Thursday, July 12, 2012

Uncertainty in Science

Just came across an interesting article on Wired: Science today. Written by Stuart Firenstein, a biological scientist and active in the public understanding of science. It's on how uncertainty and doubt are actually good things, fundamental drivers of the scientific method; and not something to be brushed under the carpet or made out to indicate complete certainty or ignorance as it frequently is by politicians and activists on all sides of a politically charge argument, or jumped on by the media (e.g. the MMR jab fiasco a few years ago) .

Taking the hot topic (hehe...) of of global warming as an example, Firenstein notes that the lack of clear-cut, unambiguous answers isn't an indication that science cannot provide anything of utility in the debate, and should not be discarded as a result: " Revision is a victory in science, and that is precisely what makes it so powerful." . If science is the search for knowledge, then what is often overlooked is that newly acquired knowledge is a means for forming and framing new questions; each step is just that, and not a certain end in itself.

A little extract:
"We live in a complex world that depends on sophisticated scientific knowledge. That knowledge isn’t perfect and we must learn to abide by some ignorance and appreciate that while science is not complete it remains the single best method humans have ever devised for empirically understanding the way things work."