Alex Payne is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

since 2001, al3x.net has served as his online home.

Don't Believe

Pop science is a curse. There are few things I dislike more than having “studies” (mis)quoted at me to justify a point.

I try to approach science with the same incredulity that those in the sciences apply to matters of faith and intuition. My reasoning for this is simple: what science “knows” tends to be in constant flux. We look back at the science and medicine of previous generations and laugh, but we treat our current “state of the art” with reverence.

That attitude is a large part of why I sometimes feel that I’m living in the past. It’s also why I put ever less stock in arguments made from a rigid position of “hard scientific fact”. It’s nice to have data, but it’s probably only useful when arguing about the particulars of small, closed systems.

Related: every year, Edge’s World Question Center puts a single question to a collection of top minds in various fields. Every year, I usually end up blogging about it. This year, their question is: ‘what have you changed your mind about?’ It’s sobering to see one big thinker after another overhaul their conceptions about everything from behavior to history to science to math to physics, &c. &c.

Also related: 100 things we didn’t know last year.

Don’t believe. We know what we know now, and no more. Tomorrow, we’ll know something else.

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