Many are those who, to muddy science, recall some whims of Nazi scientists, or the immoral experiments of mad doctors , or even the prejudices and biases of countless researchers .
However, criticizing scientists is very different from criticizing science. In fact, questioning scientists is precisely what makes science great. Because science was born for that: as a tool trusted by humans, in general, and scientists, in particular .
A Spock brain or the power of experiment
There is too much information in the world . Our brain cannot process all of it, so it takes shortcuts based, in large part, on emotions: that is why our decisions are made based on rational calculation but, above all, on emotional bias.
Consequently, what we call common sense is actually very unreasonable. All thinkers in history, then, could be highly competent given their brains, and the complexity of the natural world they were trying to tackle, but they lacked an adequate set of intellectual tools .
That toolkit is a more rational, more methodical kind of brain: modern science . A procedure for designing tests that confirm (or rather falsify) theoretical claims. They lacked this toolkit because basically every thinker in history considered it unnecessary.
For thinkers of a pre-scientific age, personal insights, shared beliefs, subjective perceptions were important. They thought that nothing could go wrong if they argued from uncontested premises to the conclusions that necessarily followed from them .
With the birth of modern science, however, a more objective way of accessing knowledge was guaranteed, which did not depend so much on the arbitrariness of personal intuitions or prejudices, even that of the scientists themselves. Science was an outside judge . A procedure. An experiment. A referee.
This is how a set of interlaced values was born that can be summarized in the acronym in English CUDOS :
- Communism : knowledge is shared.
- Universalism : knowledge must be impersonal and impartial.
- Disinterest : Scientists have to help each other.
- Organized skepticism : ideas have to be tested over and over again.
Somehow, then, to live we have to do it without thinking too much . But science is a separate brain that does think all the time for us and gives us patterns that we can use in our daily lives to solve problems that would require too much individual reflection, as you can see summarized in the following video: