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Why Do I Trust Science?

Ville Kokko

Posted on August 25, 2018 14:09

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Many people trust science based on authority. I don't – yet I do trust it. Here's how I came to feel that way.

I believe it's a very good idea to base your ideas about facts about the world on science – not just the natural sciences, but all empirical academic fields of inquiry fulfilling certain broad criteria, whether you want to call them all "science" or not. I know it's very common in our age for to people hold this opinion. Yet, I wonder whether most people know why it's a good idea.

I can tell how I came to the conclusion myself. It's not that I started out doubting science, but I was later forced to ask some difficult questions, and I now think that only after answering them was I justified in trusting science.

I was interested in science since I was very little. My parents were not religious, so I was looking for scientific answers to deep questions before I heard about religion. I had the opportunity to pick up religion at daycare, but I found myself unimpressed with it and developed a negative attitude towards it. I was pretty self-reflective for someone with strong opinions, however, and as a teenager, questions of religion and science led me to ask just why people believed in different things, and what it was really right to believe.

My dislike of religion turned into an outsider's interest; my trust in science into an interest in why it would be reliable in the first place. Besides continuing to study what science said about the world, I learnt about the history science and that of ideas; the belief systems, histories and scientific study of religions; the scientific method; the difference between science and pseudoscience; the psychology of belief, observations and memory; the sociology of belief and science; the philosophy of knowledge and of science.

(And yes, I have spent quite a large part of my life learning about everything possible.)

The takeout I get from it all is that humans have an amazing ability to invent and believe things that are not true, and to genuinely and honestly see evidence as supporting these beliefs.

Once you see all those beliefs laid out side by side in an endless list, all the different gods, and old physical theories, and ineffective treatments, and oppressive racist or sexist beliefs, and misinterpreted observations... and see how many of them contradict each other or have been disproven by more objective methods, and how alleged eternal truths vary from culture to culture and have clearly traceable historical origins, and how easy it is to fall into various powerful illusions... the only reasonable conclusion is to be extremely skeptical.

I am, in fact, very skeptical about the human ability to learn complex truths about the external world. You can hardly trust anything – except modern science. Why is science different, though? That will be a topic for another TLT. I can't link to what doesn't exist yet, so check out my profile in case I've already posted that by the time you read this.

Ville Kokko

Posted on August 25, 2018 14:09

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PRO-SCIENCE These sources consist of legitimate science or are evidence based through the use of credible scientific sourcing....

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