Anathem (review of a book I haven’t read)

This thread at the Self Service Science Forum


“I’ve been reading a bit of Neal Stephenson Sci/Fantasy recently. His bag is to combine philosophy of science concepts with historical/sci fi themes to produce interesing fiction. Think Iain M Banks with more nerdy accuracy.

Often the concepts get introduced using different names, like they are universal ideas that are rediscovered. In the book i’m reading at the moment, Occam’s Razor becomes The Steelyard. There is a concept called Diax’s Rake, which basically states:

Watch out for ideas you like the sound of…

It’s a very sensible idea, but not something I came across during the half of my degree doing Hist and Phil Sci subjects (apart from the usual objective/subjective stuff).

Does anyone know the historical reference for this?”

This led me to ask if the concept of “confirmation bias” was relatively recent, to which someone pointed out:

“I was just reading

It quotes Francis Bacon:

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (…) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects[.]

So the idea of it is about as old as modern science.”

and a little more search found:’s_Rake

“Never believe a thing simply because you want it to be true”

A warning against wishful thinking attributed to Diax.

Suspected Reference

This appears to be a reference to Thucydides, who said, “…[I]t is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire”

So it seems that the concept of confirmation bias is not only as old as modern science, it’s as old as ancient science as well.

You have to love the Internet

Oh, I nearly forgot the review:

This entry was posted in Newton and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Anathem (review of a book I haven’t read)

  1. this random guy says:

    I’ve added the Thucydides quote to the wikipedia entry. 🙂


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