Why we daren’t just “trust” scientists
|December 8, 2016||Posted by News under Logic and First Principles of right reason, Peer review, Science|
The problem is that many scientific opinions these days refer to predictions that are not verifiable and repeatable. What will the climate be in 100 years? Nobody has been there yet. What will happen to a star that enters a black hole? It’s impossible to experience such a thing. So if “scientists” are the default watchers of truth, who watches the watchers?
Some will respond that scientists make mistakes, too, but have the best methods for self-correction. But how can anyone know when they are fully correct? Erroneous advice by scientific experts can be propagated for decades. We’ve all been told to drink lots of water each day, but Medical Xpress now says there’s little evidence to back it up. The experts all concurred that saturated fat is bad, bad, bad, but now another article on Medical Xpress says, “Saturated fat could be good for you.” A study in Norway “raises questions regarding the validity of a diet hypothesis that has dominated for more than half a century: that dietary fat and particularly saturated fat is unhealthy for most people.” This is not to say the new study has the final word, but only to illustrate that it’s not always easy to tell the true authority from the false authority, like Ellerton wants. You can’t just go by majority vote. Hardly a month goes by without some long-taught scientific “truth” unraveling with further research. Just this month, Nature pointed out that “carbon is not the enemy,” taking issue with the 2015 Paris climate accords. More.
Couple thoughts: What we need to trust is evidence, not “science,” and the history shows that peer review has not worked out as a reliable way of gaining evidence.
Plus, we need to trust logic and experience to evaluate the evidence.
As for people who need to “believe in” science, with any luck, their reward will be closer to what comes of believing in astrology and what comes of believing in charismatic leaders.
The big worry, in my (O’Leary for News’) view, is the growing tendency for pop science enforcers to claim that we did not evolve so as to understand reality. The enforcer making the claim, of course, gets a pass because he doesn’t even pretend to believe in reality in any serious sense. He knows he has power over others and he likes that.
See also: Peer review “unscientific”: Tough words from editor of Nature
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