who respects the moral goodness of self-determination. It isn't just "there is no black and white" or even "I don't know which things are black/white/grey" but rather "that is black but I ought to allow its existence." Obviously there are limits to how far such a right extends, but so too are there limits to when it is virtuous to be tolerant!

  20. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Karl…The world is not just grey it is many shades of many colours. Black and white is simply not an option. To say "I know how it is" is the hieght of arrogance. You can only say "I perceive this to be so, based on my learning and experience" and be open to learning and correction. That is how I perceive tolerance and humility.

  21. >This may sound non-related, but it is…the commodification and enslavement of sentient beings for human use and consumption can be connected to the unrest, terrorism and disconnect present in society today. See The World Peace Diet: http://www.worldpeacediet.com/ I'm not necessarily promoting the book, per se, as much as it's philosophy and approach.

  22. Lauren Sheil says:

    >happiness..Thanks for the recommendation, I will definitely check that out. As for your thesis about commodification, it goes hand in hand with one of my main points that crops up here from time to time; Peace without Justice = Oppression

  23. >Interesting article. Someone commented above- to the affect- that the education system may be to blame for lack of humility. They may be on to something. Essentially, the system is designed to instill confidence in the student, at least that is my reading. Its debatable if such has actually been the case. Please allow me to share a statement of the Prophet Muhammad- upon whom be peace and blessings. He says "Surely, a humble person is one whom God elevates."Basically, humility is a quality that should be encouraged. If someone is rich, they don't have to flaunt it. If they are knowledgeable, it need not become a weapon to impose on others. There is more that can be said on these issues, and I hope to continue checking out this blog.RegardsS.Waheed

  24. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Waheed…Confidence is not a bad thing, in fact it is a very good thing but confidence and humility are not opposites. Humility is knowing what you don't know and remaining open to learning. If the education system did a better job of instilling both confidence and humility the world would be a much better place.

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