Humanity, it seems, is divided into two categories: those who embrace criticism, and those who attack it. All progress comes from the former – who all too often have the dubious distinction of being hated by the latter. Accepting criticism is a foundational act of humility; it is how we all learn. Children are constantly corrected when they misspell a word, miscalculate a sum, or swing their tennis rackets badly. As a result, they improve. Most of childhood is spent being corrected; that essential process, however, grinds to a halt for many adults, who imagine that they are in possession of perfect knowledge, and therefore should be immune from criticism. Of course, they are not in possession of perfect knowledge – but even if they were, why should they fear criticism? The best tennis player in the world should not fear the serve of a first-time player. All our moral progressions – the roots and seeds of the modern world – arose from questioning the unquestionable. Slavery was an approved practice across the world for the entirety of human history, until the late 18th century, when the Abolitionists began to question the morality of owning people. Mankind’s actual position in the universe – on a planet orbiting a sun orbiting a galaxy which orbits nothing – was considered heretical for many decades. The phrase “trial by fire” refers to the early medieval practice of forcing a person accused of a crime to walk three paces holding a red-hot iron – if God healed his burns, he was innocent. The modern judicial process of requiring evidence, allowing the accused to confront the accuser, a trial by a jury of your peers, access to a lawyer – these all required the substitution of empirical mortal mechanics for murky divine feedback.
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