Rumor made real

Since Carr used the "E" word in his recent Wikipedia post, I'll add few thoughts of my own.

Philosophers generally describe knowledge as justified true belief. Personal insight may be valuable to the inclusionist - sees Carr's post - on ethical grounds because everyone derserves to be heard - but rather useless to the rest of us if that belief is about, for example, tall purple people inhabiting other star systems.

So while the oddball familiar with intelligent life elsewhere may believe in the value of space travel, it's the propulsion systems that might make it possible that has the greater utility for the rest of us. It is potential made more likely by trial and error, scientific repeatability, reason, and in no small measure on the courage of people who will assume the bodily risk.   

Similarly Milton has a depth unavailable in George Jetson. Struggling through and epic poem is difficult, but offers commensurate rewards because it can teach us something about ourselves. The arts work to produce in us the atomic elements of wonder, nobile purpose, profundity and, occasionally, sharp insight. Together, the arts and sciences have the unique ability to create knowledge by making belief accessible to the rest of us.

A collection of mere belief is hearsay. A collection of knowledge - what we all desire in an encyclopedia - is rumor made real.