Quick thought: I HATE it when people say things like “we used to think X, but now we know Y” when what they mean is “experts used to tout X with an unconscionable level of presumed certainty, but now they’ve switched to touting Y in the same manner – and I want to identify with these experts, and you are an outgroup member if you don’t instantly acquiesce.”
Another form: “People (not we, heavens no!) used to think the earth was the center of the Universe, but we (certainly not those people!) now know that the earth is but one tiny, unimportant planet in a vast Universe of planets and stars and stuff.”
Pro tip: speak for yourself. Just because some genius or poser somewhere has spoken ex cathedra about some issue, doesn’t mean ‘we’ know anything about it. ‘We’ would do well to remember that ‘we’ are ignorant sheep about almost everything, and that few of us have any business even having an opinion on most questions. ‘I don’t know’ is the humble and honest answer to almost all questions almost all the time for ALL OF US.
When someone claims that now ‘we’ know something that requires your acquiescence, hold on to your wallet and plot a few possible escape vectors.
6 thoughts on “The Academic Royal We: The Death of Science”
We are amused by this post.
I’d be happy with the ‘we’ meaning informal consensus on non-disputed topic, and the phrasing being “we use to think X, but now we think Y, BECAUSE-“
Is your new role as headmaster attracting the pompous?
Not yet. We’ll see.
The only time I really didn’t mind that was in one 1950’s chemistry book where some things were “We used to consider this a troublesome waste product, but then we realized it was the ideal feedstock for this other process. We’re getting better at this all the time.”