Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Belief in Science

A while ago, I watched a fascinating doco on ABC about an amazonian tribe, the Piraha. In the program it’s claimed by professor of linguistics Dan Everett that the language of the Piraha goes against one of humanities most famous linguists and scientists Noam Chomsky. Chomskyists openly slam Professor Everett with apparently no respect for his work. He gives poorly attended lectures due to the fact that entire faculties have banned their staff and researchers from attending because his theories disagree with Chomsky. 

This is moving from scientific debate into something else, from a place where evidence is no longer needed, and idolism, in other words, religion! This is not how a scientists behaves.

Dan Everett was denied access to the piraha due to his past as missionary in the 80's, yet footage showed indicated that the Brazilian government was carrying out what they were accusing him of attempting therefore not allowing access.

Even Chomsky gave 2 very easy insults with no backup (but this could have been in the editing of the doco) to Everett's work. If Chomskyists disagree with Everett, to act scientifically would be to confront him in a public lecture and ask him the tough questions. Just because Chomsky says it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Similarly, just because it’s on an interesting doco on the ABC, doesn’t mean Everett is right, but nobody got the chance it seems.

In science, people aren’t right or wrong, the science develops, our boundary of knowledge grows and we all contribute to it. Rather than being “wrong”, (and I have been) try correct in knowing how not to do that experiment again! I’ve k
nown PhD Theses that claim, “Don’t do it this way”, my own Master's project was essentially this. Science can't be wrong. If we get the answer we expect (different to right) then we give each other high-fives, otherwise...we still throw around the high-fives, because it gives us the chance
to learn something, to make new science.

Is science becoming a religion? Who else in science do we blindly follow with no obvious consideration for evidence? Einstein? Newton? Stephen Hawking? Climate Scientists? Anti-vaccers? Richard Dawkins? Dr Karl? I don’t think so either. Is it a developed “Argument from Authority” logical fallacy? Are we losing the questioning toolkit?

Science is about facts and data. Everett had some 30 years worth of interesting data and hypotheses that deserve a voice. It doesn’t deserve to be used to attack him.

If you are so sure that you’re “right,
” prove it, don’t boycott his lectures, that gives neither you or him a chance to discuss. We all speak the same language here, if you have a problem with his methodology, his predictions, his validity, his conclusions, say so, but just like when you do your own research it has to be backed up with evidence.

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