Reasonable Words: Being Wrong and Changing Your Mind

As noted below, good mistakes are a key to career success (at least in Daniel Pink’s view). He would be in accord with Melvin Cohn, the emeritus Salk Institute immunologist who reflects on the same thing (but in a different context).

I now appreciate how much I learn by being wrong; I can change my mind when confronted with a rational argument, without the need to have the change appear to be purely semantic or to hope it will pass unnoticed. What must it be like to be a priest, general, bureaucrat, lawyer, medicine person, or politician who is never permitted to be wrong? No wonder they learn so slowly. I am grateful to be in a profession where, at least in my view, the realization of being wrong is equivalent to an increase in knowledge.

This is from an article called “The Wisdom of Hindsight,” from the Annual Review of Immunology 12:1-62, 1994, and comes in the context of Cohn’s recollection of visits to the Salk Institute by the philosopher Karl Popper, who spent the winter of 1966 there. They had lunch together every day.

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