“THE TWO SORTS OF SCIENTISTS”

Whilst writing on another issue biologist Geoffery Dobbs had this to say about
“THE TWO SORTS OF SCIENTISTS”

     “It has been said that there are two sorts of scientists: those who are impressed by their own knowledge, and those who are impressed  by their own ignorance.

     When it is a question of paying large fees for a consultant or an ‘expert witness’, it is, of course, the first sort of scientist who is wanted—someone who can make impressive, firmly confident assertions: though it seems probable that the survival of any sort of tolerable society will depend upon the influence of the second sort of scientist, who is more interested in the limits of human knowledge. or at least more aware of them.

     There is a tendency for the laboratory scientist, dealing as he does with his tiny artificial ‘universe’ of controlled factors,  rigged to produce high levels of probability, to belong to the first category, and to be prepared to pontificate in terms of virtual certainties; while the [other sort], dealing with the infinitely complex world outside the laboratory, cannot help realising that he is not in a field of exact science at all - not even if he collects quantitative data and puts them through a computer - but in a field of massive ignorance and speculative assumptions concerning the multiple factors operating. And a guess, based on a speculative assumption is still a guess, even though it has been computerised.

     The main difficulty... is that most of the Big Money and political influence is likely to be on the (‘politically correct’) side; and this means also that the high-powered public relations professionals, the impressive consultants and expert witnesses, and the top legal talent will also be where the money is... in practice (the issue of concern) is determined by financial and technical convenience, and not by [environmental] considerations.

     What happens in real life is that the people who are ... openly proposing (the) cause, employ their considerable resources to justify their action. and to discredit those who raise objections...”

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