Dug Campbell

The Willingness To Be Wrong

Everyone tries to be right. But maybe being right isn’t really the goal.

A good scientist should be happy to be proven wrong – because it means that she’s learned something. Science is all about standing on the edge of uncertainty and being comfortable with the fact that you don’t know. That’s what research is, after all – trying to find out the answers to those things that we don’t know.

An extremist is someone with fixed opinions who assumes that he knows everything. But that in itself is one of the most dangerous opinions anyone can  hold. History tells us that those who believe in their own absolute knowledge and are unwilling to countenance any change in opinion end up causing the most destruction.

As people such as Richard Feynman have said, the key to science (and life) is being wrong. In his great essay ‘The Value of Science’ from 1955, he wrote:

It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.

Tip for the day: Go out. Get it wrong. Fail. And repeat. In this way, over time, great things can be achieved.