Take That, Tolstoy

Who says that a single individual can have but little influence on the world? A friend of a friend has followed a complete revision of everything known about arson investigation. For thirty-five years, it seems, one set of views prevailed among all the experts; recently, however, this has been shown to be totally false and never based on science in the first place. Although it sent many innocent people to jail and let many guilty people go free, it was never really more than one man’s opinion. For he had written the textbook from which everyone else had learned investigative method. The one man’s opinion then becomes orthodoxy, and a circularity then takes effect: for if Doe has been sent to jail on the basis of this guy’s theories, then he must be a criminal, and his criminality becomes further evidence reinforcing the guy’s theories, which means that jail is where Doe belongs, and so on round the mulberry bush.

The same circularity was encountered in that English town where a paediatrician was alleging that practically every child she saw, except her own, had been buggered. The only difference is that, presumably because of overreach, her opinions ultimately failed to become the standard for her profession. The moral of the story: when setting out to create a new orthodoxy by simply making stuff up, be modest and circumspect in your claims.

Posted on January 16, 2011 at 12:19 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Monkey Business, Miscellaneous

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