The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge

Somesh Kesarla Suresh
4 min readMar 8, 2018

The title “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge” was a quote said by DANIEL BOORSTIN but, it was closely related to the life of STEPHEN HAWKING.

While relating to S.W.Hawking, right from his Ph.D. thesis “Hawking Radiation”, “A brief history of time” to a single elegant equation which explains everything in the universe (The Theory of Everything).I was inspired by the movie “The Theory of Everything” at various scenes of it. Trying to understand various parts of it made me write this essay.

When we see the timeline of Quantum mechanics, right from Dalton’s atomic theory, JJ Thompson theory, Rutherford Alpha ray scattering experiment, Plank’s quantum theory, Bohr’s theory to Sommerfield and de Broglie’s theory, it’s been an improving theory at every stage which tells us that every theory was correct until the upgraded and contradictory version came out. It would have been correct for the person who found it, as he would live in a world of illusion of knowledge.Finally, the truth is his/her theory is wrong. A person living in his/her own illusion would never accept that his or her work would be wrong, It may be correct in his/her own perspective, but may lack a common view. The strange part of Stephen Hawking’s story is that he had moved his way towards disproving his own theory. Initially, his Ph.D. thesis stated that as time precedes the universe also grows, but if we reverse the time it may shrink and it was about “The theory of black holes and The Timespace singularity” which stated that Universe has boundaries.Then his new project disproves his Ph.D. thesis, which states that the universe has no boundaries, no beginning and there is no creator called God. When his writings were published as Hawkings radiation, which states the universe had a beginning and that made us believe that there is an existence of God. But, that was not everyone’s mistake to believe this will be the exact reason for the existence of God.

But, it wasn’t the people’s mistake but the writer’s mistake. It’s all about people who think they know something correct about a topic. And I think this is how all the great scientist’s had ended up in their research or inventions, some worked out well and some did not. Those which were irrelevant were corrected later on by other people. Likewise, Stephen also had 2 more chapters in his thesis which lacked proper mathematical proof’s and were loaded with full of imaginations and illusions.But, later on, he himself corrected his own theory in his next project by taking a step against his proposed theory. Gradually I started remembering an incident which occurred in my class, during my IIT-JEE practice. It was closely related to the title of my script. “Knowing a concept wrongly is more dangerous than skipping a concept”, said by my teacher, this was totally related to the negative marking of my examination. Because answering a question wrongly would fetch me negative marks. This is worse than getting zero marks for that respective question by not answering it. This small theory has made a lot of changes in my life, right from judging a person wrongly till being a person who is able to observe and learn many things from minute incidents happening in and around me.

Star Wanders Too Close to a Black Hole

The main point lies in the perspective, through which we see this beautiful universe. That is where the major difference lies among people, the mindset! In this world, there is a simple meaning and also a deeper meaning for all the great quotes said by most successful people around the world. One of that is, which every common man can understand and the other lies in an invisible path. One who had come across the same incident as like writer would be able to interpret the inner meaning of it.The simple version of the statement ‘’The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge’’, is that “It simply states that ignoring may not harm you as much as partial or incomplete knowledge may do”.Some people think they can help others with incomplete knowledge but this would only create deeper problems than a solution.Stephen Hawking never said this quote, this was a quote from Daniel Boorstin, an American historian who was referring to how people cease to look for further information if they are arrogant enough to believe that have all they need.

Many success stories heard by us emerged from a huge misconception…with this, we can’t say that everything which is existing on this planet is purely correct. But, there is no harm in imagining a concept, perhaps the problem arises when it is publicized with all the people and it is wrong. However, every school student is advised to build the quality imagination right from their childhood for making things simpler and interesting. But, the conditions apply asterisk tells us the imagination or the illusion must be the correct path or the actual way. The one information which is being said must be accurate and correct up to the maximum extent.This quote plays an important role in our daily life also, but the thing lies at how we become aware of it and how do we respond to it!

Finally, develop a habit of updating your knowledge or facts openly. It may help you in some point of your life. Rather than being completely ignorant, this is fine. If you ignore everything, then the world will ignore you.



Somesh Kesarla Suresh

Product Designer who loves Problem-solving 🧩 Catch-up my Design articles on and connect with me on