Ridicule, is a powerful way of killing unusual, original thought.
Anything creative will usually challenge conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom defends itself by what’s politely known as satire.
Where I come from it’s called taking the piss.
Richard Littlejohn, in The Daily Mail, is the current chief exponent of this.
He’s a very funny writer.
But that doesn’t make him right.
He admits it.
Littlejohn says “I’m a heckler. It’s not my job to come up with the right answer. I’m the bloke sitting at the back, chucking bottles.”
The 18th century equivalent was Voltaire.
Voltaire was a great admirer of Isaac Newton.
There was a feud, over who invented calculus, between Newton and Gottfried Leibniz.
So Voltaire wrote ‘Candide’ to ridicule Newton’s enemy.
One of the main characters in Candide is Doctor Pangloss.
He is portrayed as an optimistic idiot.
One who blindly pretends that everything is perfect, no matter how much evidence there is against it.
Someone who persists in his beliefs, refusing to accept the reality the rest of us can plainly see.
Doctor Pangloss has a persistent, annoying, mantra throughout the book.
“Everything is for the best, in this best-of-all-possible worlds.”
After an earthquake that leaves 30,000 dead, he survives by robbing corpses.
He happily says “Everything is for the best, in this best-of-all-possible worlds.”
He contracts syphilis.
He smiles “Everything is for the best, in this best-of-all-possible worlds.”
He loses an eye and an ear.
He is shipwrecked, he laughs “Everything is for the best in this best-of-all-possible worlds.”
He is eventually hanged.
His epitaph is “Everything is for the best, in this best-of-all-possible worlds.”
Everyone knew Doctor Pangloss was meant to be Leibniz, expounding his plainly ridiculous philosophy.
The book served its purpose.
Leibniz was ridiculed and made to look a fool next to Newton.
Leibniz lost all credibility.
Nobody bothered trying to understand what Leibniz was really saying.
Voltaire just took a single sentence, and misinterpreted it to mean something it was never meant to.
Nearly 200 years later we can see that Voltaire was actually quite thick.
But in order to see that, we need to understand what Leibniz was really saying.
And that wouldn’t happen until Darwin said it in a slightly different way.
Nearly 100 years after Leibniz.
No rational person now doubts Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution.
Basically expressed this is ‘survival of the fittest’.
Whatever is best equipped to do the job, survives.
Whatever isn’t best equipped, doesn’t.
So the world must be made up of whatever is best equipped to survive.
We may not like it.
We may not consider it ‘the best’ in our opinion.
It may not be the nicest, or the happiest, or what we’d prefer.
But nature doesn’t care what we prefer.
It isn’t what’s best in our opinion.
It’s what’s best in fact.
That’s what survives.
From all the possible random variations and mutations, those that have survived are the best.
So “Everything is for the best, in this best-of-all-possible worlds” isn’t an opinion.
It’s a fact.
Darwin was scared stiff when he came up with that thought.
He thought he’d be pilloried for it.
He’d already seen what Voltaire had done to Leibniz.
Remember that next time you have a really exciting, interesting, unusual idea.
Something that challenges conventional wisdom.
And people start taking the piss.
That may just be a sign that it’s a great idea, and they’re too thick to see it.