Scientists Deny Commonsense

It happens all the time. Scientists are constantly making mistakes, recanting their previous assertions, or discovering something they never suspected. We really can’t totally rely on science, and especially fallible human scientists. They constantly deny what we can clearly see for ourselves.

I know what I see. I know what I hear. And I’m not alone. No one can tell me that what I see, or hear, or taste, or feel is wrong. And no one can tell me that there isn’t something there even when science says there isn’t. Scientists don’t know everything. There’s so much more they’ve yet to learn. Still, they deny what we all know, commonsense.

Ordinary non-scientists, on many occasions, have believed something that contradicted the experts. Later, proof is found that those ordinary, non-scientific dolts had actually been right. Eat crow science geek.

Our sense organs are pretty darn good and quite reliable. Our senses consistently collect accurate information and feed it directly to our brains. Our brains then go to work. Raw sensory input is meaningless until the brain processes, deciphers, and interprets the data. It’s in our brains where the input gets assigned meaning. It’s also in our brains where interpretation can lead us astray, become illusion, and even deception. The earth sure looks flat.

Here is where we find a discrepancy between appearances and facts. Here is where science takes a role. Science pays its way by establishing facts—reliable facts. Facts that have been freed from cognitive interpretations, illusions, and deceptions; freed from commonsense. Perfect? No way.

Reliability is the key. There have been many cases where hundreds, or thousands, or millions of people may have intuitively come to the same conclusion. That’s pretty strong evidence. Proof, though, comes with more effort. Only rigorous analysis can verify even that kind of seemingly overwhelming popular evidence. Only after careful scrutiny can we be certain that intuition has really hit the mark. Our brains are good at noting the hits, and poor at remembering the misses. This statistical fact explains why we are so easily fooled into beliefs that have no support from science. Furthermore, leaps of faith lean on the failures of scientific knowledge by pointing out how science has missed the mark on some occasion or another.

When both sides, intuition & science, are thoroughly examined, the track record of ordinary perception in contrast to science is undeniable. Intuition bases its beliefs on appearances and hunches. It guesses and misses, and guesses and misses, and . . , and guesses and hits. Look closely and you’ll see its notoriously poor track record. But when there is a hit—Bam! We notice it, and it makes a memorable impression.

Science bases its beliefs on predictable and repeatable evidence. Its hit-to-miss ratio is high. Hits are common, eh, nothing special. Its hits are soon forgotten and taken for granted. So naturally, we ignore everyday scientific hits, and jump on the one-off intuitive hits. Hmm. . .

Nothing could be more obvious than that the earth is stable and unmoving, and that we are the center of the universe. Modern Western science takes its beginning from the denial of this commonsense axiom. This denial, the birth and the prototype of science’s sovereign paradoxes, would be our invitation to an infinite invisible world. Just as Knowledge was what led Adam and Eve to discover their nakedness and put on their clothing, so the guilty knowledge of this simple paradox—that the earth was not as central or immobile as it seemed—would lead man to discover the nakedness of his senses. Common sense, the foundation of everyday life, could no longer serve for the governance of the world. When scientific knowledge, the sophisticated product of complicated instruments and subtle calculations, provided unimpeachable truths, things were no longer what they seemed.  —from The Discovers, Daniel J. Boorstin, Random House, 1983

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