Mistakes are the only route to knowledge--even for God
My early drafts of this post—which I worked on for many days—did not mention God.
I was not aware of trying to avoid God or include Her. It’s just how it happened.
“You were trying to avoid Me,” God interrupted.
I was not satisfied and kept rewriting the post. And in the end, at the end, God appeared.
Then I rewrote the title and some of the body, and as I predicted, I published it.
I think I made a mistake not inviting God in the first place.
I hope I’ve learned.
The original post—more or less.
Not only can we learn from mistakes (I wrote originally), we learn only from mistakes. And by “we,” I don’t mean you and me; I mean everyone and everything.
“Even God,” God added.
Consider an animal deciding what to eat (I wrote initially). Its knowledge of what is edible is genetically determined. “I can eat anything that meets these criteria.” And it can learn.
Its initial knowledge was genetic and must have contained mistakes. That knowledge was sufficiently correct for its ancestors to reproduce in the evolutionary environment. But the rules embedded in that knowledge can only have been approximations. They must have had errors in the past, and those errors are likely greater in the present.
A creature may have chances to discover some of the genetically endowed mistakes if it knows how to gain new knowledge—how to learn. If it eats something that meets its endowed criteria and gets sick enough soon enough, it might infer a causal relationship. If it doesn’t die, it might correct that mistake: “I will not eat this kind of thing.” If it does, it will make a mistake—either by defining ‘this kind of thing’ too broadly or narrowly.
Still, this illustrates the process. Start with mistaken knowledge. (We must start somewhere, and the likelihood of perfection, first time out is zero—for all practical purposes.) Make a mistake. (Eating something harmful must surely be a mistake, even though consistent with mistaken knowledge.) Correct the mistake. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
This leaves other kinds of mistakes uncorrected. If a creature’s knowledge includes “do not eat this kind of thing,” how can it correct the mistake and discover that it is safe? How did the original mistaken rule come about? And it leaves out passing knowledge to subsequent generations.
For that, until recently, the growth of knowledge across generations has required mistakes. The next generation’s genes are the same as the last unless there’s been a mistake. A cosmic ray or chemical interaction might produce a transcription error—most of which will be unhelpful. Many will be harmful. But some copying errors produce a viable creature that is more reproductively successful—that makes fewer mistakes than others in its population. Thus, mistakes in knowledge are corrected by mistakes in copying, and together they increase knowledge.
Evolution embeds knowledge in the genome. Creatures that can learn embed knowledge in their nervous system or other parts of their bodies. Creatures who transmit knowledge culturally (mainly humans, but not only humans) embed knowledge in their physical environment and their culture. All these mechanisms depend on mistakes—on making and correcting errors.
Does knowledge increase other than through mistakes and their correction?
My answer is: “no.” Although I am happy to learn that is a mistake.
Where writing comes from
I’ve said that some of my writing comes from a source outside myself. If you watched me as I wrote, you’d see me making “inspired” mistakes and then correcting them. All my “insights” may seem like new knowledge, but they also correct earlier mistakes.
I learn from others, but that is a mistake-filled endeavor. I have learned who I choose to learn from by guessing, making mistakes, and correcting my mistakes. I can’t perfectly value each piece of knowledge, so I make mistakes. I make mistakes copying the knowledge I have chosen to adopt. And the knowledge I try to copy must have been the result of that person’s mistakes or the mistakes of others.
I don’t learn except through mistakes, errors, and error correction.
And, I submit, reader. Neither do you. Or anyone. Without exception. Knowledge always requires mistakes.
“Correct,” God says, finally appearing in this post, fulfilling the prediction I made in my last post and the comment in the head of this one leading me to finish and post it.
“If you believe God is omniscient,” said God—
“I don’t,” said a reader.
“I do,” said another.
“God must have made mistakes.”
“That can’t be,” a reader said or will say. “God is perfect.”
“Thank you,” God said. “I am. But You are showing your lack of understanding of Me.”
“If I exist, and a mistake exists, then I must have made that mistake. Otherwise, something exists that I have not created.”
“But if you have made a mistake, you are not perfect,” another reader said. “And you are perfect. So you cannot have made a mistake.”
“Thank you again,” God said. “But if I could not make a mistake, there is something that I could not do. And I would not be omnipotent.”
“I guess so,” someone said reluctantly. Or will.
“Don’t guess,” said God. “Think! I not only can make a mistake, but I have also must have made a mistake. And I have not only must have made a mistake, but I also must have made all mistakes. All of them. Every single one. I not only have all the plans, but I’ve also made all the mistakes.
“Doesn’t that lead to a paradox?” someone asked. “If you’ve made mistakes, then you are not perfect. If you have not made mistakes, then you are not omnipotent.”
“No,” God said. “You have made a mistake—which you can correct.
“You believe that if I make a mistake, I am not perfect. But the mistakes I make are not like the mistakes that you make. My mistakes are not due to ignorance. I am omniscient. I make every mistake with full knowledge.”
“As it has been written here:
God, being infinite, doesn’t have __a__ plan. God has all the plans. Every plan. And every one of Her plans corresponds to a universe in the multiverse.
“My plans are perfect because of My mistakes, not despite them,” God said.
“The Bible contains mistakes due to the errors or human transcribers and translators, of course. That’s because humans are not perfect.
“But it also contains mistakes that I have made because I am perfect. The Bible, the Koran, and My other holy books each record some of My mistakes. To say otherwise is to say that I cannot put mistakes in My books.
“Wow!” Someone said. “That makes a lot of sense.”
“Thank you,” God said. “You can only learn through mistakes. You may learn from your own mistakes or the mistakes of others.”
“And if you talk directly with Me or read a blog post written by someone who speaks with me, you are likewise learning from My mistakes.
“I know all there is to know because I have made all the mistakes there are to make,” said God.
“I have made mistakes, so you do not have to.”
“Like dying for our sins?” Someone asked.
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