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What's Right About Being Wrong

by Jeff Wagg

January 2, 2013

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Donate I am fortunate enough to be wrong often. Some recent things I've been wrong about:
  • I thought there was a Hupmobile on the old-style $10 bill. It turns out that I was misinformed, and the car represented an amalgam of the automobiles of the day. (Wikipedia is also wrong on this).

  • I thought almonds were nuts. In fact, they're drupes.

  • I thought giant pandas were more closely related to raccoons than bears. Nope.

  • And most recently, I was taken in by the hoax of an eagle snatching a child in a Montreal Park.

In fact, even though others were claiming that the video was a hoax, I still wasn't convinced. Based on the knowledge and evidence I had, I felt that Occam sided on the video being real. But alas, as more evidence came in, the razor swung the other way until the perpetrators came forth and claimed their 15 minutes in the spotlight.

And what a glorious thing it is to be wrong! Why? Because being wrong, means you're right.

Every time you discover you're mistaken, you've gained something precious. You've become more than you were, and your arsenal is stronger. It's a weakness to cling to the wreckage of unsupported knowledge as the tide rises. I find it far better to abandon the detritus and accept the fact that I'll need to swim.

It's often a painful process. Some of my favorite "facts" have been ripped from me as one might lose a limb, but I've found that in every case, a stronger appendage has grown in place.

Because of this, I try to be gentle with those who are wrong. I offer them the correct information and hope they'll latch on to it gratefully. There is often resistance, but I can only hope that the other person hungers for the truth as I do.

The worst moments are when I try to correct someone who is in fact, not actually wrong. In these cases, it is *I* who am wrong. I offer my apologies in these moments, and I am truly sorry, but I do wish we lived in an environment where such mistaken corrections were seen as noble (if flawed efforts) and not arrogant attacks.

Humility, it seems to me, is a necessary ingredient for skepticism. If our enemy is bias, humility is our ally. We know we can be wrong, and because we know, we have a better grasp of what's real than those who may be smarter, but refuse to let their arrogance subside long enough to be corrected.

Taken in that light, being wrong is a very right thing indeed.

by Jeff Wagg

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