Truth and the Culture of Science
There is an interesting article in the NY Times on how science really works. It is about a new book by Allegra Goodman. Some excerpts:
Scientists who have read the book say that somehow, Ms. Goodman has managed to write a tale about life in a science lab that rings so true and includes details so accurate and vivid that they say they are left reeling.. . . .
"It understands the psychology, the dynamics, the processes and pressures that exist in the current culture of science," Dr. Groopman, who reviewed "Intuition" for the online magazine Slate, said in a telephone interview. "I was stunned. I was really stunned.". . . .
She thought of science, and the gray areas, the times when experiments stopped working or results were questioned and it was so hard to figure out what had happened. Was it human error? Was it sloppiness? Was it a natural human tendency to believe in a hypothesis so strongly that somehow data that do not seem to fit are edited out? Or was it fraud?
. . . .
Reading the scene, Dr. Schwarz said: "I had a tingle in my spine. How did she know?" The book, he noted, "also beautifully puts its finger on the ideals of science" the tension between the need to tell the truth and the need to present research in its most promising light.
This is one of the many reasons why skepticism and critical thinking are so important for science to move forward. Science is no different than other human endeavors, and scientists need to be aware of motivations other than the evidence that can influence them.