Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Divided We Stand

Been hanging around my specific list of blogs too long. Missed this great piece by An Anonymous Coward.
So if there is some moral to be gained from the Tacoma Narrows bridge, it's not that disunity leads to collapse. It's that unity can lead to collapse, if it's the wrong kind of unity. This isn't to say that people shouldn't work together, of course, or that arguments and infighting are good things. But it's important to be united in the right ways and for the right reasons--and to know when it might not be a good idea for everyone to go in the same direction. Sometimes it's better not to be completely united--it's better to examine what you're being asked to go along with, and consider whether it's really a good idea for everyone to follow it, or whether if everyone keeps moving that way it's ultimately going to end in disaster. You have to make sure you're united to the right cause.
Science functions because of its disunity: Every idea can be challenged. Every idea has to withstand great scrutiny of scientists, as well as that of nature, in the form of experiments. Ideally, the greatest skeptic of a hypothesis is the person who proposed it, but just in case someone doesn't live up to that standard, we have the peer-review process and critical thinking so others can fill in any shortcomings.

As a result of this process, I'm able to type on a screen full of glowing phosphors or liquid crystals, send a signal though a super-duper-high-speed telegraph, sometimes without a wire connecting me to the telegraph, where you receive it, and have a collection of symbols roughly representing my thoughts displayed on your screen.

Herd mentality can't produce what science has. Black sheep who prove their worth get Nobel Prizes in this business.

1 comment:

An Anonymous Coward said...

Hm. You took the topic further in directions I hadn't really considered...although I agree with your analysis. I hadn't really thought of bringing up the importance of disagreement to scientific progress, but it's a good point.

By the way, thanks for the link!