Saturday, June 4, 2011

Strange Ideas

There's a lengthy but interesting post on Respectful Insolence about how easy it is to scornfully dismiss the stupid things the government spends money on, and how sometimes those things turn out to not actually be stupid.

He's talking specifically about the sometimes funny-sounding scientific projects that get funded. Because it's easy to criticize, and say "come on, why on earth do we need to pay good money to research the effects of turpentine on amphibians?"

Fun, too!

Little do we know that in fact, amphibious turpentine could totally cure cancer if we'd only bothered to fund the research.

The point is, everything sounds stupid if you don't know anything about it. And some things are certainly stupid even when you do know something about them. Probably including some scientific research.

But you can't necessarily assume that because you don't understand something, it's not worth anything. Sadly, this means that you have to know at least a little about things before you can scornfully dismiss them, which believe me I know is a huge hassle and eats up a lot of precious time.

This did remind me, though, that I often find that even subjects I assumed were horribly boring (possibly useful, but dull) are actually pretty interesting once you start to understand them.

For example, speaking of research, I really did not think I cared at all about research methods, but then I took a required class in library school, and hey, that stuff is kind of fascinating!

A lot of goofy research projects also turn out to have pretty interesting things going on.

In short, cut stupid ideas some slack, at least to the point of figuring out exactly what is the point of the turpentine and the amphibians. You can always scornfully dismiss it later, and with an extra sense of righteous glee because you looked into it and you know that plan to make frogs fly by scaring them into emitting bursts of anti-gravity energy with paint thinner is just not based on sound reasoning.

Because that would never work. You need toads for anti-gravity energy. Maaaaaaybe a salamander.


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