the three laws of intellectual motion

Over three hundred years ago, Sir Isaac Newton clarified our understanding of dynamical processes by formulating has famous three laws, which read as follows:
  1. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
  2. The relationship between the mass of an object m, the acceleration of the object a, and the applied force f is f = ma.
  3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
We have all engaged in discussions where one person tires to change another person’s opinion. On rare occasions, these attempts may be successful, but in general they are not. According to Peter Sturrock, an astrophysicist at Stanford University and Emeritus Professor of Applied Physics, his experience leads him to offer for consideration and discussion the follows reformulation of Newton’s laws:
  1. Opinions tend to remain in a state of stagnation unless acted upon by an external argument.
  2. The rate of change of opinion is proportional to the strength of the applied argument, and inversely proportional to the intellectual inertia of the person holding that opinion.
  3. For every attempt to change another person’s opinion, that person will make an equal and opposite attempt to change the first person’s opinion.
With regard to the second law, he reminds us to note that intellectual inertia is weakly correlated with age but strongly correlated with status.

This proposition was done at edge.org, a society of intellectuals.

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