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Welcome to Matt Ridley's Blog
Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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The more we know, the more we don't know

Science is the exploration of ignorance

Science is not the cataloguing of facts or the accumulation of knowledge. It is the production of ignorance. Scientists are in the business of finding new seams of mystery.

As Jennifer Doudna at U C Berkeley puts it in Erika Check Hayden's Nature article about the tenth anniversary of the first draft of the human genome sequence:

"The more we know, the more we realize there is to know."

In particular, the way that genes get regulated used to be a simple nugget of knowledge:

`a regulator gene codes for a regulator protein that controls transcription by binding to particular site(s) on DNA'

Now it's a gorgeous mess of ignorance involving small RNAs with poorly understood regulatory roles.

That's thrilling, because ignorance is the fun part of science. Before we knew there were ice ages we did not ahve the fun of trying to understand them; before we knew there were subatomic particles, we did not enjoy the thrill of trying to get our minds around them.

Will somebody please tell young people this? the way science gets taught -- as a catalogue of facts -- puts them off becoming explorers of ignorance.