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297 John Brockman: This Idea Must Die

Leading scientists, philosophers, and thinkers share the ideas they think need to be retired from science and society.

John Brockman: This Idea Must Die


"This Idea Must Die" is a collection of short essays by prominent scientists, philosophers, and thinkers, each arguing for the retirement of a particular idea or belief that they believe is holding back scientific and societal progress. Topics include consciousness, free will, the concept of the self, the idea of race, and many more. The essays are thought-provoking, challenging readers to reconsider their own beliefs and assumptions.


Title: This Idea Must Die

Author: John Brockman

Publishing year: 2015

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Length in hours: 16 hours and 25 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Challenging traditional beliefs: The book presents a range of provocative and unconventional ideas, challenging traditional ways of thinking about various subjects.
  2. Call for scientific progress: The authors argue that retiring outdated or unproductive ideas is necessary for scientific and societal progress.
  3. Diversity of perspectives: The book features essays from a diverse range of contributors, including physicists, neuroscientists, philosophers, and sociologists.
  4. Importance of questioning assumptions: The essays encourage readers to question their own assumptions and beliefs, and to consider alternative perspectives.
  5. Emphasis on critical thinking: The book emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and the need to be open to new ideas and approaches.
John Brockman: This Idea Must Die

5 funny quotes

  1. "The Earth is not the center of the universe, and neither are we." - David Deutsch
  2. "The idea that we are living in a simulation is kind of cute, but it is not a scientific hypothesis." - Scott Aaronson
  3. "I will be happy to give up my belief in free will just as soon as I no longer feel like I am choosing to do so." - Jerry Coyne
  4. "If you really believe that there is no self, then the concept of the self cannot bother you." - Susan Blackmore
  5. "Belief in astrology is the surest sign of a second-rate mind." - Richard Dawkins

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "We must stop thinking that free will is an adequate or necessary explanation for moral responsibility." - Sam Harris
  2. "I have come to think that the very concept of race is not only flawed but damaging to our attempts to achieve social justice." - Angela Saini
  3. "There is no evidence that consciousness exists outside the context of brains and their interactions with the world." - Susan Blackmore
  4. "The idea that humans have souls is a belief without basis in empirical evidence." - Scott Atran
  5. "We must reject the idea that individuals have a single, fixed, and essential identity." - Philip Zimbardo

5 dilemmas

  1. How do we balance the desire for individuality and personal expression with the need to belong to a larger social group?
  2. Can we reconcile the idea of free will with our growing understanding of the brain and its neural processes?
  3. How do we promote scientific progress and innovation while also respecting traditional beliefs and cultural practices?
  4. Should we embrace the idea of a post-human future in which humans merge with machines, or resist it?
  5. How do we address the issue of scientific literacy and public understanding of complex scientific concepts in an increasingly polarized and politically charged society?

5 examples

  1. Sam Harris argues against the idea of free will as an adequate explanation for moral responsibility.
  2. Angela Saini challenges the concept of race and its impact on social justice.
  3. Susan Blackmore discusses the relationship between consciousness and the brain.
  4. Scott Atran critiques the belief in the existence of the soul.
  5. Richard Dawkins makes a case against the validity of astrology.

Referenced books

  1. "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins
  2. "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin
  3. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn
  4. "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker
  5. "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene" by Richard Dawkins

Share a quote

"The idea that creativity can be reduced to a formula is like trying to explain a joke with a mathematical equation."

John Brockman: Know This
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