Beware of Arrogance! Retire Nothing!

This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress - John Brockman

The problem with books of this nature is that either the "death of an idea" is such a no-brainer that it doesn't deserve an essay or it's the bete noire of the author. For example, in this volume one can find essays that call for the final interment of String Theory alongside others that as vigorously defend it. Or materialists who deny that consciousness persists after death alongside others who argue for the opposite.


The best essay in the collection - and what makes it worth reading - is Ian McEwan's, "Beware of Arrogance! Retire Nothing!"


A great and rich scientific tradition would hang onto everything it has. Truth is not the only measure. There are ways of being wrong that help others to be right. Some are wrong, but brilliantly so. Some are wrong but contribute to method. Some are wrong but help found a discipline....


We need to remember how we got to where we are, and we'd like the future not to retire us. Science should look to literature and maintain a vibrant living history as a monument to ingenuity and persistence. We won't retire Shakespeare. Nor should we Bacon. (pp. 256-7)