A look at some myths about scientists
One of the most common ideas that people have is that creation science is somehow more biased, more ‘one-eyed’ than ‘real science’. After all, creationists begin with the Bible, so how can they be objective, like other scientists are? Many of our writings have already pointed out the impossibility of dealing with the past directly, without having some sort of beginning bias.
This article will not repeat any of that, nor will it again point out the essentially religious nature of evolution.
Instead, it will deal directly with the powerful myth that scientists are somehow neutral and super-objective in their approach to evidence. In doing this, we are not being anti-science or anti- scientist; the findings apply to all scientists, including those of creationist persuasion. We are just facing up to the fact that scientists are as human as anyone else.
A 1980 sociological research paper surveyed scientists on their attitude to the most common traditional beliefs about themselves and their profession.1 Some of the interesting results:
(1) Belief: Science is organized scepticism. This means that ‘… no scientist’s contribution to knowledge can be accepted without careful scrutiny, and that the scientist must doubt his own findings as well as those of others.’2 About three-quarters of the scientists surveyed disagreed with this, and said that in fact it was not abnormal to accept what fits your own conception on a subject, and doubt that which does not. We read that the history of science demonstrates ‘… that scientists often operate in a subjective way and that experimental verification is of secondary importance compared to philosophical arguments, at least in some of the major conceptual changes that have occurred in science.’3
(2) Belief: Emotional Neutrality. This means that a scientist should not have an emotional commitment to particular ideas or theories.
This was very strongly rejected by a great majority of the scientists surveyed. Referring to another study,4 the author states that ‘the myth of science being a passionless enterprise, carried out by objective detached men, does not hold.’ And further, that ‘the image of the objective emotionally disinterested scientist is taken seriously only by the layman or by young science students.’
The interesting thing about this and similar surveys is not only that the popular image is wrong, but that the professionals know it to be so, and accept this as normal. It seems that the classical view of the scientific endeavor may not even be regarded as an ideal to strive for, since the respondents did not even try ‘to live up to the idealised image of the objective, critical, disinterested truth seeker who shares his discoveries and information with his colleagues.’
All this is, of course, only what one would expect from what Stephen J. Gould calls a ‘quintessentially human activity’ (referring to science). And as humans, the vast majority remain deeply emotionally committed to a view of origins which allows them to escape responsibility to their Maker and Redeemer, and which seems to do away with the ideas of sin and judgment.
- Nina Toren, ‘The New Code of Scientists’, 1333 Transactions on Engineering Management, Volume EM-27, No.3, August 1980.Return to text.
- N.W. Storer, The Social System of Science, Holt, Rinehart, Winston, New York, 1966, p.79.Return to text.
- S.G. Brush, ‘Should the History of Science be Rated X?’ Science, Volume 188, March 22, 1974, p.183; T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1970.Return to text.
- American Sociological Review, Volume 39, August, 1974, pp.579-95.Return to text.