How comes we know what whe know ?
We can distinguish several stages of getting knowledge, which have evolved from what monocellular organisms know, into what we, humans, know.
Stage 1.Knowing without learning
An earthworm does not learn. It just does what it feels it must do: digging tunnels, eating soil, copulating, etc. It’s all in it’s genes. It never has to learn anything.
This holds for thousands of other animal species. They never learn. They just do what they have to do, without even consciously knowing what they are doing. Les’s say it’s all just biochemistry.
The necessary information to do the right thing at the right moment has grown in their tiny brains just like the other organs in their body. Evolution has taken care of that.
Stage 2. Knowing by learning from experience.
Ever saw a mother cat bringing a living mouse to her cubs? She lets them play with it, to let them experience what it means to handle a living mouse. The little ones have to try, fail, try again and learn by doing it. Just like you and me have to learn to drive a car or to play the guitar. We have to feel it. We have to experience it, we have to fail and fail again and to become better and better at it. Even Jimmy Hendrix began that way.
The necessary information to do the right thing at the right moment is stored in our brains bit by bit, by experiencing the right and wrong moves.
Our environment provides the necessary conditions to experience. And what we experience is the real world, the true world.
Stage 3. Knowing by learning from others.
This is a total other sort of learning. You just listen to what someone else says (or you read what he/she has written) and then you know. If someone tells you that you have to push the red button, not the green one, to open a particular box, well, without ever having seen the box you know how to open it.
The necessary information was put in our brain just by listening, or by reading.
So far so good. But the third form of knowing is a dangerous one.
What if that other person told you it is the green button, in stead of the red one? You would push the wrong button.
Learning from others means believing, without having experienced it yourself. It even opens the possibility for learning and believing erroneous information.
Do you believe that a iPhone is actually better than a Samsung Galaxy? Why ? Have you tested it ? Is it because someone told you so? Is it because the person with the iPhone was more enthousiastic than the one with the Samsung Galaxy ? Is it because you saw more ads about the iPhone than about the Samsung Galaxy ? Do you actually have any clue why you believe it (or not) ?
Learning from others also opened the door to religion : if you believe in a God, why is this ? Did you actually met a God? Did you see him? Or is it just because someone told you that everything there is was created by a super creature, like God, Allah, Zeus, Tenochtitlan, or whatever?
More on the evolutionary origin of revolution can be found in this new scientist article.