When to Revise
by Cynthia">Cynthia Sue
you do not really believe that a horseshoe
over the entrance to a home brings good luck?"
"No, I certainly do not believe in this superstition.
But you know, they say it brings luck
even if you don't believe in it."
--A house visitor and Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr was one of the 20th century's most respected
physicists -- not someone we would generally expect to make such a off-beat
assertion, let alone hang a horseshoe over his door for good luck.
We generally expect our scientists to be free of extraneous assumptions, so
that they pursue their quest for truth more effectively. In actuality,
scientists are people too, and have just as many quirky beliefs and
assumptions as the rest of us. As physics professor Richard Feynman once
"I believe that a
looking at non scientific problems
is just as dumb as the next guy."
Why is it that we so rarely examine the assumptions
underlying the way we interpret the universe and ourselves within it?
Perhaps because our assumptions are almost invisible to us, much like the
foundations we build our houses upon. Like building foundations,
assumptions support our way of interpreting everything we sense and
experience, so it takes great courage to examine them closely lest we find
I feel encouraged to know that we can learn much more when we have the
courage to question our assumptions. In fact, there are some who believe
we learn the most when we scrutinize our beliefs all the way down to our
assumptions. I love what composer Igor Stravinsky had to say about
"I have learned
throughout my life as a composer
chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions,
not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and
This fills me with great hope.
I am hopeful that no matter how misguided my assumptions may turn out to
be, I will have the courage to see them clearly and know when it's time to
make a change.
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Copyright @ 2001 by Cynthia Sue Larson, All