Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The trouble with experts ...

... according to Richard Feynman: The Difference between ‘True Science’ and ‘Cargo-Cult Science’.

… there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. … It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.


  1. True, unless your experiment is in the political field. Then such behavior will be denigrated as weak, indecisive, too intellectual, viz, Adlai Stevenson.

  2. Only politics, I think we all agree, is not science, and has no experts -- unless you consider winning a sign of expertise.

  3. Maybe "politics" is one the sciences taught by Professor Quincy Wagstaff, of Huxley College.


  4. I agree that politics is not a science although a number of universities have Departments of Political Science, and students can graduate with degrees in Political Science.
    Still, I believe that Feynman's call for "a kind of utter honesty - a kind of leaning over backwards" can be usefully applied to a number of important endeavors, including the political one.

  5. Well, Lincoln, you're sure in hell right about that, though it is rare indeed.