Sunday, April 20, 2014

Opinionated versus science

I had a friend tell me recently I was opinionated. That was a pretty good evaluation – I have opinions about many things. Or to put it in a more scientific frame, I have hypotheses about many things. When I was a child I was one of those children that was always asking “why?” and was easily frustrated when no one knew, or the answer was punted. If anyone had answered simply that “it is known” as an excuse for why things were a certain way, that didn’t make sense to me, it did, and still does drive me crazy. So I’m constantly wondering and postulating why things are a certain way – especially when looking at animal or human behavior (which are often pretty much the same). But although I may have opinions and ideas about a lot of things, those opinions are easily changed. If I’m shown evidence, or given a good valid argument, that my opinion is incorrect I will change it <snap> like that. Sticking to an opinion or an idea despite evidence to the contrary is sadly very common in the science community. I see so many “scientists” who stubbornly resist new ideas and studies, especially if it contradicts a paper that they wrote or concept that they have publicly supported. But adapting to new evidence is a key criterion of scientists and if drives me crazy when so many of the conservative scientists stubbornly resist new evidence saying the contrary data to their opinion is “bad science” – whereas bad science is exactly what they are doing, refusing to reject a hypothesis that has been shown to be false.

Where my opinion is less changeable is with people. Generally, like Mr Darcy “my good opinion once lost is lost forever”. But that has led to problems sometimes, as Elizabeth Bennet retorts to Darcy "that is a failing indeed!" - as some of my closest friends when I first met them, I didn’t really like them. Sometimes it was perhaps because their behavior in some ways was so similar to mine, and I later realized that we actually had a lot in common and if I had written them off just from first impressions, I would have lost a couple of really good friends. But, in general, if someone is spiteful to me, tries to do me down, or betrays my trust, that’s it, I’m done with them. So you've been warned.

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