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Originally published Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 7:00 PM

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Book review

'Being Wrong': admit it, you're not always right

In "Being Wrong," Kathryn Schulz argues that our modern tendency to jump on others' fallibility while failing to admit our own mistakes is just, well, wrong. Schulz discusses her book Thursday, July 1, at Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Co.

The Associated Press

Author appearance

Kathryn Schulz

The author of "Being Wrong" will discuss her book at 7 p.m. Thursday at Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Avenue, Seattle; free (206-624-6600 or


'Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error'

by Kathryn Schulz

Ecco, 405 pp., $26.99


Believing the Earth is flat and sits at the center of the universe.

The Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

New Coke.

People have been making mistakes — large and small — throughout their existence and won't be stopping anytime soon.

Nobody disputes that.

But what if we were the ones who declared our planet's flatness and central standing in the universe, shipped the Sultan of Swat out of town or made the call to tinker with the taste of America's leading carbonated beverage?

Would we be quick to step up and acknowledge our miscues?

Kathryn Schulz thinks we should.

The journalist and former editor of Grist magazine explores all things inaccurate in "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error."

And what she finds is this: To err is human ... and it's not necessarily a bad thing — especially when you take ownership.

"Wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change," Schulz writes. "Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world."

Still, Schulz argues, we don't get it.

As a society, we're quick to jump on others for their fallibility, but when we mess up, we either break out the "I was wrong, but" construction or the favorite among politicians and other decision-makers: "Mistakes were made."

"Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list," Schulz writes. "It is our meta-mistake: we are wrong about what it means to be wrong."

It's a fascinating subject to be sure and one that touches every one of us.

How could anybody go wrong writing about it?


Schulz could have taken a Philosophy 101 approach or penned a theoretical treatise.

Instead, she deftly weaves in real-world examples to amplify her thoughtful exploration of what she calls "wrongology."

For every passage about the teachings of great thinkers through history (Plato, Bertrand Russell and so forth), there's at least a passing reference to more accessible figures — Alan Greenspan and Phil Collins, for example.

It is said that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The same goes for errors, Schulz writes.

If we don't learn from our errors, they'll probably happen again.

So, please take this advice: Read "Being Wrong," because it's the right thing to do.

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