Most of the definitions of ignorance imply a lack of knowledge but since the root word is ignore, I propose a better definition based on my recent experiences.
A lack of knowledge is not only not a bad thing, it is the fact of human existence that we can always learn more, improve our models, and grow out of dichotomous thinking that I criticized here.
I was at a conference filled with some bright and accomplished people and I found myself rebuked by what I would consider true ignorance at least three times.
The first occurred when a woman asked me what I do and I reply “I’m and anti-aging physician”. Her reply was “so you’re a quack?” This first type of ignorance is knee-jerk and derives from a faith in the natural order of death and decay as well as the hopelessness of mitigating aging. Is is a fear of hope that Aubrey DeGrey discussed. The source of willful active ignoring comes from mental laziness and I should have expected no less form a person who stated their job is to “tell smart people what to do” and that she gets paid “VERY well for it.”
The second disowning of the day came from a physician who I admired and who spoke beautifully of the moral calling of physicians. He implied that I should be ashamed of myself after flipping through my book for 15 seconds. His form of ignorance emerged from pride as he stated to the group “I am an accomplished physician and I have never heard of telomeres.” This sin is one of arrogance and comes from the delusion of perpetual enlightenment.
As the group discussion opened up and I attempted to explain telomeres and their role in aging and disease in 90 seconds, I was greeted with the most unkind third denial: the baseless accusation. The moderator of our session declared that he had spent an hour researching what I have studied for ten years. He proudly declared he had read 99 out of 182,000 articles in an hour the night before, and concluded that 99 of those articles indicated that telomerase causes cancer.
This final rebuke, breathtaking in its implausibility and arrogance, embodied the most insidious form of ignorance. It represented not only the lack of knowledge as the online dictionaries indicate, but the willful construction of a narrative ignoring all countervailing information.
No human, regardless of their cognitive, moral, or spiritual biases, could possible read ninety-nine articles in sixty minutes and conclude that telomerase causes cancer. Adjusting for hyperbole, if such a man, who is a bright and articulate physician, were truly interested in learning. he would have just asked “doesn’t telomerase cause cancer?” Instead, the knee jerk repudiation of the first woman, the arrogance of the second man, and the confirmation bias of an casual observer carried the day. To learn more about the topic of telomerase and cancer, read this blog by Josh Mitteldorf or watch this video.
So, I was dressed down for being a charlatan who is causing cancer based on his one hour of internet research versus ten years of clinical experience and careful consideration. In fact, my very first webinar was about some remarkable cases of cancer remission after taking a telomerase activator.
Ignorance is not bliss and it is not the absence of knowledge. Ignorance is an active state of denial or ignoring. It stems from fear, laziness, and arrogance and those are not the best traits we can possess although certainly the one’s we go to when faced with challenging ideas. As Orwell warned us in the dystopian future that has come to pass, “Ignorance is strength.”
In final irony came when during the group session someone asked a national cancer expert what the main risk factor for cancer was and the expert replied “aging”. I had earlier claimed that cancer, aging, and most diseases were caused by telomere shortening associated with aging and was rebuked.
My first cancer webinar mentioned above was with Miki Shimi, a physician who recently sent me an interesting article supporting the common sources of disease in aging in mutated stem cells. This new paradigm stems from a cell type called CHIP (clonal hematopoesis of indeterminate potential). This research supports my grand unified theory and indicates that mutated stem cells can cause disease in many conditions, including the cancer expert’s own area of expertise, myelodysplasia.
Sadly, the experts I meet are only interested in getting funded, confirming the bias that aging is not a solvable problem and has no common cause or relation to disease. To them, my unifying theory is not even worthy of discussion despite the biological plausibility, plethora of evidence, and simple elegence.
I maintain that most of aging and disease shares a common engine: stem cell mutation caused by telomere erosion. The fight to improve health and longevity needs civilian leadership because the level of active ignorance is only getting larger in those that believe in the cult of the sourcing heuristic, as I blogged about here.
If you are interested in learning more about science and staying healthy, please consider downloading my book, The Telomere Miracle: scientific secrets to fight aging, feel great, and turn back the clock on aging. It is not primarily focused on telomerase activating molecules but rather builds on the socially acceptable premise espoused by Nobel Prize winners, that we should do everything we can to increase telomerase activity. Funny how no one accuses those folks of being quacks and causing cancer…