Possibly-weird question, inspired by this tweet: why are all zombie ideas simple? Why is it that, whenever many people working in a field believe X despite a lack of good evidence and arguments for X, or even despite good evidence and arguments against X, X is invariably some quite simple claim?
Is it that complicated ideas are never widely believed by anyone, so the only ideas that can possibly become zombie ideas are simple? Is it that zombie ideas invariably are intuitively appealing (that’s what protects them from contrary evidence and arguments), and to be intuitively appealing an idea has to be simple? Is it that ideas become zombies by being misunderstood or misapplied, and that misunderstandings and misapplications invariably involve simplifying complexity and nuances? Something else?
Or am I just wrong about zombie ideas invariably being simple claims? Maybe I’m just vastly overgeneralizing from a small sample size?
You tell me, because I dunno. Looking forward to your comments, as always.
p.s. To be clear, I don’t think that most or all ecological ideas are zombies. You should not infer from the fact that I often write about zombie ideas that I think everybody but me is wrong about everything! Zombie ideas are interesting and important to think about even though they’re rare, because they’re cases of entire scientific fields getting stuck.
p.p.s. As always, no personal criticism of anyone is intended or implied by the suggestion that some widely-held scientific ideas are incorrect and ought to be abandoned. Science is hard and disagreement is a normal part of it. And it’s handy and fun to have shorthand phrases like “zombie ideas” and “Buddy Holly ideas” for different ways in which the collective scientific process occasionally breaks down. 🙂