"But honest men do not pretend to know; they are candid and sincere; they love the truth; they admit their ignorance, and they say, "We do not know."
- Robert G. Ingersoll in "Superstition" (1898)
My own thoughts on the quote:
Inherent in this quote is also a warning for a unbelievable callousness of many religious people. They simply claim to know the final and unmoving answers to question that are in real world impossible to answer in the real world. However, they often claim to have the final and unmovable truth of for example how things should be arranged in a life of a human being.
It just takes a lot more guts for a person to say: "I really do not know what the final answer is, and I do not know if I ever will". A true follower of any of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) will just never be capable of doing it. One of the main selling points of these religious just is a claim to have certainties in issues where they simply do not exist.
On the other hand, science is not at all about being absolutely certain and finding final and unerring laws of nature. Science is all about striving to reach the best possible answer there is to be had at any given moment. This is a quite different thing than a final and absolute truth that are offered so easily and eagerly by religions.
On the contrary, the answers that are given by science can and will change when new data emerges and enough scientists are convinced of the correctness of the new information. This difference is also the main reason why religion and science will always be inherently incompatible on a very basic level.
(This piece was refurbished on 31th of August, 2012)
"Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. He was nicknamed "The Great Agnostic."