The promise of science: “…truth emerges as a large number of flawed and limited minds battle it out.” (Jonathan Haidt - The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion)

“The values of science: to seek to explain the world, to evaluate candidate explanations objectively, and to be cognizant of the tentativeness and uncertainty of our understanding at any time.” (Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined)

Compare with:

“…truth does not proceed from the application of general scientific rules that are valid also in natural science, but is defined by its origin.” (Leszek Kowlakowski, Main Currents of Marxism, about how the Communist Party defined the criteria of truth).

Ideological commitment often makes for bad science, because it’s easier for ideologues to rationalize non-confirming evidence. Being smitten with the grand vision can blind one to the inconvenient facts on the ground.   The broader and longer the view, the more room for confirmation bias to work.

Ideologues don’t pivot easily. They hold on to their canned goods long after the past-due date. Businesses are more likely to pivot because it’s in their self-interest to do so. For example, conspiracy theories notwithstanding, it’s rarely in a pharmaceutical company’s self-interest to suppress negative evidence from clinical trials, because if a drug has problems, it will come back and bite them. Survival in a competitive market place requires quickly identifying and fixing one’s mistaken notions. It’s less love of truth than aversion to the consequences of getting something wrong.

The attitude of reverence gives founders and masters a special authority on the truth, so that the search for truth requires achieving a correct understanding of what the founders and masters meant when they said whatever. This has nothing to do with science. Scientists don’t consult masters or sacred texts to figure out the “right” way to understand something. We don’t look to Darwin for a correct understanding of evolution, even though we may look to Darwin for insights on how evolution works.

Beware of certainty on topics one can’t possibly be certain about. Voltaire said doubt is uncomfortable, but certainty is absurd. Comfort with uncertainty may go against our nature but it is vital to getting closer to the truth of things.

Paraphrasing David Eagleman, the 3 words that science has given humankind: “I don’t know”.