Home » Cosmology, Science » In science, you can consistently get it wrong and still keep your job?

In science, you can consistently get it wrong and still keep your job?

How’d that work out at a used car lot? In “Wrong Again: Planetologists Embarrassed” (Creation-Evolution Headlines, June 23, 2011), Dave Coppedge comments on getting it wrong about planets:

In most careers, being wrong too often is grounds for dismissal. False prophets in ancient kingdoms were stoned or shamed out of town. Only in science, it seems, can experts consistently get it wrong, and not only keep their jobs, but be highly esteemed as experts. Among the guiltiest of the lot are planetary scientists, whose predictions have been consistently wrong for almost every planetary body studied since the dawn of the space age. Their orbital mechanics is solid; they do get their spacecraft to arrive at the right place at the right time with uncanny accuracy. But what the missions reveal is often completely different from what scientists had told the public they expected to http://www.todaysbigfail.com/top10find. This has been true of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, comets, asteroids, and most of the moons of the solar system, where hasty revisions have had to be made after spacecraft data falsified the predictions. Here are some recent examples of “theory fail” in planetary science.

More here.

How many materialist atheists who attained rock star status have ever feared being wrong – as a reason no one should pay attention to them?

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13 Responses to In science, you can consistently get it wrong and still keep your job?

  1. I don’t know who Dave Coppedge is, but I find this post quite slimy.

    Astronomers make increasingly detailed observations. These data may falsify old hypotheses, support others, and suggest new ones.

    Are we really going to fault astronomers, to whom making an observation might take a multi-million dollar mission and many years for engaging in the scientific process, for inquiring into the nature of things, and refining knowledge?

    Were they supposed to have everything–down to the last detail–right before these missions? Or they engaging in a process of discovery?

    Does Dave Coppedge know all the answers? Perhaps we should fire all scientists, appoint him chief oracle, and worship his infallible knowledge of all things! Clearly he must be right about everything!

  2. Are we really going to fault astronomers, to whom making an observation might take a multi-million dollar mission and many years for engaging in the scientific process, for inquiring into the nature of things, and refining knowledge?

    Let’s say you need a guy to do job X. Some man tells you, “Job X? Oh, I know exactly what should be done! Yessir, I know Job X inside and out!” So, you hire him. He proceeds to bungle the job. And then he tells you, “Look, this isn’t my fault. Job X is extremely difficult. There are a lot of factors no one really understands completely, you learn as you go.”

    Did the man hired do anything wrong, even granting that job X is as a matter of fact tremendously difficult and touchy?

    Note that I’m not saying ‘This is how scientists act.’ I’m putting that aside to simply establish that a person can be blameworthy for being wrong about something, even if the something in question is tremendously complex and difficult – if (for example) they make confident statements about something they should not be nearly so confident about.

  3. If the ID community wants to be taken seriously it should not promote articles such as this. Do you really want to extend your attack on the scientific community to include Astronomy as well as Biology? As Dr. Rec says, of course astronomers form hypotheses about the nature of the solar system and they are sometimes wrong and they learn from their data. They are scientists discovering things not engineers making things. Being wrong is part of the learning process.

    The motivation behind this crackpot article is in the comment at the end:


    Because of their evolutionary old-age assumptions, planetary scientists expected to find things in keeping with their assumptions. When they didn’t, should they be praised? Numerous findings have falsified their evolutionary picture. Their web of belief has had to be reinforced with steel to protect the all-important central assumption of the A.S.S. (age of the solar system, 4.6 billion years),

  4. If it is the same Dave Coppedge, he is the guy who was dismissed from JPL and claimed discrimination because of his ID views. For every discovery and explanation that he says they got wrong, I bet there are hundreds they got right. No science is perfect, and it is practiced by flawed humans. That doesn’t make it a failed enterprise.

  5. Insofar as an a priori commitment to evolutionist explanations is influencing the approach of scientists in a given field – like astronomy – then it is right to highlight the problems this causes.

    The critical point is that speculation (the technical term for guesswork) loaded with evolutionist assumptions is being sold as science. Yet, we frequently find that when observational and experimental data comes to light, those speculations are wrong. Badly wrong.

    That’s what happens when you believe something just because there is a scientific consensus or just because an expert said it

  6. 6
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Hi, Chris:

    1) All science, to some extent is speculation. Rigour, however, comes about because those “speculations” are then cast explanatory theories, from which specific hypotheses are derived, from which predictions are made, which are then tested against new data.

    And yes, frequently, those predictions are found to be wrong. At that point, the hypothesis needs to be revised, sometimes the theory as well, in which case the thing goes pack to new speculations. Most often, however, the predictions are found to be only slightly wrong – interestingly wrong. Or the parameters are unexpected, or have a different sign.

    2) But can you tell me what “evolutionist assumptions” you think are loaded on to astronomy?

    3) Consensus is important. Science simply could not progress if every scientist had to re-verify every assumption in every relevant field. There is vast consensus, derived from consilient independent evidence, for instance, that the universe billions of years old (probably a bit under 14 billion years) and the earth about 4 and a bit billion years old.

    There is no point in every scientist in every field in which this parameter is important to independently verify the body of evidence that has led to the consensus. And for some things, you need to go to an expert in a particular field, and assume that her answer has a good probability of being correct (note that scientific estimates usually come with confidence intervals).

    I take it you are not disputing that this is a valid approach? It doesn’t stop the occasional tectonic shift in thinking, where some fundamental assumption is questioned (like the nature of time in Einstein’s theory). But science would be crippled without assumptions, even where those assumptions turn out to be not accurate. Science is iterative – it has to be.

  7. Hi Lizzie,

    Forgive me for answering mostly in quotes but I really must go and they do the job nicely:

    “The verdict of paleontologists is practically unanimous: almost all agree in opposing [Alfred Wegener's hypothesis that the continents used to be one land mass and have since drifted apart]… The fact that almost all paleontologists say that the paleontological data oppose the various theories of continental drift should, perhaps, obviate further discussion of this point … It must be almost unique in scientific history for a group of students admittedly without special competence in a given field thus to reject the all but unanimous verdict of those who do have such competence.” George Gaylord Simpson

    “I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

    Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

    There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period. . . .

    I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. .” Michael Crichton

    “The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.” Richard Dawkins

    Astronomy proceeds on the basis that the universe made itself and then its contents are as they are through a process of evolution. Even Richard Dawkins knows this!

    The only thing that matters in science is observation and experiment. Scientists, and non-scientists, who don’t know the facts are merely placing their faith in authority and consensus. When it comes to this particular subject, and all the speculation that many scientists want to pass off as established science, that is unacceptable.

    Bye!

  8. 8
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Bye Chris, see you later! Enjoy the sunshine!

    I disagree with almost all your quotees above, but I’ll come back to it later :)

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  9. 9

    I certainly see what you are saying Lizzie, but wouldn’t you also agree that scientists should be allowed to decide for themselves which consensus views they accept and which they wish to challenge?

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Liddle

    Absolutely, tragic mishap!

  11. “Astronomy proceeds on the basis that the universe made itself and then its contents are as they are through a process of evolution.”

    That’s quite a definition of evolution! It seems conflated with cosmology.

    I would favor a much more restricted definition.

  12. And yes, frequently, those predictions are found to be wrong.

    In science, is a failed prediction better or worse than an “I don’t know”?

  13. Because of their evolutionary old-age assumptions, planetary scientists expected to find things in keeping with their assumptions. When they didn’t, should they be praised? Numerous findings have falsified their evolutionary picture. Their web of belief has had to be reinforced with steel to protect the all-important central assumption of the A.S.S. (age of the solar system, 4.6 billion years),

    I’d be more interested in hearing about the evidence that these planetary missions have shown the age of the solar system to be about 6000 years.

    Why isn’t this an argument of the form, their predictions were not found to be true, therefore our position on the age of the universe must be the correct one.

    Well, no. You need to go out and find the evidence for a 6000 year old solar system.

    Why not start with the evidence for a 6000 year old earth.

    Perhaps start with explaining away the evidence amassed in The Privileged Planet.

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