Admit When You Don't Know

There are things that not even the best scientists of today can explain. But that doesn't mean we should block off all investigation by resorting to phoney 'explanations' invoking magic or the supernatural, which don't actually explain at all. Just imagine how a medieval man - even the most educated man of his era - would have reacted if he had seen a jet plane, a laptop computer, a mobile telephone or a satnav device. He would probably have called them supernatural, miraculous. But these devices are now commonplace; and we know how they work, for people have built them:, following scientific principles. There never was a need to invoke magic or miracles or the supernatural, and we now see that the medieval man would have been wrong to do so.


The more you think about it, the more you realize that the very idea of a supernatural miracle is nonsense. If something happens that appears to be inexplicable by science, you can safely conclude one of two things. Either it didn't really happen (the observer was mistaken, or was lying, or was tricked); or we have exposed a shortcoming in present-day science. If present-day science encounters an observation, or an experimental result, that it cannot explain, then we should not rest until we have improved our science so that it can provide an explanation. If it requires a radically new kind of science, a revolutionary science so strange that old scientists scarcely recognize it as science at all, that's fine too. It's happened before. But don't ever be lazy enough defeatist enough - to say 'It must be supernatural' or 'It must be a miracle'. Say instead that it's a puzzle, it's strange, it's a challenge that we should rise to. Whether we rise to the challenge by questioning the truth of the observation, or by expanding our science in new and exciting directions, the proper and brave response to any such challenge is to tackle it head-on. And, until we have found a proper answer to the mystery it's perfectly OK simply to say. 'This is something we don't yet understand. but we're working on it.' Indeed, it is the only honest thing to do.


It is more honest to admit ignorance, to admit that something is a puzzle, than to invoke the supernatural to explain it.

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2008 singles (0.535409): dbpedia

 The Magic of Reality
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2011-10-04), The Magic of Reality, Simon and Schuster, Retrieved on 2012-01-01
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science wonder adolescent


    01 JAN 2010

     Scientific Virtues

    Memes that define the virtues of science and behaviors that we should emulate.