A little thought provoked by an exchange on Facebook. This is a slightly expanded copy of what I wrote in that exchange and is by no means complete.
The most dangerous phrase I’ve ever heard is “I feel”. Few people seem to believe or decide anything any more, they always seem to “feel”.
I wish more people would challenge any apparent decision that begins with “I feel” or “I felt” (or that other weaselly phrase “I’m passionate about”). It may be a correct decision, but arrived at entirely by accident. It’s like trying to navigate from London to Adelaide by always following the prettiest or easiest road – it might get you there eventually, but it makes it a lot harder, takes longer than it should and probably leads to a lot of dead-ends and backtracking that others already knew about. We don’t accept “gut instinct” or “feeling that he’s a wrong ‘un” in the criminal justice system these days, so why should we accept it elsewhere?
Evidence is hard work. Thinking and rationalising is harder. Emotions are easy – go for the one that generates the warm fuzzy “feeling”. But then, when scientists are so often portrayed as being on the autistic spectrum (cf Sheldon Cooper), it makes it easy for those who are not in that world to claim that scientists and other experts just don’t understand the things that matter to them. The truth is, we often do understand them – but we can see other options and points of view clearly too.
“Shoulders of giants” is a bloody good metaphor – but needs to be explained a bit more clearly. The view’s pretty good from up here.
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