Monday, September 20, 2004


The Law of Lazy Repetition

Arno Karlen, Napoleon's Glands and Other Essays in Biohistory (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1984), p. 45:
The law of lazy repetition lies behind much inherited error, and it flourishes when specialists reach into other specialties. A historian, trained to question even firsthand accounts with a trial lawyer's skepticism, may worshipfully buy what any doctor says on a medical point. A doctor, trained to demand laboratory proofs, may regurgitate the silliest historical summary he finds because its author had an advanced degree. Each knows the complex rigors of his own field; yet his very respect for expertise may make him credulous in other fields. Instead of rechecking and seeking verifications, he repeats the first "authority" he reads or even off-the-cuff opinions and second-hand summaries.

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