I remember the first time I heard the phrase “superficially appealing notion.” It struck a chord with me that some ideas are so intuitively appealing that we jump to the end without working out the details. Yet, we all know the Devil is in the details, don’t we?
“Hope and Change” – great idea, right? “9-9-9” – the centerpiece plan for a presidential hopeful. “It’s the Economy Stupid!” “Freedom from Foreign Oil.” “A chicken in every pot.” “Universal health care.” The list goes on. The devil is always in the details.
There are lots of people with great ideas, but making them work in practice is quite another thing. Couple this with today’s news cycle that “does not do complex well” and you get a sound bite styled presentation. But, where is the critical thinking about how to make them work. No one seems to want to do the hard work of making ideas work. Or, if they don’t work, figuring out why and learning a bit.
There is true beauty in thought when it can be reduced to crisp, simple ideas. I love the words in the Old Testament book of Micah, Chapter 6 verse 8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That is profoundly helpful suggestion and a lifelong quest for me.
Einstein is known of course for saying many important things, but I especially like these two:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
“For every problem there is a solution which is simple, obvious, and wrong.”
Can we probe today’s superficially appealing notions to see if they have broken either of Einstein’s suggestions here? Can we ask the tougher questions about the details? Or, are we afraid we will be criticized as flat earthers, DOUGs (Dumb Old Utility Guys), etc.
I really want someone to tell me how we can have a hydrogen economy when hydrogen doesn’t naturally exist anywhere we live? I want to understand how burning natural gas in a fuel cell somehow is carbon neutral … where did the carbon go in the natural gas? I want to know why burning wood is carbon neutral when it happens in seconds and it takes years to grow a tree?
I am feeling a lot like Sigourney Weaver in the movie Aliens when she is confronted by a review panel as to why she destroyed the space ship. She responds with “Did IQ’s drop sharply while I was away?!”
Perhaps they have Sigourney … perhaps they have.