27 January 2008

Change is Hard

I just rediscovered this great quote:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Max Planck

I believe this doesn't just relate to scientific truth, but truth in general. My Dad would say, "Experience is always in the first person," meaning that it's a good idea to learn from others, but most of the time we don't. There are great new truths to be had, but everyone is at a different point in the journey, with all the baggage that entails. Many of the most important and needful changes can't happen until there is a personal experience with the need for change. Mostly that happens one person at a time. There are those who think people would act differently if they only knew some bit of relevant knowledge, but more often than not, the reality is much more complicated than a simple lack of knowledge.

Change requires love, patience, help and encouragement, a willingness to learn from above, from below and from all those around you. It requires an absolute and deep conviction that you could really be wrong about something in a fundamental way. It requires a desire to improve and a motivation to exercise more effort than normal. It requires the courage to be wrong and fail again and again in the pursuit of new understanding. In the end, it often requires the willingness to forgo the due respect and esteem of others. Almost always it requires some kind of sacrifice. It is for all these reasons and many more, that change is hard. Thanks be to those who, despite all of this, do change. They make space for others to do the same.


Ed said...

That quote reminds me of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a seminal work in the philosophy of science. You might find it an interesting read, if you haven't already come across it.

Kuhn defines such a gradual adaptation of a scientific truth as a "paradigm shift" and argues that the process is very repeatable and predictable.

I also like your dad's saying. What's his first name? I'll probably use that every now and then...

Anonymous said...

Dads first name is D. Mark. You are welcome to use the quote. My wife would correct me, however, to say Experience is almost always in the first person. Why? My son who writes this blog has often, to his credit, learned vicariously from his dad's tessellated life, meaning he has made my life experience part of his own. That was my purpose in sharing my life with him in the first place. He has just taken advantage of the opportunity.