The power of an idea

5 November 2008

346px-pedigree_of_man_haeckel_1874

Suppose we think of the power of an idea as a ratio. The amount of an explanation that it explains divided by the amount it needs to assume to do the explaining.

I found this in the Royal Society in a panel in the Royal Society written by Richard Dawkins. (It has been moved there from a National Portrait Gallery exhibition called Heroes and Villains. The theory in question was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution which of course has huge positive score: it explains a huge amount and needs to assume only a little (the principle of random selection).

Neo-classical economics, in contrast, has to assume so much (this is my thought, not Dawkins’) that its ratio disappears towards zero.

The Royal Society was founded in 1660, as a large stained glass window inside the building reminds us: the first corresponding society in the world, and the first virtual community of scholars and academics, now almost 350 years old.

The picture is an 1874 lithograph called The Pedigree of Man, by Ernst Haeckl, from creationwiki’s page on the theory of evolution.

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