Thursday, January 2, 2014

At Least I know That I Don't Know

What world famous skeptic, do you suppose, said the following:
An unfortunate fact is that scientists are just as human as the rest of us, in that they are strongly influenced by the need to be accepted, to kowtow to peer opinion, and to "belong" in the scientific community. Why do I find this "unfortunate"? Because the media and the hoi polloi increasingly depend upon and accept ideas or principles that are proclaimed loudly enough by academics who are often more driven by "politically correct" survival principles than by those given them by Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Bohr...Religious and other emotional convictions drive scientists, despite what they may think their motivations are.
Actually, those words came from James "the Amazing" Randi a few years ago, as he was turning his skeptical eye towards the case for Anthropogenic Global Warming. He was taken down a button hole or two by the skeptical scientists (Randi isn't a scientist) and subsequently back-peddled a bit.
And such it is for anyone - even if that person has legitimate scientific credentials - who questions current scientific orthodoxy. That is why some more open-minded thinkers feel that said scientific orthodoxy is not unlike religious orthodoxy, and thus can only agree with Randi in saying that scientists, like every human, are driven by emotional convictions.
So as long as we are talking about orthodoxy, we might as well throw out that shibboleth, faith.
Scientists, as well as those folks who hold to the scientific worldview, operate on the principle of faith just as religious believers do. Obviously, because even the wisest human isn't polymath enough to understand everything there is to understand about everything. Most of us try to keep abreast of the current thinking regarding the subjects that most interest us, and then put our faith in certain authorities (depending on how closely they represent our personal opinions) who supposedly do understand these subjects better than most of us do.
When you think about it, we humans just couldn't function effectively if we didn't place faith in the authority of other people from time to time. And of course a good, healthy consensus only increases our faith.
Now I'm not patient with blind religious faith at all. I'm not making an argument for that here. I've been there in my youth and am done with that now. But neither am I willing to trade the High Priests of religion for the High Priests of science.
I'm agnostic about a lot things and skeptical about many more than that. 


  1. Having MS, all the "new" drugs pushed on me, I have become more of a skeptic than my young personality always had a heavy dose of. I want to have faith in gravity--but--who knows?

    1. I'm getting where I distrust the medical establishment most of all. This after having friends battle cancer with the current medical protocol, which actually seemed to have hastened their deaths and certainly destroyed their quality of life. Another friend had a cancerous tumor removed from her colon but then declined the chemo they wanted her to undergo. She lived another 17 years. I'm not advocating foolishness or ignoring sound advice; but I do think patients need to have more input and make their own decisions on some of these things. And I don't believe the unwilling should be test subjects for new drugs and treatments.

  2. "I'm agnostic about a lot things and skeptical about many more than that."

    I LIKE that!