Details and Progress….

More ponderables from Nathan Robinson.

But these points are frequently brushed away with appeals to historical progress. Old ideas are bad ideas, they are stale and therefore need replacing. But the fact that a broad consensus has developed against a notion is not proof that it’s false or worthless. At the very least, the claim needs to be justified with something beyond “the debate is settled, you’re discredited, the end.” If there have been recent advances in the field, you must say what they are, and whether they were any good.

Admiral Hyman Rickover said, “the Devil may be in the details, but so is Salvation.”  Science is often a tedious, fundamentally conservative chore where all the burden is on the bringer of new ideas to convince the conventional wisdom that he is ultimately right–which, incidentally, is why Galileo’s adversaries were, in a sense, better scientists than Galileo was, even if they were, ultimately, more wrong than Galileo.  But these are often brushed aside:  we only want to know the “big picture,” and the details and complexities that complicate the narrative are unwelcome.  The bottom line is that we are right, and the new ideas that are better than the old say that we are right–so there, you’re wrong.  This is, of course, a profoundly anti-intellectual position that is likely to lead to problems and nuclear reactors blowing up.

 

 

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