S2.2 Welcoming the Sceptic, Inviting the Questions


Science is a system, a methodology, that is used to approach empiric truth. It is a construct by which we ask questions, search for answers, and attempt to construct working theories of the world and universe around us. Nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps the most important part of being a scientist is curiosity, having an inquisitive mind that wonders at the world around oneself. Of course there is more to it than just asking questions. Doing science then entails figuring out a way to answer that question, collecting the necessary data, performing the proper analyses, and then drawing the proper conclusion to answer the question that one set forth to answer in the first place. But the question always comes first. 

We should never be afraid to ask scientific questions in good faith. Nothing should be out of bounds as long as curiosity and a search for truth is the driver of the question. As soon as one begins to engage in science, it becomes painfully, and excitingly obvious how little we know about the world around us. Even well founded theories can be questioned and tested. For example at CERN at the beginning of the decade scientists thought particles had exceeded the speed of light, something that challenged the theory of relativity, one of the most foundational physics theories in existence. Although a faulty wire was subsequently found and relativity was upheld as a theory, the fact that something so cherished and foundational could be openly questioned is one of the beautiful aspects of science. In medicine things that we have thought for many years, such as the transfusion goals for blood products, proper ways to prevent infections or do procedures, and even the composition of an “ideal” healthy diet are constantly being challenged and redefined. 

Concerningly there are topics that people are often discouraged from questioning or challenging. When one is unable to challenge or question a particular theory or teaching this is dogma and not science. Three notable examples are evolution by natural selection as the driver of organismal progression to advanced life forms, global warming induced by human actions, and the safety of specific vaccines. First let me clarify that there is great evidence for all three of these points (although for natural selection the specific mechanisms and probability of such a feat occurring is still debated freely and the safety of the common vaccines on the schedule has been well validated although there have definitely been harmful vaccines given in the past). The point is not whether any of these three theories are right. The point is that practitioners of science should ALWAYS be allowed the latitude to question and experiment in order to get closer to the truth. Any time science attempts to limit questions this is simply not science. Skeptics and questions are always welcome to science as long as they want to do science- that is ask questions and address those questions with the proper methods, data, analyses, and conclusions. To limit questions in science is to limit the beauty of the discipline and hamper the search for truth

Published by JR Stanley

I am an MD, PhD student, training to be a physician scientist, with a deep interest in science, faith, and living life as an adventure. Join me as I entertain ideas from new findings in science, evolving interpretations of faith, and experience life one day and one adventure at a time.

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