Hawking’s flip-flop

Shameless inconsistency from the Lucasian Professor of Natural Philosophy.

Stephen Hawking has disgraced himself.

Having for years insisted that no information could escape a black hole, he has now turned completely around.

And instead of being properly ashamed of having been wrong, and listening respectfully to those who were right, he’s bragging about having changed his mind, as if that were somehow an accomplishment or a mark of intelligence. “I want to report that I think I have solved a major problem in theoretical physics.” I mean, how pompous — how utterly French — can you get?

Professor Hawking has a lot to learn both from George W. Bush, who can’t remember ever having been wrong, and from the anti-war bloggers who keep chanting “I told you so I told you so I told you so.” Changing your mind in the face of new facts and new analysis is a sign of weakness, and being right now is unimportant compared to having always been right.

If he has any decency left, Hawking will resign the Lucasian chair in favor of someone who knows what he thinks and who sticks by his guns.

Update: Yes, that was supposed to be a joke. Gregg Easterbrook, on the other hand, seems to actually think that scientists who change their minds ought to be embarrassed about it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com