Summary of Why Bad Ideas Refuse to Die

The Guardian,

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Why Bad Ideas Refuse to Die summary
How do long-refuted theories and ideas re-emerge and thrive in public discourse?


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People can stubbornly cling to false theories and wrong information – in science as much as in everyday life. Steven Poole, author of Rethink: The Surprising History of Ideas, argues persuasively that the reason behind the persistence of nonfactual, often long-disproved ideas isn’t necessarily ignorance. He presents the good and bad effects of “zombie ideas” in both academic and public discourse. getAbstract recommends this article to scientists, conspiracy theorists and anyone curious about the persistence of unconventional notions in a (somewhat) rational world.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why falsehoods prosper in academic and public discourse, 
  • How skepticism about commonly accepted ideas can prove helpful, and
  • Why rejection of innovative ideas can also serve a good purpose.


According to the theory of the “marketplace of ideas,” public discourse should, over time, winnow out wrong ideas. And yet, people cling to notions that researchers have long dismissed and theories that lack backing by hard evidence. Such “zombie ideas” survive in public – even academic – discourse.

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About the Author

Steven Poole is the award-winning author of Rethink: The Surprising History of New Ideas and other books.

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