This morning I came across this little gem at AndThenThere’sPhysics an interesting educated blog with equality interesting discussions.
Can Contrarians Lose?
Thesis - Contrarians always win
Proof. Let the following assumptions hold: (1) science is a corrective process; (2) scientific beliefs are revisable; (3) contrarians could (and probably will, one day, with AI) claim everything science doesn’t claim. Ergo, Betteridge’s Law strikes again. End of proof.
Remark. The last assumption (3) might be the most contentious one. For our proof to work, we need something like the totality of all possible ideas. It would contain the sum of all current scientific knowledge. The existence of both sets may be disputed. Further, the proof itself implies that it will: if there’s no scientific counterpoint to it, there’s at least a contrarian who would, hopefully in the current comment thread.
Corrolary 1 - Contrarians never lose.
Proof. Define losing as not winning. Cf. to the above thesis. There’s no third step.
Observation. This definition sidesteps the possibility of any kind of Pyrrhic victory. That would be a bummer. Forget I told you about that. Look at the silly monkey!
Corrolary 2 - When a contrarian win, every contrarian win. Forever.
Proof sketch. Since contrarians fill all the niches the scientific establishment does not, any scientific revolution makes contrarians win. We have empirical evidence that contrarians share the wins of any other one, however contradictory their mutual beliefs could be. Make provision for the idea that a contrarian isn’t an agent characterized by its belief states, but by opposition to what the scientific establishement holds. Keep that idea for later - you’ll need it.
Example. Galileo was once a contrarian. Science progressed. He then was right. Checkmate. Every single contrarian since Galileo are thus enshrined by that righteousness. Contrarians won, are winning and will win again and again.
Open problem. Are contrarians tired of winning?
Corrolary 3. Every scientific correction confirms that contrarians were right all along.
Proof. It’s an easy one. Left as an exercice to readers.
Gloss. Inconsistency is an asset, not a liability. It allows contrarians to split their roles and build an infinite amount of Dutch books executed through double binds. Being right all along doesn’t hinder the following:
Corrolary 4. It is preferable when contrarians are “not even wrong.”
Proof. Obviously, having no standpoint to defend accelerates the validation process, as it precludes any possibility that science ever become contrarian-proof contrarian concerns.
Alphabetical Listicle. How to express contrarian concerns - Arguing alternatives. Counterfactual thinking. Dogwhistling FUD. Incredibilism. Just Asking Questions. Plausible deniability. Sealioning. Whataboutism. Et cetera. You know the drill.
Corrolary 5 (Muller, 2012). As soon as a contrarian identifies with a winning belief that gets added to mainstream science, he loses its title of contrarian.
Proof. Recall the idea I told you to hold? Apply it. Bingo.
Warning. Includes side-effects like having to support your claim, read what otters write before commenting, cite your sources, and quote those with whom you disagree. Incidents of reciprocation and constructive criticism have also been reported. In the extreme, we witnessed a feeling of aloofness among those who had to deal with contrarians. You know, having to work and work and work to get nothing in return except being treated like the rug in The Big Lebowski? That feeling of aloofness.
Conjecture. Happy 2018, a year with many more contrarian wins to come!
You’ll want to check out the original version since there are a number of link embedded within the text that are worth a peek.
Let the debate continue.