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This Will make You Smarter

John Brockman

Richard Dawkins pointed out that 40% of Americans thought the world was created after dog domesticated and first beer brewed. Suggested that schools should teach concept of double-blind expts. Then kids would learn not to generalize from anecdotes, learn how likely chance events could happen, learn how hard it is to eliminate subjective bias, and generally learn critical and skeptical habits of thinking.

Scientists need to recognize that their persuasive tactics have failed, and develop a better strategy. Scientists have the better arguments, but the anti-science groups have better funding. If a company wants to shape public opinion to increase their profits, it deploys marketing tools that are scientific and highly effective. What do people believe? Which of their fears, insecurities, hopes and emotions can we take advantage of? Is the message over-simplified or misleading? Does it unfairly discredit the opposition? That's par for the course, so it's naieve to think the code of conduct should be any different when they're fighting science.

People grossly over-estimate the effect of changes on their lives. On average, rich people are happier than poors, but the difference is only a third of what most people think. You can convince people that school uniforms will significantly improve educational outcomes, or that health care reform will hugely change the quality of life in America (either for good or bad). It will make a difference, but nowhere near as much as people think.

In science the credit goes to the man who convinced the world, not the man who first had the idea. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray filed their telephone tech patents on the same day.

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Basic rule is that when you're trying to find an explanation for something, the least extraordinary one should be adopted.

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