Being wrong is one of the most critical facets of our progression towards more truth. The more we are wrong, and we are sure we are wrong, then the more we should rejoice because we are getting closer to the truth! As explained in this article, once we discover we are wrong we proceed to modify our worldview to make it more accurate.
I think rejoicing in the truth is congruous with rejoicing in being wrong. We should love the paradigm shifts that come to us as we progress in knowledge.
A deeply touching story of being wrong
One thing I deeply love about science is that it does not even purport to have all of the answers. Scientists who are true to the concept of science readily admit the limits of their knowledge and the large realms in which they are yet to enter, as well as knowing exactly what it would take to convince them otherwise.
While reading the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, I was deeply touched by the following story that he relates. This is also told briefly in the documentary YouTube link below:
I have previously told the story of a respected elder statesman of the Zoology Department at Oxford when I was
an undergraduate. For years he had passionately believed, and taught, that the Golgi Apparatus (a microscopic feature of the interior of cells) was not real: an artefact, an illusion. Every Monday afternoon it was the custom for the whole department to listen to a research talk by a visiting lecturer. One Monday, the visitor was an American cell biologist who presented completely convincing evidence that the Golgi Apparatus was real. At the end of the lecture, the old man strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand and said – with passion – ‘My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.’ We clapped our hands red. No fundamentalist would ever say that. In practice, not all scientists would. But all scientists pay lip service to it as an ideal – unlike, say, politicians who would probably condemn it as flip-flopping. The memory of the incident I have described still brings a lump to my throat.
He briefly recapitulates on this experience in the below video (skipped to the right index)
I do remember one formative influence in my undergraduate life. There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for, oh, a number of years. And one day an American visiting researcher came and he completely and utterly disproved our old man’s hypothesis. The old man strode to the front, shook his hand and said “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you, I have been wrong these fifteen years” and we all clapped our hands raw. That was the scientific ideal, of somebody who had a lot invested, a lifetime almost invested into (a) theory, and he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong, and that scientific truth had been advanced.
I am deeply touched and rejoice in that story. Thank goodness for folks like that who move science forward, I wouldn’t be writing on this blog with the modern technology that we have if it were not for people like that.
Edit: Here’s an awesome TED talk that speaks about being wrong
Conclusion: What would it take for you to be wrong?
What would it take for us to believe we are wrong about something? Do we know exactly what that is?
If we haven’t thought this one through then that might imply that we simply don’t want to be wrong or proven wrong — which is analogous to a state of ignorance; believing we are right and not willing to face up to any remote probability that we are not.
I have not yet defined exactly what it would take to prove me wrong about my beliefs in the church and God. It’s not an easy thing to define. But I think it is reasonable for me to at least admit that it is not impossible that I am wrong about them. I think anyone of reason should be willing to concede that we might be wrong about something, and try to understand what it would take to prove us wrong about it.