Is it okay to question science?

In the early nineteenth century, phrenology was the talk of every town. The up and coming discipline examined the shape and contours of the skull to deduce a person’s psychological traits. By simply running his fingers across a skull, an expert could uncover amazing details about the person’s life, including spirituality and submissiveness. Except phrenology was nonsense, a pseudoscience used by many to justify American slavery.

Of course, many were critical of phrenology’s claims. Skeptics pointed to the questionable methodologies and lack of scientific guidelines. Others simply did not believe its outlandish claims. History would prove these skeptics correct, dismissing the faux discipline and shoving its findings off the table.

PHrenology Django Racist Slavery Bullshit Fake Faux False not True Brain Skull Head Weekly Show Skepticism

If nothing else, phrenology serves of an example of the scientific community’s fallibility.

Today, scientific skeptic carries a different tone. Though skepticism is loosely defined “as the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity,” mentioning it conjures images of people attacking climate science or protesting against vaccines. In fact, to many the idea of questioning science seems taboo, unacceptable in educated society. Has the world changed, or is it still okay to take a stand?

Science has always been filled with bogus arguments. Scholars once believed the sun orbited the Earth. The American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973. Many errors undoubtedly exist today. Once noticed, these are dispelled and replaced with proper research. By applying scrutiny and data-based analysis to assertions, skepticism allows the general body of knowledge to expand.

Scientific Skepticism Crazy Idiot Lunatic Climate CO2 Obama Protesters Denier Weekly Show

Scientific skepticism often lacks critical thought, which makes it semi-synonymous with idiocy and extremism.

This brings us back to our question. Everyone should think critically about science, but this skepticism comes with two requirements The first is that objections must be based in reason and evidence (this is the definition of skepticism). Not liking a result is not grounds for dismissing it. Secondly, these mistakes do not mean that science is broken or that we must abandon the scientific method. This would be like saying addition does not work because someone added incorrectly.

So heap a healthy dose of skepticism on science. After all, mistakes occasionally slip through the cracks. Be reasonable and data-driven in your objections, though. It is better to go down in history as an opponent of phrenology than someone who claimed the Earth is flat. That’s my opinion, at least! What do you think? Is it acceptable to doubt science? Leave your thoughts below. As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. That small click really helps me out! Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE!

Other related articles:

Skeptical Science – Getting Skeptical About Global Warming Skepticism [Fantastic science blog and site. Check it out!]

Misconceptions About Evolution: Why Transitional Fossils Exist

Django Unchained and the Racist Science of Phrenology (The Guardian)

Why Classical Physics Says the Sun Doesn’t Shine

What Skepticism Reveals About Science (Scientific American)

 

Comment question of the week

Is it okay to question science? Would you consider yourself a skeptic?

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6 thoughts on “Is it okay to question science?

  1. Since I work in a scientific discipline (medical imaging technologist), I fully agree with the value of skepticism. Actual science (peer-reviewed, replicable experimentation) can take it. Pseudo-science (phrenology, homeopathics, palmistry, astrology, numerology etc.) won’t stand up to the scrutiny.

    • Thanks for the comment, Invisible Mikey. Very true! I’d go so far to say that skepticism plays an indispensable role in expanding and refining the body of knowledge. I’ve met a few people who subscribe to astrology. It’s quite bewildering to discuss it with them. As a scientific professional, do you have any stories about encountering skeptics?

      • Well, we do have to deal regularly with patients who are misinformed about vaccines. Every patient has an absolute right to refuse treatment, and we respect that, but we offer verified information. When I first encountered this sort of ignorance, it used to irritate me. It doesn’t any more. I now concentrate on dealing with the yearly increases in childhood diseases that we thought were eradicated 25 years ago.

        People are what they are. They will accept what they will accept. Those of us who know better must concentrate on patient care.

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