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Premature consistency

From time to time, including a couple of times today, I’ve found myself using “consistent” thinking as a bad thing and “inconsistent” as a good thing, and I like to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson’s li’l “hobgoblin of consistency” snowclone.

Really, the problem isn’t consistency, it’s premature consistency. Thinking our mental model is complete before it is, so we fool ourselves to come up with cockamamie explanations for things that don’t fit in, or block it out it entirely.

Inconsistent thinking lets us start painting gently and accurately before we fully know what’s there, where premature consistency instead would paint a warped picture, forcing things to be placed the way they “should” be instead of where they really are.

Ultimately we do want, even need, a consistent model. Finding inconsistencies is one useful way to sussing out the real truth behind things.

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.