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Fallible Ideas Newsletter

Philosophy and rational analysis. By Elliot Temple.

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The Beginning of Infinity Contains Misquotes

I made my ninth video analyzing and explaining David Deutsch’s (DD) book The Beginning of Infinity (BoI). Link (or part 1).

I also wrote about my skepticism of people who think BoI is way better than The Fabric of Reality (FoR), or who love BoI but haven’t read FoR. I think BoI has attracted some shallow, social-climber fans.

While making my ninth video, I found a misquote of Feynman in BoI ch. 1. BoI says:

As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’

After investigating, I've concluded that Feynman didn't say that. DD probably got it off an unreliable website. I thought DD had proper sources (primarily books) for quotes even if he didn’t specify them in BoI, but I was wrong.

Then I found a misquote of Popper on an old TCS webpage. I wrote David Deutsch and Sarah Fitz-Claridge Publish Misquotes. It had a different title initially, but someone noticed that the Popper misquote is also in BoI. I checked more quotes in BoI and found that there are a lot of misquotes in BoI. And some people are spreading them, including in books, apparently without checking original sources. I shared my research process in the comments below that blog post.

Then I wrote Misquotes by David Deutsch which is a more organized and condensed version which presents the more important scholarship errors.

My conclusion is you cannot trust quotes that DD gives. Check primary sources yourself, don’t read him, or remember what he said as unreliable hearsay (similar to if your buddy said it to you, which is OK to hear as long as you know it’s unreliable). You should also be skeptical of DD’s paraphrases, summaries and facts. (There are a bunch of factual errors in BoI, as documented on this errata page. And that’s just the factual errors that were found with a small amount of critical attention – if the book actually got much critical attention, there’d be at least one misquote on that page since the book has so many.)

I retract my endorsement of DD’s books. I didn’t know they had lots of inexcusable errors. I overestimated them. There are some good ideas mixed in, but I don’t want to promote or recommend the books. They’d have to be read with major caveats in mind.

I wrote David Deutsch Books Unendorsement.

Harassment Update

I wrote more to explain what’s going on with the harassment campaign against me by David Deutsch and his fans:

 

By Elliot Temple. I write philosophical essays and a blog.

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