Knowledge Questions: What is the impact that knowledge has on the knower? What are our limitations in acquiring knowledge? What are the limitations in our abilities to reason? What is the role of skepticism in acquiring knowledge?
Below is an article about related issues.
The episode shows how human fallibility can lead scientists astray, even when they appear to be conducting valid experiments. And why not look to magicians for insights into the blind spot in our perceptions? Many of them are experts on ways people can be fooled. As Benvensite showed the world, an advanced degree in something like immunology does not make one immune to self-delusion.
As the famous Richard Feynman quote about science goes: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
“Now we know that many other industries have learned from Big Tobacco’s playbook. Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned the evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have conducted a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.”
“But just having a strange and powerful experience doesn’t determine what you believe. I walked off that train with a new respect for why people believed in magic, not a new understanding of reality. Sometimes people have remarkable experiences, and then tuck them away as events they can’t explain.”
What does this article tell us about how knowledge is constructed in the natural sciences? What makes scientific research “good”? What ethical concerns arise when being paid for your scientific work?
“But more troubling was a conversation I had with Soon earlier in the day. Every scientist has the right to his or her own perspective. But scientists also understand how research communities build their understanding about what is known and how anyone knows it. So, I wondered how Soon could fail to acknowledge that the weight of evidence was overwhelmingly against him when he made his overarching public statements of skepticism. I asked Soon why his testimony to Congress did not begin with something like, ‘I acknowledge that the majority of researchers in my field hold a different view from me, but let me now explain why I am taking such a contrarian position.'”