Fallibility and Authority in Science
|Abstract||Over the centuries since the modern scientific revolution that started with Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, two things have changed that have required reorientation of our assumptions and re-education of our reflexes. First, we have learned that even the very best science is fallible; eminently successful theories investigated and supported through the best methods, and by the best evidence available, might be not just incomplete but wrong. That is, it is possible to have a justified belief that is false. Second, we have learned that it is impossible, even for scientists, to maintain the Enlightenment ideal of “thinking for oneself” on every matter about which we want to have, and do think we have, knowledge; the volume of information involved makes us all epistemically dependent on others. (Kant 1996) Scientists in practice have adjusted to these developments much more easily than have lay people. It is also easier to adjust in scientific practice than it is to explain these matters explicitly and accurately to others. To do so it is helpful to consider our epistemological situation precisely, and to understand the broader cultural ideas and historical forces at work in modern science and its public reception.|
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