Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Knowledge and Certainty

One area I have never touched on here is climate change.  I don’t intend to get embroiled in the subject itself, but there is one statement used again and again that irritates me. “The science is settled”. What an unspeakably arrogant phrase. I think anyone who believes that any scientific matter can ever be “settled” should reflect on this quote by Bertrand Russel.

“The triumphs of science are due to the substitution of observation and inference for authority. Every attempt to revive authority in intellectual matters is a retrograde step. And it is part of the scientific attitude that the pronouncements of science do not claim to be certain, but only to be the most probable on present evidence. One of the greatest benefits that science confers upon those who understand its spirit is that it enables them to live without the delusive support of subjective certainty.”

1 comment:

  1. He also said;-"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."

    The happy band of brothers (in medicine) to which you belong, and indeed denounce on occasion, all too often have been guilty of this trait. Is it not important that they begin to accept the evidence available that explodes some of the myth's, and at least try to treat patients, instead of just the disease or condition with which they present.

    I worked for the great man (his foundation that is) way back when I used to be alive. Above all else he displayed humility, despite his great intellect, and was always certain of uncertainty. Somewhat of a pity that todays 'scientists' seem incapable of displaying similar characteristics.