05 August 2009

Rationality

One passage from Moneyball (review) really struck me. Bill James, one of the first real advocates of the statistical approach to baseball, remarked on the difficulty of getting traction with his ideas:

Seven years into his literary career, in the 1985 Baseball Abstract, James formally gave up any hope that baseball insiders would be reasonable. "When I started writing I thought if I proved X was a stupid thing to do that people would stop doing X," he said. "I was wrong."

Perhaps this is just the way we are wired to think about things, but it is what it is. Advocates for all causes would do well to remember that the most effective arguments are a mixture of not only evidence but also some combination of flattery, repetition, inspiration, subtlety, awe, live demonstrations, and/or fear.

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