As a mathematician, can you say, “every engineer I’ve ever dealt with?”

“Here, honey, have a Fig Newton.”
“They’re not called ‘Fig Newtons’… they’re called ‘Pig Newtons’!”
“And I go, ‘no they’re not: they’re called Fig Newtons.'”
“She goes, ‘nooo! You don’t know! You don’t know: they’re called ‘Pig Newtons.'”
“And… I just… I, I feel this rage building inside.. just… because it’s not that she’s wrong, she’s three: she’s entitled to be wrong. But it’s the fucking arrogance of this kid: no humility. No decent sense of self doubt. She’s not going like, ‘dad, I think those are ‘Pig Newtons’, are you sure that you had it right?’ She’s not saying that; she’s not going like, ‘dad, I’m pretty sure those are ‘Pig Newtons’, which would be a little cunt-y, but acceptable: I could deal with that! She’s giving me nothing.”

And it’s not to portray myself as the dad here: that’s not it at all. Rather, the people I’ve dealt with–lived with–are so much like the three year old here that I’m constantly filled with this rage that Louis C.K. describes so perfectly. It’s this insurmountable arrogance of, “oh, I’m an engineer,I know things. I’m 22, I know.” Motherfucker, we’re all three to someone else, don’t get so wrapped up in your self assurance. You operate inside a little model with specific parameters, parameters never met anywhere outside of your model, and claim that you have universal understanding. That you see things for how they are. That you know how things work, and why.

I guess what bothers me is that I’ve worked so hard to learn to ask questions–and, I can only hope, the right questions–and every engineer I’ve met at this school doesn’t have a single shadow of a doubt as to their correctness. Especially my roommates.

I guess it’s the arrogance backed with inductive thinking and hiding in a safety bubble.

If you date one person through all of college, ride their coattails, and never do anything new or foreign without them: I don’t care how you slice it, you’re hiding in some way or another. And then you have the audacity to say that your way is the right way? Not just the right way for you, oh no, but the right way as it really is. When you’ve never even opted to be in a position where you could potentially be wrong? Maybe a logical breakdown of what you’re doing will highlight the fallacy here:
Driver isn’t wrong -> experiences only events positioned to prove driver right -> driver isn’t wrong -> driver understands all events

Wait, what? You do see how you’re forcing your personal experience–one that you haven’t even attempted to flesh out through failure–into a realm where thousands of other experiences exist, right? Where your setup is so specific that there’s no way that you could be right anywhere outside your own little bubble, right? You do realize that as gentlemen and ladies of science, you two are failing to fail, and thus gain an understanding of a better way, right?

This might square things up for you a little, if it’s still not making sense:

We come to knowledge slowly through a painful process of making hundreds of mistakes – and all of it will be shown to be inadequate at some point in the future. We do this often without knowing where we are going, despite what grant applications and press releases might suggest.

And all of this is ok.

It is ok to question science, but you should know what you are questioning. It is dumb to accept results of new promising studies as soon as they are released, just as it is dumb to reject a decade of work because it doesn’t fit your intuition or socio-political belief system.

Let me repeat: “We come to knowledge slowly through a painful process of making hundreds of mistakes”, not testing what’s perfectly convenient for you, being right every time because you set it up so you would be, and moving on as if you were successful and figured shit out. Get it?

Except my friend John. He’s probably the one exception. And I love that you’ve created an inconsistency for me, because it means I can’t gain too much naïve confidence in my observations.

Motherfucking Pig Newtons.


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