Penn Jillette – I don’t know, so I’m an atheist libertarian:
My friend Richard Feynman said, “I don’t know.” I heard him say it several times. He said it just like Harold, the mentally handicapped dishwasher I worked with when I was a young man making minimum wage at Famous Bill’s Restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
“I don’t know” is not an apology. There’s no shame. It’s a simple statement of fact. When Richard Feynman didn’t know, he often worked harder than anyone else to find out, but while he didn’t know, he said, “I don’t know.”
I like to think I fit in somewhere between my friends Harold and Richard. I don’t know. I try to remember to say “I don’t know” just the way they both did, as a simple statement of fact. It doesn’t always work, but I try.
I’m a Feynman fan. I like his idea that part of the freedom of science is the freedom to be wrong and the freedom to not have all the answers. A good science education should teach you that there’s a lot we don’t know.
In college I worked at a local nature center. We’d take school kids on tours and show them plants and things. During the training we were told that kids will ask a lot of questions, some of them unexpected. We were told if were asked a question we couldn’t answer we shouldn’t feel like we had to make up something or guess. It was OK to say “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out.”