The value of being wrong

I like this TED talk given by Mike Rowe.

The Mike Rowe talk appeals to me because I believe there is value in humility. The possibility of being wrong, Rowe describes in vivid detail. Usually, I think the TED conference is masturbatory. In this case, though, Rowe challenges, perhaps indirectly, the prevailing certainty that we are correct. There is a method to scientific discovery that is applicable in a social arena, but the process for observable change is far softer. The research methods are statistical where they can be, but are often anecdotal. As a result, the development of theory is much slower, and the possibility for the refutation of established theory is greater. The concern I have is that laws, new laws especially, seem rooted in the anecdotal reporting that often features very small sample sizes and is hugely susceptible to refutation. This is a problem because laws are very difficult to change, and are nearly impossible to undo. The core question, as ever, for me: Why are we so eager to entrust so much power to a structure that is demonstrably wrong so frequently, yet is bereft of the humility to recognize or do anything about it?

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