Regarding Scientists…

Finally, let me speak up for scientists. In my experience, the vast majority of scientists are honest, sometimes slightly nerdish people who are grateful to be able to work on something about which they have a passionate interest. Scientists can be arrogant: but overall they do not deceive themselves, or the public.

From an article written by Philip Strange. I’m not sure about slightly nerdy, but there is a lot of variation even among people studying science, and I’m probably at the nerdy end of the spectrum.

2 replies on “Regarding Scientists…”

I kinda blame B movies for laying every manner of psychological complexes on scientists as they doom our young heros with their mad monsters of science and ahh! giant spider.

I hate seeing this line of thought that seems to run like ‘Well, the A, B, C, D, and E-ologists, who have worked their whole lives in those fields, all agree about one thing, but we can’t trust them because they’re arrogant and think they know best, and ignore most of the (unreliable unverifiable) anecdotes, and didn’t watch Jurassic Park, maybe they’re in a plot to get us/make money’ or whatever. So some folks think scientist are either lying or wrong, or both, and instead go with the opposite end of the spectrum and read stuff by someone like Mike Adams or whichever relevant nonsense-peddler.

Just this morning I had to throw out a really cool model I’d developed for the evolution of the asterids. If it had been true there would have been wealth, fame and glory (well maybe not that, but at least the possibility of publishing a paper that might actually get read by people outside my lab and our immediate collaborators), but the data wasn’t there, so I had to throw it out. Fortunately I hadn’t invested too much time in that line of study yet, but I’ve talked to people who spent years on their thesis projects, only to discover they didn’t actually have anything worth reporting.

Maybe if we were better about getting the public aware of all the dead ends science will try before it settles on an answer the public wouldn’t see science as quite so arbitrary. On the other hand, maybe it would just undermine people’s confidence even more. (“Scientist’s theories are disproved, BY THEIR OWN DATA, all the time! How can we trust them?!”)

I will certainly going to borrow the phrase “A, B, C, D, and E-ologists” in the future.

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