Tom Gilson

“Observations: In praise of scientific error”

Question: who said this?

[S]cientists still worry about overcaution. Young scientists, especially, can be afraid of asking questions or delving into foundational questions for fear they’ll be thought stupid or loco—with good reason. Granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health are notoriously conservative….

So how do scientists encourage productive risk-taking? Several conferences I’ve been to have had brainstorming sessions where scientists were encouraged to spill whatever was on their minds and not worry about being judged….

Science is not received wisdom, but informed guesswork. It may well be wrong. That’s life. Besides, what’s the alternative? To substitute our own gut feelings for scientific analysis, flawed though it may be? We should always be willing to question the outcomes of science, but we should be even more willing to question ourselves.

Answer: George Musser, staff editor and writer, Scientific American—the same SciAm that is so supportive of questions and risk-taking with respect to biological origins.


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