TED Conversations

Alan Russell


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Joss Whedon said, “Half of writing history is hiding the truth.” So, who gets to decide? Whom can one trust about the past?

When my brothers and I can't agree on the details of an incident from childhood, how can anyone believe anything from history? How does one know what and whom to believe--beyond indisputable facts (if they actually exist)? For example, Woodrow Wilson, a leader of the Progressive movement, was President of the United States from 1913-1921. But was he a racist who hindered progress and promoted segregation?


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    Jan 11 2013: when i can't see the atoms myself, how can i believe chemistry or nuclear physics? the answer is of course data, evidence, expertise and public discussion.

    the problem is not the subject itself. but rather the attitude of people. when it comes to physics, they accept the opinion of experts that spent years on learning it. but for some strange reason, sociology, economics and history are emotional subjects, and people believe what they want to believe, regardless of facts. so the public opinion and common "wisdom" (including school curriculum) about history is a joke. many people are not at all interested in reality.

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