Letter: Science fights back
Friday 09 July 1999
The central tenet of science is that theories should be testable, and will only replace existing theories when their predictions are demonstrably better, or when they provide the same predictive power with fewer initial assumptions.
New theories (and their proponents) compete: as with evolution, the process of science selects for the fittest. Where selection pressure is low, as when two or more theories make rather similar predictions, competitors may coexist for a while. Sometimes they ultimately turn out to be logically equivalent: more often, new data emerges that contradicts one or other, which is then abandoned.
The evidence that this process works is everywhere, from miracles of modern communication to our ability to manipulate the genome. It only fails when science itself is abandoned or suppressed. The suppression of evolutionary theory, and promotion of creationism, in the US is a prime example, and would be fostered by the proposals for the revised National Curriculum which Wolpert decries.
The history and sociology of science - which theories arise when, and why - are rightly the province of historians and sociologists. It is a pity that some of their wilder ideas about the practice of science - how we distinguish between theories and invent new ones - are taken more seriously than those of practitioners.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Martin Scorsese 'in shock and sorrow' after death on set of new film Silence
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures