In this sense, all wrongness is optimism. We err because we believe above all, in ourselves: no matter how often we have gotten things in the past, we evince an abiding and touching faith in our own stork theories. Traditionally, we are anxious to deny that those stories and theories are stories and theories—that we must rely on our own imperfect attempts to make sense of the world, and are therefore destined to err. But, to risk a bit of blasphemy, stories and theories may be all we have God does not. They are the hallmark of two of our highest human endeavours, and science, and through them we can imagine new realities.


That is why error, even though it sometimes feels like despair, ally much closer in spirit to hope. We get things wrong because enduring confidence in our own minds; and we face up to that wrongness in the faith that, having learned something, we will get it right the next time. In this optimistic vein, embracing our fallibility is simply a way of paying homage to, in the words of the late philosopher Richard Rorty, “the perma­nent possibility of someone having a better idea.” The great advantage of realizing that we have told a story about the world is realizing that we can tell a better one: rich with better ideas, better possibilities—even, perhaps, better people.