Big brains, small brains

Posted on September 29, 2010


Professor Wiggly: “Some scientists think that we humans have BIG brains – big enough to solve any problem if we really work at it, particularly if we use ‘THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD’, particularly if we rely on HARD evidence. Other scientists – including Nobel Prize winners – disagree. Their research demonstrates that many problems are too big for even our best brains because the hard evidence isn’t available, and is never available.”

Peter: ” So what happens when scientists encounter those kinds of whopper problems?”

Professor Wiggly: ” The same thing that happens when you encounter them. For example you can never know, AHEAD OF TIME, what the driver in the next lane is going to do, you can  never know ahead of time how your career, or marriage, plans will turn out – there’s  never enough hard evidence about the future to be sure. So what do you do?”

Jenny: ” You guess, you hope, you fly by the seat of your pants.”

Professor Wiggly: “It’s called FAITH BASED REASONING! When hard evidence is beyond our reach, or the reach of science – we have no choice but to rely on hope and trust and pixie dust. But scientists call it by fancy names like ‘theory’ or ‘probability’.

Peter: “But you said that science was our most trusted news service?”

Professor Wigggly: ” And it is. We provide scientists with time and tools to work on complex problems. But scientists can’t read the future. Like you and me scientists must rely on faith based reasoning about most problems, they  can’t read the future, they can’t know what the driver in the next lane will do, or whether their marriage will work – the hard evidence is beyond their reach. They can’t know whether something that works today – like antibiotics – will work tomorrow.”

Posted in: Sciencing