EPISTEMIC HUMILITY

Anyone who knows me knows that I love podcasts.  In fact, I frequently find myself frequently relating conversations to a recently listened to podcast.  A few days ago, I was listening to a podcast where the host was interviewing Megan Phelps-Roper, who was once closely tied to the toxic Westboro Baptist Church.  She is the granddaughter of the late founder, Fred Phelps.  Her story was quite interesting.  While still deeply involved in the church, she became active on twitter on behalf of the institution and it was through people she met online who took the time to hear her out and share their own stories that convinced her she was not where she ought to be.  She eventually found the courage to break free from the church and move away from its negative and oppressive atmosphere.  She now spends her time sharing her story and attempting to make amends with those she once hurt.  A phrase was mentioned in her story that really struck me.  The phrase was epistemic humility.  The word epistemic means relating to knowledge or to the degree of its validation.  Therefore, epistemic humility is having an appreciation for the fact that you don’t know and will never know everything there is to know.  Many of the problems we face today stem from a lack of this understanding.  People are so eager to share their viewpoint, which in their eyes is the only correct viewpoint, without taking the time to listen to others.  Spreading disinformation that makes us feel good just because it aligns with our point of view without researching the facts.  We lack understanding because we don’t take the time to empathize and listen to the experiences of others.  The more that science reveals of the universe, the more mysteries it uncovers, prompting more questions to be answered.  Human beings once thought the sun revolved around the earth.  Then we learned about not only our own solar system but have discovered a plethora of exoplanets circling distant systems among the billions of known stars in the billion of galaxies.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Many scriptural misinterpretations happen when the Bible is taken literally and without the context in which it was meant during the time it was written.  While there is most certainly a wealth of knowledge found in scripture, we can not ignore the book of nature that is laid out before our very eyes.  True followers of Christ would understand that the gist of the Bible is love and if you are closed off to your fellow human beings because of some misinterpreted text then you’ve completely missed the point of why God placed us here to begin with.  The joy of life is found in our differences.  In loving those who God places in our path regardless of skin color, nationality, social standing, dialect, or who they were born being.  Epistemic humility is understanding our finite knowledge as human beings.  I don’t think God intended any of us to ever claim we have arrived or have complete understanding of all things.  Otherwise he wouldn’t have made such an insanely complex universe.  I think that the day we are able to meet our creator we will all be in awe of all that we did NOT know.  We have only scratched the surface of understanding.  So, my takeaway from all of this is to stay humble, love others, be kind, realize that you will never know all things so don’t even pretend to have all the answers.  Take time to listen – I mean really listen – and empathize with others.  I guarantee you will find so many hidden blessings you never even realized were there had you been closed minded.  This is love. 

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