There's a quote attributed to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that is much beloved of cranks:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
I hate this quote with a bloody passion. Actually, that's not quite true. Rather, I find it rather amusing in a pathetic sort of way, first because it's not true. Really, it's not. For instance, in science Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity wasn't exactly "violently opposed," and a lot of other scientific findings that challenge the existing paradigm have been embraced. The second reason because when cranks invoke Schopenhauer the implication behind their parroting the above quote is that they have The Truth. They then invoke the quote to argue that the reason that they are being ridiculed or opposed is that they simply haven't made it to the "third stage" of Schopenhauer's view of how Truth is accepted--but that they will be! In other words, "They'll see! I'll show them! They thought me mad, but I'll show them!"
Yes, that's basically what cranks mean when they invoke Schopenhauer, especially anti-vaccine cranks. They just can't get it through their head that "untruth" never makes it to stage three, even if you accept Schopenhauer's paradigm.
Leave it to Mark Crislip to come up with a variant of Schopenhauer with regards to vaccines. In the course of a lengthy and amusing takedown of the International Medical Council on Vaccination's recent "petition" campaign (which I had a bit of fun with a week or so ago), Dr. Crislip states:
All antivaccination truth passes through three stages. First, it is based upon feelings instead of reality. Second, it is opposed by the rationally inclined. Third, the more complete the information that falsifies it, the more more vehemently it is embraced as self-evident.
Or something like that; I am using Bing for my search engine.
Perfect. I call this the Crislip vaccine variant of Schopenhauer. Now I'll add the Orac variant for alt-medicine:
All "alternative medicine" truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed by the rationally inclined because it is based upon feelings and prescientific beliefs instead of reality. Second, it is opposed by the rationally inclined. Third, the more complete the information that falsifies it, the more more vehemently it is embraced as self-evident by its non-rationally inclined believers.
I, Orac, hereby make the following proposal: Whenever you see an anti-vaccine or alt-med crank quoting Schopenhauer, lay the Crislip or Orac variant of Schopenhauer's quote on them, or make similar alterations as you see fit for the situation. Cranks have to learn that, if you accept Schopenhauer's paradigm (which those who seriously use this quote as an argument obviously do, or they wouldn't use the quote), the reason you are stuck at stage one or two is not because you have The Truth and haven't progressed yet. It's because you're a crank.
In terms of a specific variety of crank, I also like Crislip's paraphrase of John Donne:
"Every anti-vax is an island entire of itself;
...no childs's death diminishes me,
because I am uninvolved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it is none my concern."
~ John Donne.
Or something like that. Again, my searches are not working quite right.
And it's true.
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This quotation is not due to Schopenhauer, although Schopenhauer said something vaguely similar: "To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial. "
I have spent many hours tracing the origin of this quotation. It has been ascribed to Schopenhauer, Agassiz, Whewell, William James, Gustave Le Bon, Montaigne, and Elbert Hubbard. It was apparently first attributed to Schopenhauer in a 1981 book of quotations, but no Schopenhauer scholar has been able to produce a citation.
I have a 9-page paper that traces the origin of this misquotation:
Another old variation, "They laughed at Einstein. They also laughed at Groucho Marx."
I'm afraid that you and Mark still haven't matched Sagan for a response to Schopenhauer:
I don't see how this quote can be used to argue in favor of any proposition which is being ridiculed or violently opposed, unless you assume that all false propositions are either
1) completely ignored
2) argued against in a calm and respectful fashion.
They also laugh all the way to the bank. Some of you probably do too.
"I'm afraid that you and Mark still haven't matched Sagan for a response to Schopenhauer:
They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."
But remember one thing: nobody laughed at Tesla.
It is correct to use the quote (no matter who said it originally) only when the idea is factually correct and is supported by facts and logic. The quote is correctly used to counter those who are rejecting an idea they do not understand and are using fallacious reasoning to justify their rejection.
Relativity is not a good example because virtually every physicist accepted it very quickly and because there was a lot of data that the speed of light was reference frame invariant. A better example would be Einstein's photoelectric effect. That was conceptually more difficult, and Millikan didn't accept it for decades, many years after Millikan's own data had convinced virtually everyone else.
âWhen Einstein published his seminal 1905 paper on the particle theory of light, Millikan was convinced that it had to be wrong, because of the vast body of evidence that had already shown that light was a wave.â
âHis results confirmed Einstein's predictions in every detail, but Millikan was not convinced of Einstein's interpretation, and as late as 1916 he wrote, "Einstein's photoelectric equation... cannot in my judgment be looked upon at present as resting upon any sort of a satisfactory theoretical foundation," even though "it actually represents very accurately the behavior" of the photoelectric effect.â
âAnother example is that his textbook, as late as the 1927 version, unambiguously states the existence of the ether, and mentions Einstein's theory of relativity only in a noncommittal note at the end of the caption under Einstein's portrait, stating as the last in a list of accomplishments that he was "author of the special theory of relativity in 1905 and of the general theory of relativity in 1914, both of which have had great success in explaining otherwise unexplained phenomena and in predicting new ones."
âIn his 1958 Book of discoveries on science experiments, however, he simply declared that his work "scarcely permits of any other interpretation than that which Einstein had originally suggested, namely that of the semi-corpuscular or photon theory of light itself."
The quote is correctly used to counter those who reject ideas due to feelings and not due to facts or logic. When someone who is antivax throws the quote at you, you respond by asking for the data. The antivaxers are stuck in rejecting reality because of their feelings. Millikan eventually came around, it only took him 50 years.
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
If it were true, then isn't this what AGW has had to put up with? We're at stage 2: violent opposition pretty much for the last 5 years.
It seems to me that even if this statement is sometimes true, there is a big "..." between stages 2 and 3. That is where you do things like atually conducting studies and preparing a convincing argument.
It seems like the anti-vaxxers are saying that because an argument is violently opposed it should be accepted as true. Doesn't sound like a very smart way to get at the truth to me.
One of the most notable attributes of the crank is the conviction that the tide is turning--that there is growing evidence supporting their point of view, that more and more scientists are coming over to their side, and that scientific opinion is about to reverse itself Real Soon Now. Often, they will make this assertion even in the face of new evidence that they are wrong. We heard it from the anti-HIV cranks even as the incidence of AIDS plummeted with increased use of antivirals directed against HIV. We heard it from the antivaccine cranks even as their predictions that autism rates would plummet with the elimination of thimerosal failed to come true and as the work of their icon, Wakefield, was found to be not merely flawed, but fraudulent. We hear it from anti-AGW cranks even as temperatures continue to set records and arctic ice continues to vanish. We heard it from the creationists even as genetic sequencing confirmed predicted patterns of descent.
It's the Galileo Gambit again, isn't it?
Isn't that what I said? See:
Except that Sagan wasn't directly parodying Schopenauer, which is why I like Mark's version at least as well.
Many are pointing this out, but it's a logic failure. Even if it were true (which it isn't), the quacks are failing basic logic. If all truths are laughed at and then opposed, it doesn't mean that everything laughed at and opposed is a truth.
However vexatious the quote, it *has* to be revelatory of a particular style of thought and communication,i.e. it tells us volumes about the person doing the quoting. Obviously, there is grandiosity, tossing out names of famous "thinkers" or what-have-you in comparison to your own cherished ideas- the speaker must rather simply believe that others will be impressed, and it implies the assumption that the speaker "knows better" than the state of knowledge as a whole presently. How grand.
Usually, quotes bandied about are by *philosophers* or *novelists* who obviously did not research the issue in question( "Oh, let's see, I'll look into every theory ever devised ,trace its history, then create an aphorism") and must sound clever to the quoter. It superficially assumes that things can be summed up *so neatly* and betrays its simplistic origins. Some frequently used quotes that I also despise : "You are what you eat" and "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Easy to dream up repartees to those two.
Finally, the quotes draws attention to the quoter- "See, *I'm* telling you!"- they wish to spotlight themselves solipcistically, not the matter at hand. Yesterday I read a crime story : it was amazingly perceptive and sensitive in portraying the crime, its perperator and victim, as well as its ghastly denouement. I entered the world of the reporter's experience, although *he* faded into the background as he wrote, I feel as though I know him. No such luck with woo-lit.
And I bet you have a Google alert for the word "Schopenhauer" and perhaps that quotation that allows you to swoop in with your link as the first commenter any time someone writes about the infamous Schopenhauer "three stages of truth" quote, don't you? Come on, you can admit it. We're among friends. :-)
You know, I did wonder how a CS prof from Waterloo (hell, I think they're all CS profs there) managed to comment so quickly and on the nose...
Epinephrine nailed it: citing Schopenhauer (or a quote that may or may not be Schopenhauer's) is a non sequitur when arguing a point.
A claim (such as 'vaccines cause autism' or 'homeopathy is efficacious in treating ') stands or falls on its own merits.
Whether or not the claim is subject to ridicule, scorn, or outrage on the part of others is irrelevant to its truth-value.
It's possible Schopenhauer had the Ohm's Law story in mind:
Ohm even lost a teaching job because of this bizarre opposition.
Yes, and you used relativity as an example to say the quote is not true. The quote didn't apply to relativity. It did apply to the photoelectric effect.
Putting up a false example to "prove" something is false is known as a straw man argument. I know you know that, I didn't want to explicitly call you on it because I presumed you were just being sloppy and I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you were trying to make some subtle point that escaped my quick reading of it.
There are a lot of fads in science. Fads that come, are immensely popular for a while, get amplified all out of proportion by hype, and then (usually) fade away. RNAi for therapeutics seems to be in the down trajectory now. Genetic causation and treatment of disease seems to be on the decline too. Stem cells isn't quite there yet, but it will be.
As someone who has the quote on his blog because my well thought out, well researched, and well supported ideas are (at present) being dismissed out of hand, I take such things very seriously.
Read my post again. I said that the quote doesn't apply to relativity! That's the point! Relativity is an example that I intentionally to invalidate the quote because it so obviously doesn't apply.. My words:
Seriously. You misinterpreted what I wrote in that you seem to think I applied it to an inappropriate example, but that was exactly my point. Cranks cite Schopenhauer as a general rule/observation; all it takes is one counterexample like relativity to invalidate their rule, and there are many, relativity being perhaps the most famous.
And I seriously suggest that you remove this particular quote because it is not only completely incorrect about "truth" (scientific or otherwise) but it's a tool used by cranks. Seriously. I suggest you remove that quote from your blog; it is not a good quote for a skeptic to have on his blog.
As a Waterloo alumnus, I can state with some authority that this is untrue. Some of them are engineering profs.
All bullshit passes through three stages. First it draws flies. Then it warms in the sunlight. Finally it merges into the topsoil.
Omri wins teh Internetz!
I was pretty sure the last step for Omri's comment was going to be "then some pseudoscience loon writes about it on the huffington post".
I looked at that wiki page and I was shocked:
"The prevailing scientific philosophy in Germany at the time asserted that experiments need not be performed to develop an understanding of nature because nature is so well ordered, and that scientific truths may be deduced through reasoning alone."
I thought that philosophy went out in the seventeenth century. I was shocked to find that it was still dominant in Germany in 1827.
Probably not as shocked as Ibn al-Haytham would've been if he'd lived long enough to hear about it, Michael:
No, if you are trying to refute the quote, the example of Bozo the clown is sufficient to show that being laughed at is not an indication that one is correct all the time. An example where someone was correct and was not laughed at (i.e. Einstein and relativity) doesn't address the question of how to respond to a new idea being laughed at.
The example I gave, of Millikan rejecting Einstein was an example where a senior researcher completely rejected, for decades, an idea which was correct, even when the data that he generated convinced everyone else. It was Millikan's own data that convinced everyone but Millikan! Millikan knew there was nothing wrong with the data because he generated it! Millikan's rejection wasn't about the data, it was about something else.
People who wish to have a correct understanding of reality need to avoid the two types of errors. The type 1 error, the false positive (believing something that is not true) and the type 2 error, not believing something that is true.
One can have a zero type 1 error rate if one simply doesn't believe in anything. That is the position of the pseudoskeptic. Disbelieve everything and you will never believe anything that is not correct. One can have a zero type 2 error rate by believing in everything. That is the position of the true believer. Neither of these extremes is useful or acceptable for a skeptic.
The skeptic has a third choice, the âI don't knowâ option. The true skeptic adopts the âI don't knowâ as their default choice. If you don't know of facts and/or logic that accept or refute an idea, then if you are a skeptic you have to default to âI don't knowâ.
I keep the quote on my blog as an object lesson to all skeptics, including myself. If someone with the stature of Millikan can reject something so strenuously and for so long, the rest of us need to be careful we don't fall into the same trap too, the trap of prioritizing our own feelings of âtruthyâ over what the data says. Yes, cranks use it too. 99.9999% of the time a crank uses it, the crank is wrong. The crank is wrong not because they are using the quote, but because they don't have the facts and logic to back up their idea, and because their idea is factually wrong. You notice I don't use the quote as a substitute for facts and logic. I never refer to the quote as a justification for why I am correct, except when someone unjustifiably says I am wrong (as for example because I have that quote on my blog), and then I use the quote in its correct sense where a correct idea is unjustifiably rejected.
In the quote, it was someone who thought themselves a skeptic who rejected the idea when it was first proposed. The idea was rejected not because there were facts and logic that contradicted it. The idea was later accepted because there was an accumulation of facts and logic consistent with it. The final assertion that âI knew it all alongâ comes from the intellectual dishonesty produced to protect the pseudoskeptic from the narcissistic injury of acknowledging that they falsely rejected something that later turned out to be correct. If you try to distort reality to narcissistically protect your feelings, you are no skeptic.
That is what many of the anti-vax are doing now, quietly just being quiet and hoping that everyone will forget that they were once anti-vax based on the BS lies of Wakefield and the other quacks. That is what Millikan did, quietly realized his error and then only acknowledged it late in life, more than 50 years after Einstein's finding.
I don't hold anyone to a different standard than I hold myself. If you want to refute something, show me some facts and logic. Getting into a rhetorical pissing match on who has the burden of proof and claim that because I haven't educated you sufficiently such that you understand all the facts and logic in the formulation, that it must be wrong is pseudoskeptic BS. If you don't know enough about a subject to have an informed opinion, your opinion as a skeptic can only be âI don't knowâ. If you have a different opinion, then you are not a skeptic.
1827? That philosophy is the foundation of the Austrian School of Economics today.
All altie truth passes through three stages. First it's anecdote. Then it's accepted practice. Then...
Alright, two stages.
I'd say comment #4 is the best response to such a quote. The second best would be:
"All falsehood passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being in gross contradiction to the weight of the evidence.".
But that's making the same assumption that believers in various kinds alternative medicine make, in the opposite direction. It concludes from inadequate evidence that all alternative medicine is false. Making a great big leap.
Just as all sorts of quackery comes from extrapolating valid evidence far beyond what it really says, making a great big leap. For example, there's lots of evidence that a good diet can help prevent at least some kinds of cancer. The quackery comes in when people claim that the hidden cure for cancer is eating a raw foods diet, that even if you have metastatic pancreatic cancer or something else entirely lethal, all you have to do is something radically unpalatable and new, like not cook any of your food, and you'll be cured!!!
I could agree with the Crislip quote. I've never heard any good evidence supporting the anti-vaccers. It sounds a lot to me, like it comes from an ingrained fear of needles. Or more exactly, of being injected with things, by needles. Acupuncture is apparently OK, rather strangely.
One is indeed very vulnerable and has to have a lot of trust, in order to get an injection. Our primitive ancestors, when they got injections, from snakes or thorns or claws or teeth, were NOT benefited by it!!!
So it is not the least bit surprising that people wouldn't like the idea, especially when their little children are getting injected with STUFF.
First it is ridiculed.
Second it is opposed by evidence.
Then they move the goalposts and go back to step one.
I have been reading Schopenhauer for the past 10 years, and I never recall encountering the quote.
It is important to remember that Schopenhauer was an irritable sort who intensely disliked the works of Hegel and whose works frequently drip with venom for the writings and followers his contemporary. Ill deserved intellectual fame and those who fall for it are frequent targets of his abrasive wit. Then again, blockheads, the wealthy, metaphorical Phillistines and the general population at large were also frequent targets for his writings. He really did not like people in general.
I am reminded of the anecdote of the old master physicist, who, at a conference on physics, is displeased to hear that a newly-minted PhD is presenting a paper which completely demolishes his long-cherished personal work. He listens contemptuously as the youngster lays out his work, shows his theory and his proofs. At the conclusion of the discussion the old fellow comes up to the new lad with a stony-faced look. Onlookers hold their breath and prepare to make excuses and leave, fearing that the old fellow will go nuclear in his wrath against the upstart. The old man looks the younger up and down and then says :"You have just demolished 25 years of my work ." and then he thrusts out his hand and says :"I have been wrong these 25 years. thank you " and he shakes the young man's hand and claps him on the back.
An admittedly idealized version, but compare it to how cranks and quacks deal with information that contradicts their beliefs.
I don't mind the quote. Of course it's not true for every case - but sometimes it rings true. Smallpox vaccinations were ridiculed, then opposed, and now taken (by all but the scientifically ignorant) as self evidently effective. Heliocentrism was first largely ridiculed (and ignored for many years) then opposed and then accepted. The problem with the quote is that it suggests all truths do this, many are taken straight away as "true". Secondly people erroneously use it in reverse. They think if something is ridiculed and then opposed it must eventually be found to be true. History is full of "science" that was ridiculed, opposed and now thought to be absolute garage. Being first ridiculed and opposed does not make something more likely to be true.
There have been however some scientific breakthroughs which were so radical that they went against popular thinking to the extent they were mocked and banned. Where the comparison breaks down between these and the "anti vaccination crowd" is that the enduring ideas were largely based on empirical evidence. Copernicus had huge volumes of data. Evening after his system was banned - the accurate calendars his systems had created were still used by the Roman Catholic Church. Jennings had replicable results too.
Once again it comes down to evidence. Anti vaccines crowd fall short at that.
What's really amazing is that this particular bit of crank-defense has been used in essentially this form for at least half a century, without any of them noticing that it's gotten old hat. I mean, this is just the old Fulton Non-Sequitur that Gruenberger identified in 1962!
Here's "A Measure for Crackpots":
It's amazing how little things change.
I am reminded of the movie Bedazzled, which has this exchange between the protagonist (Stanley Moon) and the Devil:
Stanley: "You're a nut-case! You're a bleedin' nut-case!"
Devil: "They said the same about Freud, Einstein and Galileo."
Stanley: "They said it about a lot of nut-cases, too!"
Orac@21 "Cranks cite Schopenhauer as a general rule/observation; all it takes is one counterexample like relativity to invalidate their rule, and there are many, relativity being perhaps the most famous."
This is incorrect. If it's a "general rule" (i.e., usually true) than one counter example does not invalidate it. (A "general rule" is not a universally/always true.) Of course, it's easy to prove (with one example) that the quote is sometimes true but much more is needed to say whether it is generally true.
The problem with the quote (indeed, many quotes from "famous" people used in arguments) is that we have no idea whether it's generally true. The users of these sorts of quoted deem it to be true merely because somebody famous said it.
andrew brooks@37 "I don't mind the quote. Of course it's not true for every case - but sometimes it rings true. Smallpox vaccinations were ridiculed,..."
If we assume that Schopenhauer said it, I'd guess that he said it to make the point that one should not "pile on" with ridiculing ideas (just because everybody else is doing that) and that he expressed it in the form of a "general rule" for emphasis (i.e., as a literary device)
The problem with the use of the quote (which Orac is reasonably criticising) is that it's being used as a general rule when no one has any idea whether it is generally true. The false logic being used is that "being ridiculed" means "it's true", when it should be clear that all sorts of false things are ridiculed as well. (Of course, the reason the quote is being used as support is because they don't have anything better.)
Nope, no google alert. I don't even know how to do that. I was just wasting time reading blogs.
Another favorite quote of the "alties" is one usually attributed to Vaclev Havel:
A few years ago, I heard this quote in the most amusing context: it was used by Andrew Wakefield while he was speaking to a sympathetic group about his (then) upcoming GMC hearings. I found his use of this quote so amusing because he clearly portrays himself as someone who has "found the Truth".
As for the "three stages" quote (no matter who first said it), I've taken to regarding it as (yet another) warning sign of impending nonsense. For that matter, the use of any quotes from "famous" people in a serious debate is laughable. Trying to defend a scientific position with Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is a clear sign that there isn't any data on their side.
I disagree, Prometheus. In the words of a great philosopher, As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.
The sad thing about that quote is it's probably the most intelligent thing a neocon has ever said, and people jumped on it because it sounded silly. Never mind the fact that Rumsfeld alone was responsible for far more criticism-worthy shit...
What they say doesn't bother me even an infintismal fraction as much as what they did . . . We all say stupid stuff; thankfully most of us know better than to follow it up.
The medico stressed the need for the surgery due to the possibility of further damage to the cord. He also stressed the non-scientific nature of the treatments idiot mom was providing. I could sense he wanted to say more on that but didn't. The legal guy discussed the rules for how and why the judge allowed the county to assume custody. All very sad.
Orac. Do you work for a pharmaceutical Company?
I don't think that anyone should be forced to be vaccinated against their will. The fact that US Pharmaceutical corporations are exempt from any litigation relating to adverse effects of thier vaccines only raises questions.
If you'd read Orac's disclaimer, you would know the answer to your first question already.
And you're in the wrong thread for the rest of your comment.
Forgot that I intended to provide a link to the more appropriate thread - sorry about that!
Luv to Y'all- you all amuse me.
Thanks for the correction on Schopenhauer- I'm only cranky in the AM before
my organic coffee.