Guest post: Scientists don’t get stuff right by applying their gut-feels

Originally a comment by Bruce Gorton on On both sides.

Science isn’t magic. It isn’t some innate sense that people are born with that is “science” – it isn’t natural and it isn’t instinctual. It requires quite rigorous training to get good at it.

And a lot of it is all about taking the shit you think you know, the stuff you think is just “common sense” and testing it.

Scientists don’t get stuff right by applying their gut-feels to it, part of the training they undergo is learning not to apply gut feels to things, to actually come at the evidence in as unbiased a manner as possible because their brains will screw with their perceptions.

This is why you get research into stuff that seems obvious – because what is obvious isn’t always what is right.

And you know what? Even with all the training they undergo, even with how hard they work to do it, even the best scientists in the world do not have an instinct for science.

Albert Einstein couldn’t accept quantum mechanics, Linus Pauling sparked the vitamin craze, Isaac Newton was a whackjob alchemist.

Great physicists will wax lyrically wrong about biology, and great biologists will wax lyrically wrong about physics, both sets are scientists and even with lifetimes worth of training their abilities are often limited to their fields.

That is why there is peer review, why science has to work collectively and not individually, why the replication crisis is a crisis.

Even with peer review you still get issues with the biases of the reviewers, science takes a long, long time to figure stuff out precisely because it is not instinctual.

To even suggest you have an instinct for science is to fundamentally not get it.

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