Why scientists seem to change their minds (10)

Although scientists seem to change their minds… let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water

The blogs published over the last two weeks have outlined some of the reasons why scientist may appear to be constantly changing their minds. I hope they have been informative but I just want to conclude with a plea. The scientific method is not perfect and the individuals who implement it and interpret scientific findings are human beings who get things wrong. However, please let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water! The scientific method is a really valuable approach to finding more objective answers to some important questions. There are many questions that we really need objective answers to!

I feel that critiquing scientific findings is great – indeed it is a vital part of the scientific process. But just because sometimes it seems that scientists have changed their minds (for the reasons outlined) and just because science cannot provide all the answers to all the important questions, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!

Kirsty Newman
Dr Kirsty Newman founded the Evidence-Informed Policy Making programme at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) in 2009. From August 2012, she will be working for the UK Department for International Development in the Research Uptake team. Follow Kirsty on twitter: @kirstyevidence

One Response to “Why scientists seem to change their minds (10)

  • I find that a lot of people who use or hear the term “science always changing its mind” often seem to think that scientists decide upon truth through arbitration or the scientific method itself changes. This is not the case. What changes is the information available to us which results in obtaining new conclusions that may indeed contradict previous findings. This is very consistent with what we would expect from such a methodology.
    The big problems is when people don’t understand how science actually works, and also the several annoying and highly misleading newspaper headlines about “Science says!” and then completely misrepresents or misunderstands what science is actually saying but falsely reports it anyway.
    Better science education would go a long way!