My last blog post was on the problem with presenting ideas as being ‘truth’. There is an important follow up point to be made. I made an argument that neither the teaching of the Catholic Church nor science can be regarded unequivocally as ‘truth’.
This post is about what allows me to say ‘I reject that idea’. For Catholic teaching no defense needs to be given. One can read the catechism and say quite happily ‘I don’t think that’s correct, it doesn’t fit in with my worldview’ and really nothing more is required (at least intellectually!)
This in not the case at all for scientific information. I cannot reject scientific evidence simply because it doesn’t fit in with my worldview. The only way to intellectually refute a scientific theory is to provide and alternative with supporting data.
The consequences of producing fraudulent scientific data are significant. At the very least you will lose your job, and if it is sufficiently serious criminal prosecution may also ensue.
The default position when approaching a scientific study must be the presumption that this work is reliable. It is subject to peer review, and if it is a bold new approach, give the scientific community a few months to try to reproduce the work. The reliability will be tested.
Where there appears to be a major dispute in the scientific community (which does happen). It is always helpful to ask if there is some other agenda being served. The climate change debate is a classic example. The scientific evidence is very robust. But there is a major agenda from business interests to obscure the field.
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary I must trust that the scientific presented is reliable.