© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

So crazy…it just might work

[Walking downhill toward home with Delaney after seeing if Kaylee could come over and play. She couldn’t. The conversation that ensued is so improbable that I feel the need to pinky-swear that it is nonfiction. Here’s as close a transcription as I could manage 90 seconds later when I found a piece of paper.]

link2309DELANEY (7): Kaylee’s family goes to church.

DAD: Mm hm.

DELANEY: And Rachel’s family is Jewish.

DAD: Yup.

DELANEY: I like to have friends who believe different things.

DAD: I don’t know where you get your crazy ideas. Everybody has to believe the same.


DAD: But it needs to be my exact way, of course.

DELANEY: Dad. I know you’re joking. There have to be different ideas or the world would never get any better.

[A new one. DAD pauses.]

DAD: And why is that?

DELANEY: It’s like this. If there are a hundred different ideas, then the person with the best idea can talk to the other people and…you know, convince them about it. But if you have just one idea, it might not be the best, and you would do it anyway. And things would get worse and worse in the world from doing ideas that aren’t the best.

DAD: Holy shit, girl!

DAD, out loud: Wow.



DAD: What if somebody had an idea to kill or hate people?


DELANEY: Maybe he never heard any other ideas, so he doesn’t know a better one. The other people can show him their ideas. And then they vote.

(This defense of the marketplace of ideas precisely parallels a line of thought in Stephen Law’s excellent book The War for Children’s Minds. But Laney has not (to my knowledge) read his book. And Law is not (to my knowledge) seven, so I’m not quite so impressed with him.)



This was written on Wednesday, 10. June 2009 at 06:39 and was filed under Atlanta, diversity, My kids, Parenting, Raising Freethinkers, values. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

You can leave a Comment, or Trackback.

«  –  »

Comments »

  1. Amazing! this seems like a combo of a brilliant mind and great parenting to me.

    Comment: fifthlampdown – 10. June 2009 @ 8:36 am

  2. Very impressive. I’d almost recommend sending her over to North Korea to try and straighten them out over there, but she’d likely be jailed as an enemy of the state.

    Comment: BrianE – 10. June 2009 @ 8:43 am

  3. I was already impressed with Laney and her dad. Now I am impressed with Law too, thanks for the nod, ordering his book now. . .

    Comment: JJ Ross – 10. June 2009 @ 9:30 am

  4. The Law book has apparently done pretty well in the UK (where Law is something of a philosopher-rockstar, a hyphenation we don’t do here) but has not received nearly the exposure and readership in the US that it deserves.

    Comment: Dale – 10. June 2009 @ 9:34 am

  5. Law’s book is indeed excellent, and his authoritarian-vs-liberal analysis is spot-on. The “marketplace of ideas” concept reminds me also of something from Mill’s “On Liberty:”

    “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

    Comment: cognitive dissident – 10. June 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  6. I was told, “It’s the grit in the oyster that makes the pearl.”
    Give Delaney a big hug.

    Comment: leslie – 11. June 2009 @ 12:32 am

  7. So how can you write this libertarian piece and have supporting comments while when Michael Shermer does it, he gets nothing but rage? Must be a different atheist audience !

    We started a “Skepticism and Liberty” site simply to try and put a voice out there for pro-market Atheists and the like. Glad to see there are others. Fantastic story about your little girl !

    Comment: sabio – 11. June 2009 @ 4:54 am

  8. totally shopped! you can tell from the vicarious aggrandizing: ‘ my kid is balls out smart ‘ tone of the whole thing and the ‘ observe the wisdom of my philosophy, its so profound and universally applicable that even children recognize it’s value ‘ message. plus of course the pixels.

    Comment: ateistlibertariancriminalasshole – 11. June 2009 @ 8:24 am

  9. We started a “Skepticism and Liberty” site

    Hey, thanks for that link, Sabio! That’s a damn useful resource. (Though I’m pretty sure libertarians don’t have a monopoly on the marketplace of ideas. A bit like the all-Baptist heaven, that.)

    Comment: Dale – 11. June 2009 @ 8:35 am

  10. Sabio, Dale’s audience is obviously more discerning. 😉

    I for one am also impressed with Michael Shermer — my bedside reading of late has been “The Mind of the Market” which soon will join a half-dozen Shermers for smart people on my favorites shelf. I’ve been known to carry my well-thumbed paperback of “The Science of Good and Evil” around while chauffeuring driving the kids to activities, just so other parents waiting will see me reading it and maybe get curious.

    Comment: JJ Ross – 11. June 2009 @ 9:16 am

  11. @alca:

    totally shopped!

    Yeah, I hear you. I’d probably have the same response if I didn’t know her. I sometimes refuse to post Laney’s thought-dialogues because those who don’t know her would think it’s didactic fiction. But if I were writing fictional dialogue — something I do pretty well, actually — I promise it would be MUCH more nuanced and believable than this.

    Comment: Dale – 11. June 2009 @ 11:45 am

  12. […] So crazy…it just might work – Wow. That’s very cool. […]

    Pingback: Unblogged Bits for Wednesday, 24 June 2009 | ***Dave Does the Blog – 24. June 2009 @ 7:00 pm

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.