Richard Thaler is writing a new book and sought the help of Edge contributors:
I am doing research for a new book and would hope to elicit informed responses to the following question: The flat earth and geocentric world are examples of wrong scientific beliefs that were held for long periods. Can you name your favorite example and for extra credit why it was believed to be true?
Please note that I am interested in things we once thought were true and took forever to unlearn. I am looking for wrong scientific beliefs that we've already learned were wrong, rather than those the respondent is predicting will be wrong which makes it different from the usual Edge prediction sort of question.
Several responders pointed out that the phrase "scientific belief" in my question was not well defined. Did I mean beliefs held by scientists or beliefs by the lay public about science. The answer is that I am interested in both, though I should stress that this is not at all what my next book will be about. I do not know enough about science to write anything about the subject. However, for the book I am thinking about stuff that we get wrong, often for long periods of time, and am doing some wondering about whether there are some principles defining when such mistakes are more likely to happen. Read the responses at The Edge.
Is there theological stuff we have gotten wrong for long periods of time? Or is that simply not a sensible question?