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Modern-day 'certainties' may not be

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Sometime in the last few months, I read a statement that went something like this: At any moment in history, the living participants think they are up to date, have the ultimate in knowledge and technical advancement and are at the apex of human understanding.

If you do not think this is true, just question the latest news to come down the pike, and, particularly these days, bullies will jump down your throat immediately.

Actually, this has been going on all my life – my brief 71 years on this planet. In the early 1960s, we thought music could not get any better. (It did – at least until the 1990s). In about 1969, I got in an argument with a bully who insisted “Cherish” by the Association was the best song there ever was and was so good no one could top it (but she did: “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon).

In 1979, people were saying the Apple II+ personal computer was as good as computers could get. I got into an argument over that, too, taking the side that this was just the start of the computer revolution – not the end of it. We in general society had not even dreamed of the internet yet.

The bullies who want to tell you that current ideas, technology and so forth are the epitome of human thinking and knowledge, I have noticed, have several things in common. They are certain they are right, quote allegedly knowledgeable sources, cannot reproduce the logic they are using in their own words, and if you challenge them, attempt to shout you down.

Of course, next year, if you can find them, they do not recall what it was that has now been proven to be so wrong.

Use your basic skills from school to think through issues. Do not be intimidated by alleged esteemed people. Do not listen to the noise of the bullies; in fact, be very suspicious of it. They are being loud for a reason (usually to hide their own insecurity).

I remember the first time I questioned an adult (but it was to myself, not out loud). It was at the intersection of S.R. 124 and U.S. 50 on the east side of Hillsboro, and I was 14. My parents had just decided to buy a 1962 Corvair. I was in the back seat. Dad was driving, and the salesperson was in the passenger seat. The salesperson said to Dad, “These 13-inch tires will last longer than the 15-inch ones on your old car.”

“Really?” I thought to myself. This makes no sense whatsoever. In fact, if you do the math, the 13-inch wheels make about 15 percent more revolutions per mile than the 15-inch ones. I learned a valuable lesson that day: Do not trust everything you hear.

Do not fall for the flawed logic of today’s knowledge being the best there is with no possible future findings that could be better (or even different). We, as individuals and society, are learning new things every day – information that often turns yesterday’s certainties on their head. And this has been going on forever. We have been learning new things every day since at least Aristotle, new ideas that make the old obsolete.

What certainties of today will be obsolete tomorrow? Not sure, but if Steve Roush keeps writing nostalgic columns in The Highland County Press, I am sure that in 10 or 20 years you will be laughing at many things we accept as certainties today – and today’s bullies will be nowhere to be found.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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