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This Idea Must Die: Fodder for Evidence-Based Practice

Podcasting is a fairly young idea. Anybody with a microphone and access to the Internet can put up a podcast. Given that, some are terrible, and some are really great.

One of my favorites is Freakonomics: The Hidden Side of Everything. You might think it would be boring, because “Freakonomics” sounds like “economics,” but no. (Apologies to those who are fascinated by economics.)

Recently (March 5, 2015), their podcast was based on the book, This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress. This book is based on the question, “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”

03-17 Dinosaur

This idea died already, yet here it is, resurrected in suburban San Jose.

During the show Stephen Dubner interviewed at least 11 people from The Reality Club about the ideas they think should die. The whole idea of The Reality Club is to put brilliant people together and have them ask each other the questions that they ask themselves.

My favorite interview was the one with Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London. The idea she wants to kill is that people are either right-brained or left-brained. She says:

This is an idea that makes no physiological sense….

What really worries me is that it is having a large impact in education…. what we see is  often children being classified as being either left-brained or right-brained and actually it could be a real impediment to learning, mostly because that kind of implies that it’s fixed or innate and unchangeable to a large degree….

Some people are more creative than others. Other people are more analytical than others. But the idea that this is something to do with being left-brained or right-brained is completely untrue and needs to be retired.

As far as learning goes, we’re just never done. Here’s a quote from Steve Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, to send you on your way:

I love the idea of killing off bad ideas because if there’s one thing that I know in my own life, it’s that ideas that I’ve been told a long time ago stick with me,  and you often forget whether they have good sources or whether they’re real. You just live by them. They make sense. Especially the worst kind of old ideas are the ones that are intuitive. The ones that fit with your worldview, and so, unless you have something really strong to challenge them, you hang on to them forever.

For more from The Reality Club, check conversations posted on their website. Plus, every year they publish a book with contributions from brilliant people about a carefully-chosen question. This year’s question (2015) is “What do you think about machines that think?”


Podcast | This Idea Must Die

Book | This Idea Must Die

Site | (The Reality Club)

Post | This Year’s Question

Book | Freakonomics

Book | SuperFreakonomics

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