These are examples of the last 10 years, …


The flat earth and geocentric world are examples of wrong scientific beliefs that were held for long periods. Can you name your favorite example and for extra credit why it was believed to be true?

Antwort von HAIM HARARI

Physicist, former President, Weizmann Institute of Science; Author, A View from the Eye of the Storm

The earth is flat and the sun goes around it for the same reason that an apple appears to be more strongly attracted by the earth than a leaf, the same reason that when you add 20% and then subtract 20% you return to the same value, and the same reason that the boat is heavier than water. All of these statements appear to be correct, at first sight, and all of them are wrong. The length of time it takes to figure it out is a matter of history and culture. Religion gets into it, psychology, fear of science, and many other factors. I do not believe that there is one parameter that determines how these things are found to be wrong.

The guy who sold me a carpet last month truly insisted that people in Australia are standing on their heads and could not understand how they manage to do it. He still believes that the earth is flat and is ashamed of his belief, but refuses to accept my explanations. I know a union that got a substantial pay raise because a politician did not understand that adding and then subtracting 20% gets you to another result from the one you started. Religious people of all religions believe even more ridiculous things than all of the above. These are examples of the last 10 years, not of the middle ages.

Part of the problem is that, in order to find the truth, in all of these cases, you need to ask the right question. This is more important, and often more difficult, than to find the answer. The right questions in the above cases are of different levels of complexity.

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