The Great Courses

Science Isn't Perfect

Nov 18, 2014 at 9:33 AM

To the "Science Always Makes Mistakes" crowd:

People a few hundred years ago couldn't conceive of the advances we've made, and those advances have been made in the teeth of religious dogma. (Remember that the Catholic Church imprisoned Galileo for daring to suggest that the sun didn't revolve around the earth. This is a single symptom of the epidemic, anti-science nature of religion, and it's been going on for centuries.)

The advances we've made as a species? They came from science. They came from testing, discovering and developing real solutions in the real world. (God was apparently busy making rainbows and finding lost car keys. Too bad he couldn't find time for the children's hospitals and the 30,000 who will starve to death today.)

scientist in front of chalkboard

Science isn't perfect. Scientists aren't perfect. But science is our most reliable method for understanding, and it's our most valuable tool for progress. It's what makes our cars drive. It's what makes airplanes fly. It's the medicine which fights infection, the vaccines which prevent disease, the smartphones in our pocket, the ability to forecast the weather, the devices which boil our water and cook our foods, the videos of our children, the cause for our almost 100-year lifespans, etc. It's the reason we could unlock the genome, the reason we can fix eyesight with lasers, the reason we have a human footprint on the moon.

We haven't reached this point in human history because we sat around, deferred to ancient texts and chanted to the sky. We busted our asses, tried, tried again and created real solutions in the real world. 

The failures of science don't speak to its unreliability. Science fails because it tries, and the successes come because science learns from its failed attempts and improves the experiments along the way. Knowledge isn't a foregone conclusion. Knowledge is a process. And unlike religion, science sets up systems of peer review, accountability and collaboration to improve upon itself. It certainly doesn't ever claim Absolute Truth, but instead is prepared to continually subject our "facts" to further testing, and when new/better information is discovered, science updates the record. tests again. And again. And again.

Try that with religion.

Science. It wins by a landslide

-Seth Andrews

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