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Are scientists wearing blinkers?

One of the commonest allegations against mainstream science is that its practitioners only see what they expect to see. Scientists often refuse to test fringe ideas because ``science'' tells them that this will be a waste of time and effort. Hence they miss ideas which could be very valuable.

This is the ``blinkers'' argument, by analogy with the leather shields placed over horses eyes so that they only see the road ahead. It is often put forward by proponents of new-age beliefs and alternative health.

It is certainly true that ideas from outside the mainstream of science can have a hard time getting established. But on the other hand the opportunity to create a scientific revolution is a very tempting one: wealth, fame and Nobel prizes tend to follow from such work. So there will always be one or two scientists who are willing to look at anything new.

If you have such an idea, remember that the burden of proof is on you. The new theory should explain the existing data, provide new predictions and should be testable; remember that all scientific theories are falsifiable. Read the articles and improve your theory in the light of your new knowledge. Starting a scientific revolution is a long, hard slog. Don't expect it to be easy. If it was, we would have them every week. People putting forward extraordinary claims often refer to Galileo as an example of a great genius being persecuted by the establishment for heretic theories. They claim that the scientific establishment is afraid of being proved wrong, and hence is trying to suppress the truth. This is a classic conspiracy theory. The Conspirators are all those scientists who have bothered to point out flaws in the claims put forward by the researchers. The usual rejoinder to someone who says ``They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Galileo'' is to say ``But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown''.


next up previous contents
Next: Why should we worry? Up: The scientific method Previous: How much fraud is
Jose Wudka
9/24/1998