- Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Wolfram Language is under-appreciated.
- An old editorial, found while catching up over the holidays
- One motivated person! (from WSJ, Jan 3)
- On ancient artifacts
- Neal Stephenson, on belief (source)
“Another thing I’ve been reading recently is “The Fixation of Belief” by an American philosopher named Charles Sanders Peirce. He was writing in the 1870s, and he goes through a list of four methods that people use to decide what they’re going to believe.
The first one is called the method of tenacity, which means you decide what you’re going to believe and you stick to it regardless of logic or evidence. …
The next method is called the method of authority, where you agree with other people that you’re all going to believe what some authority figure tells you to believe. That’s probably most common throughout history.
The third method is called the a priori method, and the idea is, let’s be reasonable and try to come up with ways to believe things that sound reasonable to us. Which sounds great, but if it’s not grounded in any fact-checking methodology, then you end up just agreeing to believe things by consensus — which may be totally wrong. T
he fourth method is the scientific method. It basically consists of accepting the fact that you might be wrong, and since you might be wrong, you need some way for judging the truth of statements and changing your mind when you’ve got solid evidence to the contrary.
What you’re seeing in the Baroque Cycle is the transition from Method No. 3 to No. 4. You’ve got all these people having what seem like reasoned, logical arguments, but a lot of them are just tripping.
So a few come in, like Hooke and Newton, and begin using actual experiments and get us going down the road toward the rational world of the Enlightenment.
But what we’ve got now is almost everybody using Method 1, 2 or 3. We’ve got a lot of authoritarians who can’t be swayed by logic or evidence, but we’ve also got a lot of a priori people who want to be reasonable and think of themselves as smarter and more rational than the authoritarians but are going on the basis of their feelings — what they wish were true — and both of them hate the scientific rationalists, who are very few in number.