The Blind Spot: Science and the Crisis of Uncertainty

By William Byers | Go to book overview

5
Ambiguity

We must learn to be comfortable with not knowing, with
ambiguity and uncertainty.

—Arthur Zajonc1


INTRODUCTION

To live in a world of absolute certainty, even if it is only the dream of certainty, is not wrong but it is limited since it involves looking at only one side of the total situation. Acknowledging the existence of a blind spot implies a willingness to live with the other side, the side that contains uncertainty and incompleteness as well as ambiguity and even paradox. In this chapter, I focus on the phenomenon of ambiguity. The usual take on ambiguity is that it reflects a break down in certainty and is “corrected” by removing the ambiguity, thereby reestablishing certainty. The ambiguity is not seen as having any value in its own right. However, in this chapter and those that follow, we shall see that ambiguity cannot be permanently avoided, and, moreover, that it has value in its own right. If we take seriously the existence of a blind spot, then we might ask about the existence of a mechanism for melting down the rigidity of a state of permanent certainty. Ambiguity, as we shall see in the following, is that mechanism. It contains two points of view (like certainty and wonder) that are both valid but which conflict with one another. It is this conflict that forces us beyond either partial viewpoint.

Ambiguity represents a new approach to science, an approach that is open, and flexible; an approach that has room for the problematic and the

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The Blind Spot: Science and the Crisis of Uncertainty
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface- The Revelation of Uncertainty vii
  • 1 - The Blind Spot 1
  • 2 - The Blind Spot Revealed 17
  • 3 - Certainty or Wonder? 38
  • 4 - A World in Crisis! 59
  • 5 - Ambiguity 69
  • 6 - Self-Reference- The Human Element in Science 91
  • 7 - The Mystery of Number 106
  • 8 - Science as the Ambiguous Search for Unity 124
  • 9 - The Still Point 156
  • 10 - Conclusion- Living in a World of Uncertainty 179
  • Acknowledgments 187
  • Notes 189
  • References 197
  • Index 203
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