Why some scientific ideas must die

Why some scientific ideas must die

John Brockman [4.29.15]

JB: It all started with a young scientist named Laurie Santos at a conference that I ran saying, “How do we get rid of some of these ideas that are just standing in front of us? Just blocking everybody?”

LP: What are the ideas that blind us now do you think? And blind us into confusion, and argument, and that kind of controversy?

JB: Name a field. ... It comes down to: is science advertising or is it argument?

LP: Your favorite. Which would be one of yours?

JB: Daniel Kahneman has studied human rationality and found out that characteristics we thought we had as humans aren’t necessarily the case. We are not Homo Economicus, we’re not the rational human beings we thought we were. A lot of what we do is pre-conscious and without acknowledgement.

LP: Now that’s interesting. So that’s a big idea about who we are and how we control our lives with rationality and free will. Another idea was the idea of love as well. This is one that attracts criticism from one of your contributors. So tell us a bit more about that. ...

Why some scientific ideas must die

Are there scientific ideas that have become too old and are actually blocking progress instead of enabling it? According to John Brockman—publisher of the world's smartest website Edge.org—there are. So he challenged the greatest scientists, artists and philosophers to answer the question: "What scientific idea needs to be retired in order to make room for new ideas to advance?" The answers he put into a book of 175 essays that he called "This Idea Must Die". Lawrence Pollard has been speaking to John Brockman for Newsday on the BBC World Service. (Listen here)

[Newsday is the world's biggest radio breakfast show, carried on the BBC World Service network, the world's largest international broadcaster, reaching 188 million people a week.]