Bad Concepts Repository

We re­cently es­tab­lished a suc­cess­ful Use­ful Con­cepts Re­pos­i­tory. It got me think­ing about all the use­less or ac­tively harm­ful con­cepts I had car­ried around for in some cases most of my life be­fore see­ing them for what they were. Then it oc­curred to me that I prob­a­bly still have some poi­sonous con­cepts lurk­ing in my mind, and I thought cre­at­ing this thread might be one way to dis­cover what they are.

I’ll start us off with one sim­ple ex­am­ple: The Bohr model of the atom as it is taught in school is a dan­ger­ous thing to keep in your head for too long. I grad­u­ated from high school be­liev­ing that it was ba­si­cally a cor­rect phys­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of atoms. (And I went to a *good* high school.) Some may say that the Bohr model serves a use­ful role as a lie-to-chil­dren to bridge un­der­stand­ing to the true physics, but if so, why do so many adults still think atoms look like con­cen­tric cir­cu­lar or­bits of elec­trons around a nu­cleus?

There’s one hal­l­mark of truly bad con­cepts: they ac­tively work against cor­rect in­duc­tion. Think­ing in terms of the Bohr model ac­tively pre­vents you from un­der­stand­ing molec­u­lar bond­ing and, re­ally, ev­ery­thing about how an atom can serve as a func­tional piece of a real thing like a pro­tein or a di­a­mond.

Bad con­cepts don’t have to be sci­en­tific. Reli­gion is held to be a pretty harm­ful con­cept around here. There are cer­tain poli­ti­cal the­o­ries which might qual­ify, ex­cept I ex­pect that one man’s harm­ful poli­ti­cal con­cept is an­other man’s core value sys­tem, so as usual we should prob­a­bly stay away from poli­tics. But I wel­come in­put as fuzzy as com­mon folk ad­vice you re­ceive that turned out to be re­ally costly.