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squirbel's avatar

Is there room in science for strong opinions?

Asked by squirbel (4292points) October 18th, 2008

While I do believe anyone can contribute to the cause of science, by asking questions and investigating results, I do not believe that the opinionated scientists should be given the same weight as neutral and calculating scientists.

Now before you say “well, everyone has opinions,” I will address that specifically. Yes, everyone has opinions. But the major difference between “opinionated scientists” and “scientists with opinions” is very great.

Opinionated scientists – do not compartmentalize their opinons from their observations, the two worlds often mesh together to create one reality.

Scientists with opinions – compartmentalize their opinions, and are introspective enough to recognize their opinions for what they are.

Why does all this matter to me? Why do I ask? Because I believe that neutral science is more effective in finding true results. Thoughts?

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10 Answers

mea05key's avatar

Everyone has suggestions and ideas on every issues.

Science is a field that involves logical thinking. Everyone can input their ideas and the most valid ideas that explain whatever phaenomena out there will remain as the most logical explanation until someone proves it otherwise.

fireside's avatar

I have to agree with you, squirbel.

There are too many cases of studies that conclude exactly what the company/entity that commissioned the study was hoping to find. I don’t think that this kind of science is very helpful and just gets in the way.

wildflower's avatar

Everyone has – and is entitled to their opinions.

A good scientist – or researcher or analyst of any kind – will have the ability to recognise own biases and avoid letting them direct their research or taint their findings.

jvgr's avatar

I think one has to divide science into at least 2 parts: Corporate science and Pure science. The pitfalls of corporate science (science that has the capacity to affect huge flows of income) has already been described.

Pure science (though not without personal reward) has it’s own problems; primarily inertia. Many examples of the scientific community refusing to accept new ideas (even though they prove valid) simply because there is to much vested interest in keeping with the old.

nikipedia's avatar

Aren’t you basically defining “opinionated scientists” as “scientists who let their opinions interfere with science”? And isn’t that by definition bad science?

Bri_L's avatar

@ nikipedia – that is what I was wondering.

laureth's avatar

Science has room for strong opinions… as long as they stand up to testing and study, just like anything else.

wundayatta's avatar

Everyone is subject to the impact of their biases, whether a good scientist or not. Many of these biases we are completely unaware of. Other times, people with big reputations on the line will trash perfectly good research, because it seems to show their work was wrong.

Scientists are humans. They are subject to more venal motives. Money and prestige can coopt science. But it’s a universal problem, with good and bad scientists.

But it is science. So anyone can go and try to replicate the results. Something done wrong will probably not be replicatable, and that becomes an area for analysis.

So, sure, scientists can have strong opinions. If they do bad science, they will get caught.

Siren's avatar

A true scientist, by definition, leaves his/her opinions at the lab door. It’s their job. If they have a theory, or hypothesis, on the other hand, they have to find ways of proving it via tests and results. Gotta be reproducible in most cases. When theory becomes proven, it becomes fact. Case in point: theory of evolution. Still called “theory” because they’re waiting to find the “missing link”, which is literally the missing puzzle in their puzzle piece to prove their fact.

When scientists argue about ideas among themselves, it’s because whatever they’re arguing about hasn’t hit the “fact” stage yet, or they disagree on the “results” of their “tests”. That’s where the ambiguity comes in, and it seems like scientists are “opinionated”. Climate change is a good example.

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