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Paradigm Inertia: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer’s response to a theory that challenged the foundations of the physics he was known for was to ignore it. In so doing, Oppenheimer exhibited the kind of self-image-defense motive, rather than a scientific truth-seeking motive, that results in “paradigm inertia”.

Paradigm inertia is the resistance to changing paradigms. There are many reasons paradigms are hard to change, some of them are scientific, but the most powerful reasons are personal, emotional, and thoroughly unscientific.

The psychological and economic motives of people whose reputations and incomes depend on their association with a paradigm are at cross purpose with scientifically learning to evaluate a challenge to their paradigm.

For more on “Unscientific Learning” check out Science Historian, William Glen’s study of paradigm inertia in 600 geologists: 


This clip was assembled from excerpts from “Infinite Potential” a documentary about the great physicist David Bohm.

For the documentary see: For more on David Bohm’s contribution to our work, see:

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