I’ve been reading Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law. I’ll write about it more later. For now, I just want to mention something about his chapter on Pseudoprofundity. This especially has to do with postmodern academics where traditionally the field has been so weighted down with jargon that there is often nothing other than the jargon.
In my experience with science, I have found that pretty much all concepts are really simple. In order to be precise, scientists and philosophers weight down these concepts with a lot of baggage. But if students are trying to learn something and they find it difficult, they are probably missing the concept.
Here is an excellent example. Nothing is more mind blowing than Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. This theorem says that any mathematical system (e.g. Euclidean Geometry) can never be fully formed. There will always be things that are true inside that system that cannot be proved to be true. Here is a simple proof of this from Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker:
If I could impart any wisdom to young learners, it would be this: all concepts are simple. This of course helps in a general sense: it allows people to drill down to the bottom of what they are learning. But there is another aspect of this. It frees the student to ask what he may think of as dumb questions. If you have a professor who is droning on about something that seems very complex, just call him on it. “Excuse me professor: this seems awfully complicated. What is the concept you are trying to relate?”
When I taught physics, students would often tell me that they understood the concepts but that the math was hanging them up. This caused me, over time, to eliminate the math and just deal with the concepts. And what did I find? They didn’t understand the concepts either. I said these concepts are simple—not trivial. One thing was for sure: the math was blinding them to the concepts. By focusing on the concepts, they found that the math was fairly simple.