Why the greatest scientific experiment in history failed, and why that’s a great thing
For the last 60 years or so, science has been running an experiment on itself. The experimental design wasn’t great; there was no randomization and no control group. Nobody was in charge, exactly, and nobody was really taking consistent measurements. And yet it was the most massive experiment ever run, and it included every scientist on Earth.
The results are in. It failed.
Scientists corrode public trust when they pretend to have authority on social and political matters.
Science operates by a process of criticism. Scientists don’t experience divine revelations, they propose hypotheses that they and others test. This rigorous process of testing gives science the persuasiveness that mere journalism lacks. If a scientific periodical expels editors or peer reviewers because they don’t accept some prevailing theory, that process has been short-circuited. Those who call for such expulsions have missed the whole point of how science works. They are the true deniers, far more dangerous to science than a religious fundamentalist who believes the world is 6,000 years old.
To doubt a scientist is not to doubt science. Quite the contrary, personal authority is precisely what science dispenses with, as much as possible…
“But with the G.M.O. bill, he often despaired of assembling the information he needed to definitively decide. Every time he answered one question, it seemed, new ones arose. Popular opinion masqueraded convincingly as science, and the science itself was hard to grasp. People who spoke as experts lacked credentials, and G.M.O. critics discounted those with credentials as being pawns of biotechnology companies.”
“The concept of paradigm shifts was first articulated by US philosopher Thomas Kuhn in a 1962 book, ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.’
“A sea change in thinking entails not only the overturning of a theory but the creation of an entirely new world view, he said.”