On paradox and burden

Creative Commons image from theanzelm's photostream

Science started out fairly modestly; with a collection of mostly wrong ideas that seemed plausible at the time. It has accreted and evolved over time to offer compelling and staggeringly consistent explanations for most of the observed universe.

There are still puzzle pieces that don’t fit perfectly: paradoxes, disagreements, ideas we may never be able to test. Scientists thrill to scrutinize these areas, trading good for better each time they discover it.

We have even learned about the limitations and defects in our own powers of (supposedly rational) examination, and invented ingenious workarounds: by laboring together in an amalgamation of opposing biases and redundant checks, we inexorably move (on average) toward ever more correct results, even with our muddled, cloudy intellects.

It’s hard work, right? So why is it that non-scientific paradigms seem so compelling to so many people? One reason could be that people are unaccustomed to accounting for the burden of proof.

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