Boxes: scientific, political, personal

Posted on October 2, 2010

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Peter: ” When you say that scientists think inside a box are you really saying that they’re biased?”

Professor Wiggly: ” Yes in the sense that they are typically interested in certain[ answers and not others. For example medical scientists strongly believed – bias – that stomach ulcers were caused by spicy food and stress. And when evidence emerged that they were caused by a certain kind of germ they ignored or rejected the finding. In that sense scientists are like the rest of us, they pay attention to what they want to hear, and tend to ignore or reject what they don’t want to hear.”

Jenny; “Well then if  scientists are biased how can science be our most trusted news service?”

Professor Wiggly;” Because although most scientists are biased in favour of the popular theory of the time, there are always a few skeptics who have other biases and serve as noisy critics of the prevailing theory and evidence. So in a sense science works like a court with one group of scientists – the prosecution – trying to prove that the another group of scientists – the defence – are wrong. So while individual scientists – like the rest of us – have their pet theories, and while popular theories prevail at any given time, science provides an arena in which the dissenting minority of scientists can challenge the majority, and slowly and eventually replace them as the majority, with their pet theory. And the process is endless with new theories modifying or replacing old ones.  So we should call this activity ‘sciencing’ because it’s an endless activity – a verb – and stop call it ‘science’ which is noun – which suggests a stable ‘thing’.

Jenny: “So science has it’s hit parade as well….mmmhhh.”

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Posted in: Sciencing