Persistent Error

Jelly-beans-p-value

One of the thing that I now worry about more than I used to, given the news, is that everything that goes on in the world is within an order of magnitude the result of people spinning the wheel on a random process that allows folly to linger as orthodoxy just long enough to be embarrassing to our descendants—like bellbottoms or crocs. I mean, we got to the moon, and iPods exist, so it can’t be performative error-echos all the way down, right? Still, sometimes when it comes to efforts to order our lives together, it feels like every field of knowledge—law, economics, psychology, sociology—works this way.

This premise puts in serious question the lengths that I will go to be rigorous in my work, to be fair to my sources, to feel satisfied that my claims are backed up by relevant, substantial evidence. If winning ideas are drawn from a pot without any bias toward nuanced claims or good ideas or rigorous evidence, why do we bother doing what we do? It’s not just that maybe I could have been smoking this whole time if it doesn’t actually cause cancer, it’s more broadly a sense of “the worst are full of passionate intensity and the best/lack all conviction.”

Why be so fastidious about reading the bus schedule correctly, when all it means in practice is that, some person having convinced the bus driver that the schedule was wrong, we are sat in certainty that we got the time right, in a town the bus isn’t actually coming back to until after the Christmas holidays?

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