Sometimes Science Has Been Wrong. Why Should We Trust It Now?


You trust science all the time.  When you fly in an airplane, take a medicine, ride in a car, use your computer, take an elevator etc. etc. etc.  Our modern world is built on the findings and conclusions of science and you can trust them.  

The willingness of science to be wrong is the most powerful tool it has in the search for truth, and what separates it from opinion and belief.

Science is self-correcting. Part of the scientific process is the search for “chinks in the armor,” so to speak.  The frequently used term “peer -review” means that research and conclusions are published and subjected to evaluation of others in the field.  Does it hold- up to scrutiny?  Can others repeat your work with the same results?  Basically, everyone is permitted to take pot shots at your efforts. Scientists are born skeptics, questioning and doubting. If your data holds up through this process, you may be on to something.

Can Scientists Ever Be Sure?

One might be inclined to suggest that if scientists must always be open to the possibility of being wrong, how can they be definite of anything?  The answer lies in the volume and quality of evidence.

In the mid twentieth century there were increasing numbers of individuals that were concerned with the possibility of global warming. They knew that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was how the earth stayed at living temperatures, and it was obvious that we were, even then, adding additional unnatural amounts of CO2 to our air. It seemed likely that this could increase the greenhouse effect beyond current levels. Interestingly, at the same time, there was a hypothesis that more powerful forces might indicate some cooling of the planet.

There was disagreement because there was not enough data to be certain. Nor was there the evidence to project what the consequences of this warming (or cooling) could be.

Fast forward several decades and the amount of evidence from a variety of sources is staggering. New technologies and a dedication of resources to the problem have clearly shown rising temperatures, delineated consequences, identified the increase in CO2 to be from fossil fuels. Today we can even study the climate and CO2 levels far back in time to further understand our world.

The evidence all points in one direction, and the reality of global warming has emerged as definite as anything science has determined including the elliptical shape of the earth’s orbit , the existence of radio-waves, or the reliability of gravity.

We must be open to the possibility that some new piece of information will prove us all wrong and somehow account for all the changes we are seeing on earth. However, at this point, the evidence is so overwhelming that to ignore it would be like driving your car with your kids unbelted in the front seat, full speed into a massive stone wall because you think maybe the wall is an illusion. You want to bet your life on it?

Vigorously searching out and accepting where one is wrong, is a necessary step in achieving truth and reality. It is also, paradoxically, the best way to be certain of conclusions. The scientific process does this well.