Limited Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing

Limited Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing

By Paul Chong


Opinion is about the cheapest commodity in the world, freely and abundantly available. It costs nothing and people are ever willing to offer to be heard, irrespective whether they are experts on the subject or not. Of course, to be an expert takes years of study and even then nobody can claim to know everything there is to know, as knowledge is a dynamic matter that’s ever growing & changing.

As said, nobody can lay claim to know everything – not even an expert. In fact, an expert’s knowledge is so confined and restricted to his particular field of interest that he’s quite ignorant of other outside subjects. In Law itself, lawyers specialize in criminal law, corporate law & others. For this reason, often a panel of judges are advocated when dealing with an important issue.

In the early 60s, at the University of Malaya, we used to have visiting speakers like Lee Kuan Yew to address us. In one of those sessions chaired by Professor Wang Gangwu (then Chair of History), himself a fluent & eloquent speaker, this question was posed to the panel of speakers, “Who is more superior, a science student or an arts student?” The Professor responded that “though the science student may claim to be more intellectual, ultimately it’s the arts student that ends up being the boss & running the show.” Most world leaders are from the arts.

It is a verified truism that a single opinion cannot be totally acceptable. Thus in the courts of law appeals are allowable. At the High Court level, usually a panel of judges will preside over the case and a consensus opinion taken.

In any discussion, it is often difficult to see both sides of the picture. People tend to have preconceived ideas of things and hold steadfast to them. They become so dogmatic and indomitable about the whole issue that unending argument ensue. Under such a situation, it’s best not to fight it, for winning the argument may ultimately mean losing the friendship. There’s a saying “to run to live and fight another day”.

In this modern era, so-called experts are born everyday in every field of human endeavour. With IT (Information Technology) and the abundant materials freely accessible on the internet, everybody is becoming a scholar and an expert overnight.

Knowledge is dynamic and ever growing without any end in sight. You can’t know enough nor can you know it all. Sometimes, it’s hard to eat the humble pie, but eat it instead of crying over spilt milk.


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