The God complex

The God complex

The God complex is a state of mind in which a person thinks that he knows better than other people. He thinks that his solution to the problem is the one and only correct solution and completely disregards any other suggestions.

There are many examples of the God complex. Teachers always think that what they teach is the ultimate truth and if the question is not answered in their way then is wrong. They have taught the same topics using the same books for so long that they been ignorant about the fact that knowledge is not stagnant. Elder people think they know more about everything than the younger ones, just because they have lived longer than most. They are set in their ways and all other suggestions of doing things differently are rejected out-rightly. Along with the hero complex (which is a need to save someone, even though they may not need saving), some doctors show symptoms of the God complex. They are so sure about a diagnosis because they have seen similar symptoms before that they fail to pay attention to all the symptoms before making a judgement. You also get people who just know everything about everything, or at least they think they do. Every one of us has that friend who just wrongly challenges you for the sake of it and you let it go (even though you know you are correct) just to maintain a good friendship.

This state of mind gives rise to various problems. Teachers teach the wrong methods because they firmly believe in them. Knowledge is never finite. It changes, gets updated with new findings and rectified every single day. Even a subject like history that’s never supposed to change, is increased every day. Significant events of today will be read about in the history books of the next century. Also just because one has lived more years does not necessarily mean one knows everything about everything. Wisdom comes with age, but wisdom in itself is humble enough to admit limitations and invite new knowledge and skills. This is shown when grandparents struggle to keep up with the latest technology, but their grandsons and granddaughters handle gadgets like its second nature to them. The years will surely bring experience, a know-how about the world and will always act as a guide to the new generations. But even then they can not boast a complete knowledge of all things. Doctors wrongly diagnose patients because of the God complex. They fail to see the bigger picture, just concentrating on the subset of familiar symptoms.

It would be very difficult (if not impossible) to have complete knowledge. The notion that our ideas will always be better than others’ is not just egoistic but also statistically unlikely. To err is human; we learn from our mistakes. We have built our civilization on trying new things, things that we thought would never work and then being pleasantly surprised when they do. On the other hand, sometimes things that are supposed to work, things that we are confident will happen, never materialize and that’s also part of life. The caveman did not know that rubbing two flints together would create sparks. If he had thought he knew everything there was to be known, he would have never bothered to test the flints. The same goes for many other inventions and discoveries. The God complex implies that one is satisfied with one’s knowledge. Progress does not happen when people are satisfied. It happens when they are trying to fill a whole in their knowledge, trying to solve a problem or trying to provide a product or a service. The very idea of trying something new has the idea of making mistakes linked to it. Edison said that he did not fail hundreds of times, he just discovered how not to make a light bulb hundreds of times. If he had the God complex, Edison would have said something like “Oh, I knew exactly what I was doing. There was no other way to make a light bulb.”

Scientific advancements depend of guessing input parameters, experimenting with given conditions and formulating strategies to handle complex problems. Artists take huge risks when they try something new, which they would never have done if they were satisfied. It is a responsibility of every educated person to be humble enough to accept that there are things that he does not know. Teachers should not taboo mistakes in the classroom. They should instead create an environment where the student understands what he did wrong then corrects it, without feeling bad about trying something different. It is our differences that make us interesting and trying to educate us out of them is a mistake. Great ideas can come from anywhere, anyone and in any form. We should be open enough to test them on our own and see if they are great. Einstein said that he could see far because he was standing on the shoulder of giants. I think we should be humble enough to admit the existence of these giants, while being responsible enough to make our weight on their shoulders amount to something noble.

— Mayuresh

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