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From The Curious Wavefunction on the dangers of certainty in science

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Science has always prided itself on respecting a plurality of views, perhaps because its practitioners have realized how fickle pronouncements of ultimate truth are. At the end of the nineteenth century a few leading physicists declared that fundamental physics was now set in stone and all that was needed was the drive toward more accurate measurements. The world of relativity and quantum theory shattered that fond illusion. Similarly many experts in evolution believed that the genome was unalterable once it was passed on from parents to children. The discovery of epigenetics put a completely different spin on genetic inheritance. The same slaying of longstanding beliefs – Aristotle’s four elements, vitalism, the ether – has pervaded the history of science.

It is thus clear that science has always suffered when its adherents have insisted that there was one truth to be known, shared and cherished. But it – and humanity – have suffered even more when the belief in such a truth came not from the scientific edifice itself from but from a political or social outlook that used that edifice to its own ends. The greatest harm comes not when scientists claim universal truth but when all of us, scientists as well as non-scientists, believe that science should support what we believe are sacred political or social values. More.

Actually, half the people who say they “stand for science” today would lose all interest in it if it didn’t happen to support their pet peeves, grievances, and crotchets.

Note: Curious Wavefunction (aka Ash Jogalekar) hit our screens recently when he got dumped from Scientific American in one of those weird events connected with Nicholas Wade’s book on race and Darwinism.

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One Reply to “From The Curious Wavefunction on the dangers of certainty in science

  1. 1
    ciphertext says:

    I think that once you start connecting science to pet peeves, grievances, and crotchets; you are engaging in politics. I define politics as “that process by which at least two parties possessing of different opinions seek to reconcile their differences”.

    Does that mean you cannot use observations in science as a means to support your P.G.Cs (shortened form!)? No, it doesn’t. However, that is a sword that cuts both ways. It is never really the “observations” that are used. I believe it is the conclusions drawn from such observations that are used in support of a P.G.C. They are also used as weapon against a P.G.C. All observations and the conclusions that follow from them should be considered “provisional”. Some are just more provisional than others. 🙂

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