In a speech in 2002, Crichton coined the term Gell-Mann amnesia effect, after physicist Murray Gell-Mann. He used this term to describe the phenomenon of experts believing news articles written on topics outside of their fields of expertise, yet acknowledging that articles written in the same publication within their fields of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding: Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.) Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.
Have you ever heard that as couples get older, they lose their ability to hear each other? Jesse: No. Céline: Well, supposedly, men lose the ability to hear higher-pitched sounds, and women eventually lose hearing in the low end. I guess they sort of nullify each other, or something.
The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God. There are currently differing definitions of these concepts. The best known presentation of the problem is attributed to the Greek philosopher Epicurus. It was popularized by David Hume.
David Hume, rationalist, skepticism
- Bayes' theorem: This is a mathematical formula that allows us to update our beliefs or hypotheses based on new evidence or data. It shows how the prior probability of a hypothesis (what we already know or assume) and the likelihood of the evidence (how well the evidence supports the hypothesis) affect the posterior probability of the hypothesis (what we learn after seeing the evidence).
- Betteridge's law of headlines: This is an informal rule that states that any headline that ends with a question mark can be answered by "no". The idea is that if the answer was "yes", the headline would state it as a fact, rather than posing it as a question.
- Bradford's law: This is a empirical law that describes how the frequency of citations of scientific papers varies according to the rank of the journals in which they are published. It states that a core set of journals in any given field will account for most of the citations, while the rest will be distributed among a larger set of less influential journals.
- Campbell's law: This is a social science principle that states that when a metric is used as a target or indicator of performance, it tends to lose its validity and distort the system it is supposed to measure. This is because people will try to manipulate or game the metric to achieve the desired outcome, rather than improving the underlying process or quality.
- Last universal common ancestor: This is the hypothetical organism that is the most recent common ancestor of all living organisms on Earth. It is estimated to have lived about 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago, and to have had a simple cellular structure and genetic code.
- Abiogenesis: This is the natural process by which life arises from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds. It is also known as the origin of life, and it is one of the major unsolved problems in biology.
- Wiio's laws: These are a set of humorous aphorisms that describe how communication often fails or leads to misunderstanding. They are named after Osmo Wiio, a Finnish professor and politician, who formulated them in 1978. Some examples are: "Communication usually fails, except by accident." "If communication can fail, it will." "The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed."