Safest places

Posted on December 11, 2010


Peter: “OK – so a scientist trusts his pet theory. He collects and publishes supporting evidence while rejecting negative stuff. What happens if his stuff really get’s clobbered by other scientists who have a different theory and it becomes the hit parade theory of the day? Does he hand in his science badge?”

Professor Wiggly: ” The nice thing about most scientific  theories is that they’re difficult to disprove.  Negative evidence about a popular theory is less likely to get published and supporters can keep making little adjustments at the edges to accomodate most negative evidence. So it takes a long time for the majority of scientists to shift from a popular theory to an emerging replacement.”

Jenny: ” So a popular theory provides a safe place for a long time.”

Peter: “Unless your dumb enough to buy it when like an ice flow it’s melting away – then you need a scientific life raft

Professor Wiggly: “Scientific life raft? That’s an interesting idea. In fact a blind belief in SCIENCE itself provides a super safe place for those scientists who lack or lose confidence in a given theory. A blind belief in the so-called scientific method provides a potent safe place – a trusted belief that although science may get it wrong at times, nevertheless the safest bridge into the future is provided by the so called scientific method”.

Peter: ” What’s the scientific method.”

Professor Wiggly:” Well there’s some debate about that but generally it’s based on the rational analysis of empirical evidence. The problem is that scientist argue about which analysis is most rational and also about whether a given chunk of experimental evidence is reliable – can be trusted. The stronger they believe in a particular theory the more they argue – ‘rationally’ – against alternative theories and threatening evidence. They are defending their safe place. Just as religious believers defend thier’s, just as mother’s defend and protect their children. We all defend our ‘babies’ – scientific babies, religious babies, or actual babies. Don’t you dare say anything against my baby!”

Penny: “So you’re saying that our ‘babies’ – our scientific theories, our religious beliefs, our politics, our sport teams, our  families, our career hopes and dreames, our lottery tickets – are all our examples of safe places, all examples of  the trusted imaginary bridges we travel on into the future?


Posted in: Sciencing