Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge. How do we know something? How can we know that we do not know what we do not know?

I had an interesting case of the limits of knowledge and awareness of it at Niagara Falls International Airport. When I taught programming classes near Toronto International Airport, I would not fly my plane to Toronto because of the delays and expense of going through customs with a small plane. I would fly to Niagara Falls and rent a car then drive to Mississauga (where the Toronto International Airport is located). We would teach at hotels near major airports.

The Enterprise Car Rental company software did not support the use case of the Canadian toll roads system. A toll gate took a photo of a car’s license and sent a bill for maybe $5 to the owner for traveling on the QE Expressway. Enterprise did support billing a renter for a traffic ticket. I would eventually receive a bill for a $5 speeding?? ticket! That was funny but was not an epistemology issue. It was a round hole being used to hold a square peg. I just hoped that would not put points on my driving record!

I drove back to Niagara Falls airport, dropped off my rental car, paid for parking my plane at the airport, and for my fuel. The agent needed my address and phone number. I gave her my business card, which had that information. She asked me what the text in the top right corner of my card was. I replied those were the names of programming languages that I taught: C++, C#, VB.NET, OOAD/UML, XML, Java, J2EE.

Here comes the epistemology! She said that we can make computers and programming languages but cannot cure cancer. I said that she has a good point because cancer is a kind of a computer programming bug, a misspelling in our DNA. There are even “spell checkers” that walk along our DNA and can fix some errors. Some day we might know more about cancer and cure it without the current “cut, poison, and burn” primitive cancer treatments. She said that she thinks God does not want us to know how life works. I told her that there is a philosophical limitation involved there but I did not go into the topic any more with her.

Did you see the epistemological issue? She thought she knew what God was thinking! She said we are limited in our understanding of life, but she understood what God was thinking! I think that would be a bigger accomplishment. They say God made us in his own image. I think some people make God in their own image. Kind people see a kind God. Angry people see an angry God. Dumb people make God as dumb as they are. I like to give God room to be smarter than I am.