Almost all those who have engaged in any form of inquiry have been wrong and misguided. That is our predicament: fallible investigators start from the conclusions of their fallible predecessors. Yet even the dedicated mathematical astronomers of the late Middle Ages who explored the complicated details of the equant point in Ptolemaic theory contributed to the advancement of the science, by supplying standards by which more promising post-Copernican systems might be judged, and by introducing possibilities and options into future debates.

Famous Failures

(Source: youtube.com)

[Carl Hempel] reckoned that [he and other positivists] had not just been wrong in the particulars, but in the whole approach, the methodology, even asked the wrong questions often. But there was not the slightest hint of regret in this. His view was that no one could have possibly known that this approach didn’t work unless smart people had given it a go, pushed it to the point where it was clear that it couldn’t work.
I can’t think of another institution that has failed as mightily as the prison has… and then, over the course of two hundred years, expanded and been rewarded with ever-increasing civic and political power.
[W]e ought to be very skeptical of anyone who claims [to] know how to solve a complex problem…. The world is bigger than the mind, and so real problem-solving requires huge teams of humble people willing to try things out and, if need be, to fail.
Not many people want to vote for a candidate who says, ‘I really am not sure how to improve schools in our area, so I plan to pilot half a dozen ideas, and we’ll keep the one or two that we can prove to have worked.’ But the other guy – the one who claims he does know – isn’t telling us the truth about uncertainty and failure. He’s just telling us what we want to hear.

Tim Harford is my new public intellectual crush. More from him tomorrow.

(Source: youtube.com)

Nice try, Buddha.

Nice try, Buddha.