virus: truth, science, and the American way

Reed Konsler (
Wed, 2 Apr 1997 09:42:42 -0500 (EST)

>From: Richard Brodie <>
>Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 12:31:50 -0800
>Reed wrote:
>>A human being cannot fly without assistance. Such extraordinary
>>feats have never been observed reproduceably. Belief is
>>irrelevant, except that false belief can lead to harm (for instance,
>>jumping off your garage becuase you believe you can fly).
>If belief is irrelevant, why are you wasting your time at Harvard
>University? Just for the diploma? Even that is just a tool to alter
>people's belief about you.

Sorry, I was being needlessly cynical. I pursue the degree for a lot
of the same reasons you claimed to work for Microsoft: the challenge
and the opportunity to have lunch with interesting very intelligent
people. The University pays for my education and throws in a
stipend allowing we to live in a sort of gentel-poverty. I get to play
with expensive toys. I love chemistry. I love teaching. I don't
have to wear a tie at work and I don't have to put up with much
arbitrary BS. I come and go as I please. I have everything I
want (well, my Fiancee is in Japan right now...but that isn't work

And, of course, I can write "vetted by Harvard" next to my name.

Most decisions in life, you are aware, are overdetermined.

Thanks, though. I appreciate the opportunity to self-affirm my motives.

>>Now, if you are talking about "placebo effect", that's true...
>>but not as significant in support of your thoughts, I think.

>Coming up with examples where "positive thinking" doesn't help does
>nothing to refute the thesis that belief drives behavior which in turn
>drives results.

Do you recognize a difference between "positive thinking" and belief?
You're right, no experiments would ever get run if I didn't say: "hmmm,
this might work." But no progress would ever be made if I didn't
honestly evaluate the results. I can't tell you how many times I wanted
and desperately believed that some reaction or another "had to work."

Belief is irrelevant. "Positive thinking" keeps you going. Critical
thinking brings home the bacon. Try science. It's hard, it's very
frustrating...but it works.

Isn't progamming similar?


Reed Konsler