27
Apr
10

Curbstomping preconceived “wisdom”

That’s a flavour of rant that I particularly enjoy.  It can be delivered as an angry tirade (in its purest form, this ought to be done on a newsgroup), as a drily sarcastic paper in a reputable academic journal, or even as a cartoon, but its basic structure is thus:

  1. People overwhelmingly believe <foo>
  2. They are cataclysmically wrong
  3. Here’s overwhelming evidence that they’re wrong
  4. To persist in believing <foo> in the face of this evidence is a willful moral failing, not excusable by mere ignorance
  5. Get off my lawn, you damn kids

I think I like these rants because (a) my preconceptions have a way of biting me in the ass (“Socialism improves the common good at the expense only of nasty cheaters”; “Some people are just born weak, and there’s nothing they can realistically do to change it”; “Of course my algorithm’s going to find the features in that data set — look, they’re right there!“), and (b) once bitten, I tend to enthusiastically repudiate the preconceptions that fucked me over.  (I like to think of this as becoming a better person.)  Preconception curbstomps let me run through this cycle vicariously.

SmartDogs has written just such a rant on the subject of electronic training collars:

It is meticulously constructed, convincingly argued, and includes more literature review than most published papers in my field.  Even if you’re entirely apathetic on the subject of “dogs”, you should give it a read: study the structure, the form, and most importantly the use of the whole field of evidence, not just one or two papers from academic backwaters that happen to support her point.

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3 Responses to “Curbstomping preconceived “wisdom””


  1. April 28, 2010 at 15:04

    “my preconceptions have a way of biting me in the ass” – interesting you should make this point because the first time someone suggested I use an electronic training collar I was horrified.

    And thanks ;-)


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