Friday, 12 November 2010

Clapham North's Thought for the Day

I couldn't find a great deal of references to Alan Ashley-Pitt on Google, apart from this quote, so I still have little idea who he is. I'll just give my opinion on the quote then.

When the first football international matches were played in the late 19th century, between England and Scotland, the accepted tactics in England were based on dribbling, and individual brilliance. A player would attempt to dribble upfield through the opposing defence, and when the ball was lost, one of the opposition would attempt the same feat, and this was generally how games progressed.

The Scots, on the other hand, had discovered the art of teamwork. Upon playing the English, once they had won the ball from an English player, they quickly moved the ball between each other, to bring an immediate threat to the English goal. Not to say that England had no success with their dribbling game, but the Scots were light years ahead, and the passing game grew to be favoured over the individualistic dribbling tactic.

We often like to think of ourselves as rugged individuals, ploughing our own furrow in the world. But our greatest triumphs come when we work together to achieve. In the way that a football team gets better results by working together than by toiling alone, cooperation is usually more productive than trying to do everything yourself.

Of course, history is full of visionaries, who had no need of help from others - Hannibal, Galileo, Maradona (just keeping the football analogy going!)

But these are the exception rather than the rule. Science could not function without the consensus derived from the replication of experiments, and the continuous testing of hypotheses. The wisdom of the crowd, with its combined knowledge and experience, will usually trump that of the individual.

There's the possibility that one person alone could be utterly wrong, but still stubbornly insists they're correct. Andrew Wakefield, for example, still contends that MMR causes autism, flying in the face of all scientific consensus. A man more alone you could hardly hope to find. His lonely journey may be taking him to places no-one has seen, but they're places no one should go.

So the man who follows the crowd may not have the satisfaction of the vindicated individual, but he benefits from the wisdom of others. The man who walks alone walks with no guide, into the forbidding darkness.

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