Ignorance and Stable Conceptual Structures

When we say "I trust this expert's opinion on this topic because he knows more than I do." we are doing something amazing, or at least it's amazing when that opinion goes against our own.  We are exercising a skepticism about our own reliability.

Our beliefs about the world tend not to change.  We think our current view is about as correct as anything out there.  Since reality is filled with an infinite set of unknowns, the areas of our own ignorance about which we are actually aware, is quite a small sliver.  Combined with the fact that our brains can only inhabit one interpretation at a time, its vital that we maintain this uncertainty. Let's look at a simple, concrete example of this limitation.

Is this painting a collection of birds? A portrait? Is it REALLY both?  Perhaps it is best understood as a demonstration of artistic ambiguity, or none of these, most fully appreciated by a framework still unknown?  

Unless we stumble across clues that get our attention, it's all-but impossible for us to have any awareness of our own limitations and biases, even in science: our most reliable method of investigation.  With this painting seen from a distance, it makes perfect sense as a portrait and we might have no reason to look further...but more importantly: if we don't like birds, we have an incentive to discount bird interpretations. This incentive is directly proportional to our emotional investment.

Debates on the evolution of stellar clusters and super clusters were completely unknown to me prior to a conversation with my dentist who participates in them. Such arguments had been raging over various theories and models for years, and while it is impossible for me to have an opinion about arguments about which I'm ignorant, what nagged me most is that I never even suspected such debates were taking place...despite having a more than passing interest in the evolution of the universe, at least insofar as it relates to cosmology.