I Think I Blew A Fuse

I've had a revelation and it's nearly caused me to give up my fight. In reading a comments thread over at Radaractive, I came across a comment that left me in stunned disbelief for hours. I realised the size of the gulf between people like me and people like him, and it almost made me cry.

In a context that clearly showed he thought this was cheating, Radar said this:

Hey, macro[evolutionist]s studied the rocks and fossils and then came up with a hypothesis that matched what they observed.
That's right. The fact that scientists studied the evidence before they came up with their hypotheses is here being presented as a bad thing. I have not the words.

Okay, maybe I do.

There is something very wrong with a society that can produce a vast number of educated, adult, contributing members of society who are so lacking in understanding about how science works. I would dismiss this as an isolated idiot, except I've seen similar things before. I've seen scientists being accused of "moving the goalposts" in arguments with creationists, because the hypotheses had changed in the time since the evolution/creation argument started. I've seen creationists take contradicting quotes from scientists as evidence that all scientists are wrong. I've seen creationists quoting Einstein or Newton to scientists as if the scientists would view their writings in the same way a creationist views the Bible. And seeing these things makes me want to cry. Seeing these otherwise intelligent people completely fail to grok science (and, indeed, skepticism in general) makes me despair for the future of my species.

Because, see, here's the thing. Science is about making testable hypotheses. Generally there is more than one hypothesis concerning a given phenomenon. It necessarily follows from this that there will be more hypotheses that are wrong than are right. And that's okay. Because that is how science works. When a scientist makes a hypothesis, she expects to be wrong. And when a hypothesis is disproved that is an exciting moment. It means there is more information to work with, and therefore more new and exciting ways in which to be wrong.* That's how science works.

That is not how religion works. If you could prove, to a fundamentalist's satisfaction (hey, I said "if"), that some part of the Bible was false, that fundamentalist would mourn.

On the other hand, there is a scientist, right now, trying to prove Einstein wrong. And it will be exciting if he succeeds. It will be a glorious moment for science.

The first (and tenth, and millionth) step to being right is to be wrong. Scientists know this. Skeptics know this. And for this we get accused of cheating. It makes me want to cry.

*Hat tip EAC for the framing

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