The Fallacy of the Counterexample

You've all heard it before, this time it's David Mitchell enlightening us with the well-known killer argument:
A newspaper headline chilled me to the bone: "New panel to weed out 'pointless' studies," it read.


The article under the terrifying headline was about the proposed new system for allocating government money for academic research, the Research Excellence Framework. It wants to weed out pointless studies by favouring research that looks like it's going to be of economic or social use.


So what sort of pointless study is this new system going to weed out? Why, all the ones that don't have a solid social or economic goal, of course. The government isn't going to pay for clever people just to sit in universities indulging their curiosity. No, they should be allocated something useful to discover and then research as hard as they can in that direction. Nothing good ever got invented by accident, apart from some silly fun stuff like the slinky, post-it notes, penicillin, warfarin and X-rays.
You know what? My grandfather smoked like a chimney and he died of old age when he was 102. I don't know how people can say smoking causes lung cancer.

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