Friday, March 16, 2012

What good is common sense?

Actually, common sense is quite useful, at least in ordinary situations. But it's not as useful as evidence, and when it comes to the very small, the very large, or very long timescales, it fails completely.

Common sense is only valid in everyday situations, those we have some familiarity with, and only for things at normal human scales of size and time. So, for the most part, it's not useful at all in science.

And this is why I rarely talk about reason, preferring to promote evidence-based thinking, instead. Reason is fine, but many things can seem reasonable but still be wrong. After all, does it seem reasonable that we're standing on the surface of a rapidly-spinning ball, floating in empty space?

Evidence keeps reason grounded in the real world. It keeps us from constructing logical flights of fancy. And it allows us to discover the truth, even when it violates our common sense.

No comments: