By John Conlin
“There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the later ignorance.”
A new cancer-fighting drug is discovered, and its use races across the globe. New technology, new scientific discoveries all freely spread like wildfire. The fact-based nature of these discoveries, whose roots lay in the Scientific Revolution (which occurred roughly between 1550 and 1700), are willingly adopted by people far and wide.
Yet not so in our political world. If this same thinking were applied to political systems, every country in the world would have been copying and improving upon the U.S. Constitution for the last 100 years. There has never been a more prosperous, wealth-creating entity.
Yet look around the globe and you see incredible resistance to applying the same processes which have allowed the U.S. to become the richest, freest country the world has ever seen. Clearly, the self-propagating nature of the Scientific Revolution is not the same when confronting politics, and the stickiness of paradigm is the root problem.
A paradigm is an all-encompassing way of looking at something, a worldview. It is the means by which we put things in some sort of order and thus grant them meaning. It is an entrance but also a wall, blocking out and ignoring those pieces which contradict the present viewpoint.
We all operate under the sway of our various paradigms. Casting aside a paradigm is often a difficult task because it permeates so many other areas of our lives, whether consciously acknowledged or not. In his classic work “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Thomas Kuhn calls this process a paradigm shift, where a new paradigm completely replaces the old.
One of the most profound paradigm shifts in the history of humans was the Scientific Revolution. It was the spark that ignited a complete redefinition of the natural world and how we interacted with it; the ignition of a never-ending search for reality and truth.
It is the fire that gives us robots roaming the surface of Mars. It is the fire that gives us medical advancements that were almost unthinkable only a few years before. It is the fire that allows us to live like none before.
But there is one area which has been quite resistant to the rational, fact-based essence of the Scientific Revolution, and that is politics. Political systems across the globe operate as though they are immune from this reality, ours included.
Kuhn noted for people who are emotionally invested in a particular worldview, the paradigm makes even the possibility of other choices implausible. Rather than a window, these paradigms become walls that block even the thought there might be alternative and more basic reality beyond.
Thus evidence that might contradict the paradigm directly is casually discarded. But over time this avoidance of pesky facts leads to a buildup of “unreconciled anomalies.” Whatever your present political beliefs, these unreconciled anomalies, i.e., things not behaving according to your worldview, are cascading across the globe.
The only question for us is the direction these anomalies drive us. Do we double down and only do more of the same, or do we step into the breach and consider a new viewpoint, a new paradigm?
One path leads to destruction and the other to salvation. We need to end the failing paradigm, which is rooted in the belief that our opinions and desires matter. They matter no more in politics than they do in the hard sciences. The fire that transformed our thinking during the Scientific Revolution needs to now spread to our political thinking.
By any analysis individual freedom and limited government produce superior results. The evidence for this is overwhelming. The laws of statistics and the swarm intelligence freedom unleashes ensures this will always be the case. This is as much a provable fact as is gravity.
These truths should become the backbone of all government action. You wouldn’t board an airplane which ignored the laws of aerodynamics, nor should we allow governments to operate as if the laws of statistics and swarm intelligence didn’t apply to them.
The many will always outperform the few. The many will show far more collective intelligence than the few. The many will adapt far quicker than the few.
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, this process, which has no leader, no management and no one seeing the big picture, actually leads to order, structure and progress – not chaos. In addition, because this structure is very fluid it is quite adaptable to complexity and rapidly changing events; providing far superior results than how governments presently operate.
Top-down, hierarchical, “we know best” thinking should be tossed in the dustbin of history. Governmental, and in fact all business organizations should be built not just to allow but to capitalize on these foundational truths. Remember, they are as real as gravity.
Kuhn again notes the ultimate barrier to a paradigm shift is the refusal to see beyond the existing ways of thinking. We can either collectively follow the essence of the Scientific Revolution or wait until the unreconciled anomalies so accumulate they drive us in a direction which will in all likelihood lead to our collective demise. The choice is ours.
John Conlin is an expert in organizational design and change. He also holds a BS in Earth Sciences and an MBA and is the founder and president of E.I.C. Enterprises a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to spreading the truth here and around the world, primarily through K-12 education.