Noam Chomsky, me, and Esperanto
Back in the 1970’s, I sent Noam Chomsky, the famous MIT linguist, a letter asking his take on Esperanto. His reply indicated some possible interest (at least, as I recall, on the part of his son), and so I showed his reply to my father, who sent him a letter urging Professor Chomsky to obtain a textbook and other materials and begin learning the language. Chomsky’s reply was, as close as I can recall, “I’m sorry that I cannot meet your expectations, but we all have our priorities. Otherwise life would be impossible.” And that was the end of that. I still have this correspondence, of course, but it is in storage back in the States (and I am in China), but I thought that this tidbit ought to be part of the annals of Esperanto.
Here is the link to the Wikipedia article about him:
In dealing with Chomsky, it is a good thing to keep Clarke’s Law in mind:
Clarke’s Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.
Here is the link to the Wikipedia article on Clarke’s Law:
At the end of the article, it is noted that Isaac Asimov contradicted Clarke’s Law, as follows:
"When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion -- the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right."
This is cited as a “corollary”, but is really a contradiction, there being no provision for exceptions in Clarke’s Law. Furthermore, notice how Asimov conveniently changed the focus from a single scientist to a group of scientists – like, how could a GROUP of scientists be wrong? Clarke’s Law should be applied to Asimov’s pronouncement: Asimov is declaring that it is impossible that Clarke’s Law could hold in the generality it clearly implies, and so Asimov is probably wrong.