THE POWER OF SCIENCE rests in scepticism. Rigorous critique is built in to the scientific method. All human beings operate on a spectrum of acceptance through doubt to outright denial, especially when it comes to unfamiliar and, perhaps, inconvenient new findings. The breadth and depth of our critique is likely to reflect the nature and extent of our direct experience and formal education. And we are not necessarily consistent in the way we apply such sceptical thinking.
An astute but conventionally religious lawyer who pleads as an advocate or sits as a judge will hold to deep beliefs that could not possibly withstand the type of scrutiny that should apply in a court of law. Formally religious or not, we choose to adhere (often very uncritically) to more forward-looking or conservative viewpoints, depending on our background, experience, wealth and position in the world and even, perhaps, on the ways our brains work. There is some evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that, when presented with a set of probing questions, the amygdala in the lower brain (involved in memory, decision-making and emotion) will tend to light up preferentially in those with a more conservative mindset versus the higher brain frontal cortex (reason and projection of future con- sequences) in liberals. But any scientist should be very sceptical of such a feel-good view of how the ‘progressive’ versus ‘conserva- tive’ brain works!
Wherever working scientists might be on some conservative to liberal spectrum in their broader lives (most are obviously…
"A hugely important book for those living in the data-saturated 21st century."
"This is not a dry academic idyll; it bristles with intent, examining climate change, genetically modified organisms, AIDS and vaccination along the way. At the same time Doherty's subtle humour ensures that it steps back from being strident or didactic."
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter — Bookseller + Publisher
"This is a powerful and important book."
Ann Moyal — Australian Book Review
"Whatever you think about climate change you will learn lots from this scientist about how to weigh the evidence and reach an informed opinion."
Francesca Beddie — The Weekend Australian