There must be intelligent life down here

Belief Systems

There is some notion that one can believe in science.  Science is not a belief.  Science is science.  If you don’t believe in science, you are a denier.  You deny that evidence that is examined and evaluated can predict future results.  It’s that simple.

You can certainly <i>believe</i> that facts are not true.  You can <i>believe</i> that experimentation will not produce repeatable results when the conditions are controlled.  This doesn’t make you correct or thoughtful. It makes you ignorant.

Science has baked-in skepticism.  You don’t need to be “the one dissenting voice” offering some opinion about a thing that is provably, factually a certain way.  When you offer actual evidence that contradicts science’s findings and provides an alternate explanation, that’s not belief, that’s <i>science</i>.  Not only is the skepticism built in, it’s a <i>requirement</i> that it be examined.

This is, I think, why science at times feels soft.  Scientific findings are susceptible to being changed by provable, repeatable alternate results.  This isn’t a failing of science, but a strength.  Failing to see it as a strength is not understanding how it works to begin with.

You don’t get to pick and choose the science that you like to agree with.  You can dissent that adequate research has been done, or that the results are not conclusive based on the sample size or control.  You can disagree with the method of experimentation.  This is, in fact, how good science works.  It withstands scrutiny. It is able to hold its own in the schoolyard.  But merely holding an opinion that differs from scientific findings doesn’t make those findings wrong — It reveals you as ignorant.

So what is it about the science that you dispute?  Was the research improperly conducted? Were the deductions logically unsound?  Were the controls inadequate?  Was the sample size too small?  Was there not enough debate over the veracity of the claims?  Were the findings not published by a reputable enough journal or peer reviewed thoroughly?  Please tell me what your dispute is with the science that your beliefs force you to deny.  Please tell me what alternate more-reputable research you have done or have become aware of that refutes the claims of these other scientists.  Please tell me of the dissenting scientific argument presented by someone in the field that has yet to be addressed by the claimant.

Don’t pick and choose what science you want to “believe” in.  I’d rather you just admitted general ignorance.  Admit to not understanding how the natural world works, and to not wanting to gain that understanding.  I can forgive you for saying that a scientific finding doesn’t seem likely as long as you admit you haven’t done any research, can provide no evidence to support your claim, and really shouldn’t offer your <i>opinion</i> as something someone should repeat.  I find it somewhat harder to forgive parents that take this position, since you’re influencing your childrens’ beliefs in a very negative way, encouraging them to eschew science for random beliefs that perhaps make their lives more convenient or jive better with some mythological notion of how the natural world works.

It’s also worth noting that one thing science is able to do that is perhaps difficult to grasp is that it is able to explain things that are otherwise difficult to observe locally.  It is able to explain global effects based on evidence that are not noticeable only from a local point of view.  But again, you can’t throw out one scientifically agreed-upon theory based on the same kind and collection of evidence as another simply on a whim.  You need to have some evidence to the contrary, or explain some way where the evidence doesn’t fit.  If you can’t, then the science that describes that phenomenon holds until such time as a better explanation arrives.

Science evolves.  It’s a shame that some people seem unable to do the same.

About the Site

Hi! I'm Owen Winkler, and I write this drivel. This blog is about my own life and my random observations thereof. Sometimes I write about technical stuff here, but mostly that's at RedAlt. Please enjoy, or if not, click on my ads. Either is fine with me.