Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, by Kathryn Schulz

beingwrongI spent about a week reading Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. It had been on my to-read list for some time, and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. It felt like I bookmarked something on nearly every page (and indeed, I ended up taking eight pages of notes), and my review stretched to three pages.

Full review on Goodreads

Full review including quotes (link to Google doc)

I first heard about the book in a New York Times Book Review interview with Drew Gilpin Faust (President of Harvard University), who recommended it as a book all incoming freshman should read. The book is in four parts: The Idea of Error, The Origins of Error, The Experience of Error, and Embracing Error.

Schulz is a gifted writer in the way she weaves together ideas from across several disciplines, provides illustrative examples from many sources, quotes experts from different fields, and builds a cohesive and powerful model – the “Optimistic Meta-Induction” (to counter the Pessimistic Meta-Induction*).

Although the ideas and theories in the book are substantial, the writing is accessible and personable, even funny at times. Though it’s awkward to recommend this book in person (“I just read this book called Being Wrong, I think you’d love it!”), it’s well worth reading; I found it to be an incredibly rewarding book that will, I hope, help me think and feel differently about the experiences of being right and wrong, and have more compassion and empathy for those who see things differently than I do.

*Schulz defines the Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Science on page nine: “…because even the most seemingly bulletproof scientific theories of times past eventually proved wrong, we must assume that today’s theories will someday prove wrong as well.” She extrapolates from this and expands it: “No matter the domain of life, one generation’s verities so often become the next generation’s falsehoods that we might as well have a Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Everything.”


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