Please Correct Me!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

As a follow-on to yesterday's post regarding the proper attitude one should take regarding the discovery that one is ignorant or mistaken about something, I am glad to be able to provide another (and probably better) positive example of the same. The below vignette comes courtesy of Amanda Maxham, who brings it up as she introduces a post on climate change at Voices for Reason:

On what very well may have been my first day of graduate school, sitting in my first class, our professor began by telling us the story of how he had found an error in a physics text book. This was not any old physics text book, mind you; it was Classical Electrodynamics by John David Jackson, a book that by mere mention, instilled fear in even the smartest and bravest of graduate student.

In my first day of a course with the deceptively simple title "Magnetohydrodynamics I," my eyes became wide as he described writing a letter to Jackson (THE Jackson!), pointing out this error. Rather than that signifying the abrupt end of our dear professor's career, Jackson allegedly thanked him profusely, corrected the error in the next edition of the text and offered a prize for any future errors that he or anyone else could find.
Maxham goes on to note that her professor not only took that lesson to heart, but also passed it on: He offered a prize to any student who found an error in his lecture materials. "[H]e meant to show us how to graciously accept scientific criticism and to remember that no matter what the circumstances and no matter how revered someone may seem to be, truth is always the ultimate goal." [bold added]

Like Maxham, I wonder "what the goal really is" when I see anything less than gratitude about a chance to correct or clarify something one has said, on the part of any self-proclaimed messenger of truth.

-- CAV


Rajesh Dhawan (used to blog as Objectiveman) said...

This is also applicable to businesses and not only to individuals. A lot of companies don't react too well to their mistakes (customer complaints) when in first place they should be vigorously soliciting feedback. They should be grateful for a chance to rectify their mistakes and improve in today's very competitive scenario. Some of even those who do ask for feedback do so halfheartedly and seem to be going through the motions.

I am in New Delhi,India so I am talking about local businesses and even the Western companies based here. I guess it is the individuals who pursue the truth relentlessly, who are more likely to start the companies which will do the same.

P.S: I have been an regular reader of your blog since last few years.Thank you.

Gus Van Horn said...


It really blows my mind when people who supposedly want money fail in this way.

Also, thank you for making my blog a regular part of your routine. It is always nice to hear from readers like you.