“Science is a finite sphere that grows in infinite space; each new expansion makes it include a larger zone of the unknown, but the unknown is inexhaustible.”
― Jorge Luis Borges
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” ― Richard Feynman
- Sometimes we are asked to answer impossible questions. Questions that are unanswerable simply because you don’t have any way of knowing.
- Be honest and transparent about what you know (and don’t), and why you don’t know.
- If in crisis mode:
- Lean on the things you do know.
- Try to understand what is driving the question (e.g. insecurity, fear, frustration)
- Be empathetic. Not knowing can be scary.
- “I wish we knew more.”
- “There are still many uncertainties.”
- “I had hoped our my answers could be more definite by now.”
- “It must be difficult to hear how uncertain we are/I am.”
- “There is still much that we don’t know.”
- “There is a range of expert opinion on this…”
- “I wish I had a crystal ball for the answers.”
- “Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to that or if I will ever be able to give you an answer because <give reason>.”
- “What I can tell you is…”
How to Answer an Unanswerable Question
Whether you are a leader, a teacher, or a parent, you may be called upon to answer especially difficult questions right now, questions that have no satisfying answers. But this doesn't mean you can't form a helpful and honest response. The best thing to do is listen for the need underneath the question.
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There are some questions out there that we will never know the answer to. This should sound obvious, but the questions that may come to mind are what is the meaning of life? What I'm talking about is what might be perceived as broad, but easily accepted when people are told there is an answer.
15 Seemingly Simple Questions We Don't Know the Answer To
The fields of sciences and mathematics are capable of some amazing things and answering some of the biggest and most puzzling questions on the planet. But what may shock you is that some of the most mundane and seemingly simple questions have no real confirmed answers from scientists.