Some interesting insights from Dr. Rovelli, a theoretical physicist from his recent book Anaximander and the Birth of Science.
Scientists aren’t always certain about how the world works but they are usually willing to change their minds in the face of evidence.
A few of Dr. Carlo Rovelli’s observations are as follows: “Science is a process that builds upon existing theories and knowledge by continuously revising them. Every aspect of scientific knowledge can be questioned, including the general rules of thinking that appear to be most certain. So why is science trustworthy if it is always changing> If tomorrow we will no longer wee the world as Newton or Einstein found it to be, why should we take seriously today’s scientific description of the world?
The answer is simple: Because at any given moment or our history, this description of the world is the best we have. The fact that it can be improved does not diminish the fact that it is a useful instrument for understanding the world. No one throws away a knife because they think that someday, a sharper knife must exist.
What distinguishes scientific medicine from nonscientific medicine is the readiness to seriously test a treatment and to be ready to change our minds is something is shown not to work. What make modern science uniquely powerful is its refusal to believe that it already possesses ultimate truth. The reliability of science is based not on certainly but on a radical lack of certainty.
Dr. Rovelli concludes his essay with the point that “there is no secure method for avoiding error. Our point of departure is always just the ramshackle, error-filled totality of what we think we know. But uncertainty does not make knowledge worthless. If our theory is contradicted by experiment, this remains a real fact, solid as rock, even if we don’t yet know with clarity where our mistake lies. The fact that the assumptions in our reasoning can be mistaken doesn’t change the fact that scientific reasoning is our best cognitive tool.”