Posted by Christie Malry on July 16, 2014 at 8:34 am
Change is then predicated on the existence of disruptive thinking and, as Schopenhauer suggested, it usually provokes a three or four fold response. At first it can be ignored. That clearly did not happen in this case. Second it is ridiculed, which most certainly occurred. Then it is violently opposed. It may be fair to say that happened, although I mean in terms of the argument, and no more. Last it is accepted as being glaringly obviously appropriate and the right thing to do, with the idea then being adopted by those who usually have no idea how it might have emerged.
A couple of reflections on this:
The original quote isn't about change, or even disruptive thinking. It's about truth. While it's often attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer and sometimes to Gandhi, it's unlikely either were the true source.
But Ritchie has gotten the quote the wrong way around. The quote isn't a manual for how to bring difficult new concepts into common acceptance: first make sure they ignore you, then get them to laugh. It's descriptive, not normative. It says that, for a given truth, it will have followed these steps. And for novel scientific advances that's probably true. But Ritchie is holding it up as a scorecard. Because he has been ignored, because he's being pilloried, he's effecting change. And this is clearly a fallacy of affirming the consequent. Silence and ridicule are products of truth, not determinants of it.
Carl Sagan explains the latter point brilliantly:
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.