How did humans, in the course of just a few generations, go from burning witches and drinking mercury to mapping the human genome and playing golf on the moon?
According to David McRaney, author of the new book You Are Now Less Dumb, science intervened, thank goodness. That is to say, scientists intervened and right now continue to intervene on your behalf “for flavors of ignorance you have yet to even discover.”
So don’t go patting yourself on the back that you are so much smarter than the people who once believed that geese grew on trees. You are merely less dumb. In the video below, McRaney explains how people reached a conclusion that geese grew on trees and then their brains came up with a story to explain it.
This is the same kind of backward thinking that Aristotle was also guilty of, and which you are guilty of all the time. You come up with a conclusion and then “polish and protect that conclusion with biased observations,” McRaney points out.
There are, however, tools that can help you break out of this way of thinking, tools that will force you to look for evidence to the contrary. And these are the tools that McRaney provides with a healthy does of humor and wit.
One closely-debated theory has been that heavy metals were a byproduct of collisions between dense dead stars. Now, an event observed through NASA's Swift satellite may have provided a literal "smoking gun."