January 26, 2009

I'm only human. And so is science.

WhiteboardMichael Brooks writes in The Guardian Black holes in the argument: Real-world science is messy and inconclusive. The article was likely triggered by the New Scientist article based on our article.

It is a nice piece on the messiness of real science, but it stumbles in a very telling way at the end: it claims that when the stakes are high we should trust experiments than theory (which sometimes is true). But then it brings up the cosmic ray argument as conclusive for LHC safety. That really shows that he haven't read our paper, where we review how the argument have had to be updated at least twice to deal with pretty subtle flaws. It still remains the main reason I sleep easily at night, but there is far more complexity to it than people tend to allow for (moving frames and slowdown, anthropic corrections).

Of course, not reading the papers one is citing or arguing from is pretty common. It happens all the time in science and blogging too. We rely to an amazing degree on surface information, skimmed impressions and inferred contents. Very human, not always wrong, but risky. One should increase one's intellectual due dilligence proportional to the stakes of the claims.

Posted by Anders3 at January 26, 2009 11:40 PM