Being Wrong

From The Guardian:

Being-Wrong--Adventures-in-t One day in 1972, Village Voice journalist Ross Gelbspan attended a press conference. It was being held to promote a book called The Limits to Growth, which postulated that, because of increasing population and pollution and diminishing resources, our future world would be a place where no one would want to live. During the conference, Gelbspan was struck by the happy sight of one of the book's co-authors, Donella Meadows. How heartening, he thought, that despite her book's grim prognostications, she was pregnant. He went back to the office and typed up a story about how there was some hope amid the gloom, symbolised by Meadows's swollen belly. His editors liked the story so much they put it on the front page.

There was only one problem: Meadows wasn't pregnant. As I write this, I can feel blood rushing to my face in empathetic embarrassment. Even today, nearly 40 years after the error and almost a decade after Meadows's death, Gelbspan is still mortified. At the time, he wanted to die. However, let's snatch optimism from Gelbspan's understandable anguish. As Aristotle wrote in the Ethics, it is not good to feel shame – since it is bad to have done something one should feel ashamed of – but to do something wrong and not feel shame is a sign of wickedness. In an increasingly shameless world, Gelbspan's authentic distress is a sweet sign that not everything about us is going wrong. In this lovely book about human mistakes the sickeningly young, forbiddingly clever and vexingly wise American journalist Kathryn Schulz doesn't cite Aristotle, but he is a kindred spirit. Where Aristotle saw the value in a painful, ostensibly demeaning emotion, Schulz argues passionately for the value of error. The experience of being wrong, she argues, helps to make us better people, with richer lives.

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