Saturday, November 7, 2009

What various scholars have changed their minds about

The 2008 Edge questionnaire is one of my favorite collections of essays ever. What they did is asked many well-known thinkers the question, What have you changed your mind about? 165 of them answered. There is an index, but I find it better to just dive in.

Admittedly it is a lot of reading. What would I recommend? It depends on your interest. Personally I liked Freemon Dyson's explanation of how we know that dropping nuclear bombs did not cause the Japanese surrender, one of the founders of the inflation theory for how the early universe evolved saying why he thinks that the theory is wrong, a feminist explaining that the preponderance of men at the top echelons is because men vary more, a biologist discussing why experts often should be doubted, a psychologist discussing statistical illiteracy in medicine, and an information scientist talking about why the sample mean is a poor statistic to use. (The sample mean is where you add up all of the observations and divide by the count.)

Those are some of the ones that I liked, and can keep people occupied for a long time. But I'm sure everyone will have their personal favorites. And yours could easily not intersect mine.

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