Tag Archives: Scientific method

Why scientists seem to change their minds (2)

Reason 2: They didn’t ask the right questions A scientific experiment gives you the answer to a specific question (e.g. does this intervention achieve the specified outcome better than a specified control in specified conditions). As mentioned in the previous post, this does not tell you if the intervention works in other conditions. However, there are also many other important questions that this research does not answer — for example, is the intervention acceptable to the community?; Is the outcome desirable?; Is the intervention safe?; Is it cost effective?; etc. Sometimes subsequent research asks a different question and the answer means that the policy decision based on the initial research is reversed. For example, research might demonstrate that treating a certain crop with a certain fertiliser increases yield. However, some years later further research may indicate that the fertiliser is damaging to the local environment and thus the fertiliser is withdrawn. This does … Continue reading

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Why scientists seem to change their minds (1)

Approximately once a year, I get into an argument with my father about the reliability of scientific evidence. My dad likes to tell me that scientists are always getting it wrong and, therefore, scientific knowledge should not be put on a pedestal above other forms of knowledge. It can certainly seem that scientists are constantly backtracking but I would argue that this is more to do with the imperfect humans (whose values and beliefs influence how they do research and how they interpret scientific findings) rather flaw in the scientific method per se.

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