Jeremiah Flaga My thoughts and experiences on programming, life, atbp.

Can a scientist be close-minded?



Disclaimer first: I’m not a scientist. I only learned a bit about how things work in the world of science (what laws or theories are, for example) through Dr. Werner Gitt’s talk titled “In the Beginning was Information”

But I read someone in the past who said that when we, normal (non-scientist) people, hear the word scientist, what we have in mind is someone wearing a lab gown, experimenting with things in a neutral fashion and presenting the results, in an unbiased way, of those experiments when they are done.

Then the author went on to say that that is not always the case.

Scientists, also, have their own personal biases. And their biases affect how they view the world; these biases affect how they interpret the results of their experiments.

These biases also affect whether or not they will accept the conclusions that their fellow scientists make!

When Galileo presented evidence for a heliocentric solar system, and craters on the moon, it was not readily accepted by all. Most scientists of the day held to Ptolemy’s geocentric solar system, and would not accept Galileo’s evidence even though it was quite strong.

— from Dr. Jason Lisle responds to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

… But whenever Schrodinger tried to talk, Bohr would raise his voice and bring up all these counter-examples. Basically he shouted him down.

… It was a period when physics was full of huge egos. It was still going on when I got into the field. But it doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t the way science works in the long run. It may forestall people from doing sensible work for a long time, which is what happened. They ended up derailing conceptual physics for the next 70 years.

— from “Carver Mead: The Spectator Interview”

… However Birge’s recommended values for the speed of light decreased steadily until 1940, when an article written by him, entitled “The General Physical Constants, as of August 1940 with details on the velocity of light only,” appeared in Reports on Progress in Physics (Vol. 8, pp.90-100, 1941). Birge began the article saying: “This paper is being written on request - and at this time on request … a belief in any significant variability of the constants of nature is fatal to the spirit of science, as science is now understood [emphasis his].” These words, from this man, for whatever reason he wrote them, shut down the debate on the speed of light.

Birge had previously recognized, as had others, that if the speed of light was changing, it was quite necessary that some of the other “constants” were also changing. This was evidently not to be allowed, whether it was true or not, and so the values for the various constants were declared and that was that. Almost. …

— from “History of the Light-Speed Debate” by Helen D. Setterfield

What could be the solution to this close-mindedness?

Will making people be aware of this help?:

Scientists’ constructions of scientific laws are not the real laws, but an approximation or the best guess about the laws.

— from page 60 of Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress