I am currently listening to Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, one of the Great Courses. Upon reflection, this course may not be the best choice for fifteen-minute jaunts around town. Some of the ideas are heavy going, and, more than once, I have left the great mind being discussed to ponder on my own great thoughts: Why do I like ice cream more than vegetables? Am I really too old to be a Snow Patrol roadie?
I came out of such deep thoughts on Sunday in time to hear the professor mention Francis Bacon and the scientific method. One of Bacon’s points, according to the professor, was that scientists had to be willing to be proven wrong. Even wanted to be proven wrong. That was the way that knowledge grew.
I like that idea, and I think it’s something that we should all spend some time doing. Notice here that it’s not proving other people wrong. Too many of us spend way too much doing that already. No, it’s being willing to look at our beliefs and rigorously question them, with the idea that there is indeed a chance that we could be wrong. And if we are, then to be willing to make some changes.
Let me warn you: this is a tough thing to do. There is something in us that wants to protect the status quo, that doesn’t want face up to the fact that we can be wrong, that doesn’t even want to listen to the other side with an open mind. (No matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be.) Trust me on this: Our minds can do all sorts of gymnastics when it comes to proving ourselves right!
But it’s a worthwhile exercise, even it does make our brains hurt a bit.