Challenging settled views like this is not just how science works. It is how all systematic research and development works. Thomas Edison, who founded the modern research lab, made that point when he was asked about his failed experiments. “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” That is usually taken to mean he was persistent. He certainly was. But Edison’s comment has a second, equally important meaning: that he had a right to try those experiments, to get it wrong as well as right, and to keep trying. Efforts like his, along with the right to capture the profits they might generate, are the technological foundation of our modern world’s unprecedented richness.
This fruitful contestation of different views, different approaches, and different conjectures goes well beyond science. It is the foundation of Anglo-American jurisprudence, where each side presents its own best case, its own best evidence, and its own interpretations, and then challenges the other side’s. It’s all a nonviolent contest of thrust and counterthrust. Democracy itself depends on such contestation, on politicians’ and publicists’ ability to make their cases and on citizens’ ability to hear and assess them. It’s why democracies tend to be more prosperous and, in virtually every way, more successful than autocracies and other systems that prohibit or stifle open debate.
As Carl Jung noted, “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.“