Dealing with misconceptions about science – by Tiago Hands

*Work in progress*

On this page I’ll be dealing with misconceptions about science as I go along my journey to greater enlightenment. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of science bashing, from those who claim to be atheists and also philosophers and religious people. These individuals, that I won’t care to mention, seem to think that scientists believe that they know everything and also that science does not require rigorous mathematics and data analysis. This is quite uncomfortable.

Do scientists think that they know everything?

Definitely not. A good scientist understands that it is possible to be wrong. They are open to most forms of discussion, as long as those discussions are reasonable and not absurd. It is not intelligent to be debating someone that doesn’t value mathematics, evidence or logic. When something clearly exists, let’s say gravity, there isn’t much up for debate. Debating someone that refutes the existence of gravity is simply a waste of time. If gravity doesn’t exist and the person who wants to refute it genuinely believes it, they are perfectly entitled to jump off an incredibly tall building without any form of protection or anything to catch them when falling. If gravity doesn’t exist, why don’t they perform this ultimate experiment? I certainly wouldn’t, because I’m not stupid enough to.

Why does mathematics make scientists so arrogant?

Mathematics doesn’t make scientists arrogant. It just makes them more confident. It may seem as though that confidence is arrogance, however, that’s a massive misconception. If an apple costs £0.50 and I buy two, I would have spent £1.00. I can say this confidently – because it is mathematically true. £0.50 x 2 = £1.00. It cannot be £1.50. Me supporting my claim that two apples priced at £0.50 each will cost me £1.00 to buy – is intelligent. This is not arrogance. To anyone that values mathematics, logic and reason – they will agree with me that making such a claim is totally justifiable. In most cases, when a scientist defends a position, it is usually because the mathematics supporting what he/she believes is as robust as the mathematics which supports the claim that two apples priced at £0.50 each will cost £1.00 to buy.

Is mathematics required for advanced science?

Unfortunately it just is. Mathematics is the mother of all sciences. To explain any science in a universal manner, especially complex science, mathematics is required. The more complex the science you’re dealing with, the more skilled you will have to be with mathematics to explain your discoveries to the broader population. Intelligent people who value logic and reason will expect to be given mathematical descriptions of phenomena. They will not settle for anything less. Personally, I think we live in a world full of intelligent people. For not one second will these intelligent people allow me to explain my discoveries without the use of mathematics and in a lazy manner. I always have to be on my toes and on guard, so to speak. People are generally very sceptical. I see this scepticism everywhere. If I said to you, give me £10 and I can make £1,000 with it, you’d want to see robust evidence (figures, statements, signed documents, testimonials etc) that back up my claims. I am confident that you wouldn’t take my word for it, unless you are someone who is very naive. Mathematics just happens to be incredibly important, even to people that aren’t aware that they’re using it. Numbers just happen to be super important.

Why do scientists think that they are always right?

Scientists don’t think they’re always right. They’re just good with probabilities and mathematics. This is because of years of experience in life (the physical/natural world), and thousands of hours of rigorous experimental and mathematical practice. They have strong beliefs about what is possible and what isn’t possible (and everything in between) because of the evidence they’ve gathered which point in specific directions. Scientists get better at science, because their job requires them to do more and more science. And what is science? It is not just about dealing with experiments; it’s a way to think and interrogate the universe. It’s a way to think sceptically and to never strengthen a belief, unless fair experimental and mathematical results consistently point in a specific direction. If you were to constantly work like a scientist and think like a scientist, you would become a scientist without any physics or mathematics degree. You wouldn’t have a certificate to say it, but in my eyes, you’d be no different. There are artists I see as scientists… Musicians I see as scientists… Why? Because they are constanly doing what a physicist or mathematician would do, but in their respective field.

Details about this page:

I started working on this page today (11/03/2020). There’s a lot more I could add to it. I will whenever I get the time. For now, I hope I’ve changed some of your misconceptions about science, and if you didn’t have any misconceptions, I hope to have enlightened you further.

Tiago Hands [Founder of MathsVideos.net]

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.” ~ Thomas Huxley (1825-1895)

GCSE + A Level Mathematics Proofs, Videos and Tutorials.