I noticed a Dilbert cartoon that seemed to epitomize a lot of the comments I’ve seen on Facebook.
The challenge is that there are a lot of folks who believe in science, or at least think they do. The thing is, science is a method of understanding parts of the world, or universe, around us. We call it scientific method – and skepticism even toward your own results is an important part. I too am skeptical of the chipmunk understanding what he heard.
Part of my job description included the expectation of “using science-based information.” There’s a difference between “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Court verdicts are based on evidence – and decisions often made based on a jury of reasonable men and women. Science doesn’t require consensus, agreement, or a majority vote. It requires formulation and testing of a hypothesis – and if the hypothesis doesn’t meet the test, it is discarded or modified. If it does meet the test, the hypothesis is tentatively accepted . . . until a better explanation comes along.
Sometimes it’s difficult for scientists to use scientific method in their daily lives – we all have this thing called confirmation bias. In a meeting on hiring, someone mentioned the high cost of getting a computer background check through the police. My comment was “Well, we might just require a South Dakota concealed carry permit – that gets the check completed, and only costs $10.” The reply, from the department head (full professor and Ph.D) was direct: “I can’t believe that.” It was the week after my daughter’s 18th birthday – and I had just bought the permit as part of the birthday gifts. My fact was solid – but there was no space for it in her reality.