Are There Limitations in Science?

I read a book entitled: “The Limitations of Scientific Truth” by Nigel Brush. Dr. Brush has a Ph.D. from UCLA, and is an assistant professor of geology at Ashland University in Ohio. He has conducted archaeological, geological, and environmental fieldwork in England, Canada, New York, Ohio, and California. I would like to share some of the quotes from his book for your consideration.

Empirical Limitations

Although scientists can strive for objectivity in their analysis and interpretation of empirical observations, they are never entirely free from the subjective influence of their backgrounds, experiences, educations, beliefs, hopes, fears, theories, and biases.

Scientists Are Human

“Scientists have thick skins. They do not abandon a theory merely because facts contradict it. They normally either invent some rescue hypothesis to explain what they then call a mere anomaly or, if they cannot explain the anomaly, they ignore it, and direct their attention to other problems.” p. 79

Scientists Need Funding

“Scientists need funding to conduct their research. If they attempt to answer questions that are highly relevant to their culture or government, they will have a much greater success at fundraising than if they attempt to answer questions that are of interest to only themselves or a small group of fellow scientists. Moreover, scientists, like all other human beings, need recognition and praise for their work. Again, there are severe cultural restraints as to what type of work is most visible and appreciated by the general public.” p. 93

Scientists Are Not Totally Objective

“…scientists should not throw their hands up in despair. Instead, they should recognize the limitations that culture and historical bias impose upon their work, and attempt to take these factors into account rather than delude themselves with the belief that they are being totally objective.” p. 102

The Influence of the Human Mind

“Because science cannot provide us with absolute truth, our interpretation of the limited facts we do have available is very much subject to our preexisting desires, beliefs, and attitudes. Our senses become filters that allow certain types of information to pass into our minds but selectively screen out other types of information.” p. 206