"If you want to feel better about not being perfect and see the potential upside in your errors, read Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz ... a brilliant book with a sweeping grasp of philosophy and physics and all points in between." —President Bill Clinton

Synopsis

Bill Clinton called it "a brilliant book with a sweeping grasp of philosophy and physics and all points in between." Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust chose it as the book she wishes every Harvard freshman would read. Read more about Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error below.

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To err is human. Yet most of us go through life tacitly assuming (and sometimes noisily insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origins of the universe to how to load the dishwasher. If being wrong is so natural, why are we all so bad at imagining that our beliefs could be mistaken – and why do we typically react to our errors with surprise, denial, defensiveness and shame?

In Being Wrong, journalist Kathryn Schulz explores why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes our relationships—whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations. Along the way, she takes us on a fascinating tour of human fallibility, from wrongful convictions to no-fault divorce, medical mistakes to misadventures at sea, failed prophecies to false memories, “I told you so!” to “Mistakes were made.” Drawing on thinkers as varied as Augustine, Darwin, Freud, Gertrude Stein, Alan Greenspan, and Groucho Marx, she proposes a new way of looking at wrongness. In this view, error is both a given and a gift – one that can transform our worldviews, our relationships, and, most profoundly, ourselves.

In the end, Being Wrong is not just an account of human error but a tribute to human creativity – to the ways we generate and revise our beliefs about ourselves and the world. At a moment when economic, political, and religious dogmatism increasingly divide us, Schulz explores the seduction of certainty and the crisis occasioned by error with uncommon humor and eloquence. A brilliant debut from a new voice in nonfiction, this book calls on us to ask one of life’s most challenging questions: what if I’m wrong?

Arguably the most famous mistake in the history of science, geocentrism – the belief that the earth is the center of the universe – held sway in the West from ancient Greece until the late 16th century. This erroneous conviction was supported by basic but misleading sensory observations (to the human eye, the sun appears to revolve around the earth, while the ground beneath us feels stationary), as well as by many religious traditions, including Judeo-Christianity. It took the combined work of the astronomers Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler – plus about a century and a half of sluggish belief change – for the correct, heliocentric model of the solar system to become broadly accepted.