Thursday, December 14, 2006

Idea scultping   posted by Razib @ 12/14/2006 09:30:00 PM

Below I suggested that a modest base of knowledge is simply a necessary precondition for smelling crap thrown at your door in some fields. The natural sciences are pretty contingent, the interlocking set of facts have necessary relations so that you can often intuitively "fill in the gaps" and recognize people trying to pass one over on you. There are of course limits to this, most people don't understand Quantum Mechanics, and intuitive physics and folk psychology can be hard to get past. But in something like history or international affairs the necessary relations between the facts are more difficult to establish, and isolated and seemingly unrelated pieces of data float before you in an amorphous mass. It is easy to make mistakes even if you are a specialist, I just read a 1,000 page history of the Crusades and I was a bit irritated when the author confused Nestorian Christians with Jacobites & Copts multiple times. But this author's focus was on medieval Europe, the details of Middle Eastern religious history were outside his domain.

And yet just because theoretical constructs are wobbly and flimsy in history or international affairs does not imply that the full sample space of possibilities is at our beck & call. Below jaim klein offered: "