Errores brillantes

BALTIMORE – Se dice que Thomas Edison alguna vez dijo "No fracasé. Sólo descubrí 10.000 maneras que no funcionaban". Esta declaración resume una verdad fundamental -aunque muchas veces malentendida- sobre la investigación científica. El progreso en la ciencia -como en cualquier disciplina creativa- no es una marcha directa hacia la respuesta, sino un sendero complejo y sinuoso que involucra muchos traspiés y callejones sin salidas. Las equivocaciones no sólo son inevitables; son esenciales para el pensamiento innovador, porque les señalan el camino a otros exploradores.

Uno podría preguntarse si la atmósfera científica altamente competitiva y hambrienta de financiamiento de hoy, en la que las publicaciones y las citas se han convertido en un criterio primordial para el éxito, pueden dar cabida a ese tipo de errores. La respuesta simple es sí. De hecho, son tan importantes como siempre –y no sólo en el ámbito académico.

Por cierto, el método científico en su totalidad se basa en la noción de que descubrir algo que no funciona es vital para aprender lo que sí funciona. Cualquier teoría científica debe ser falsificable –es decir, debe estar basada en observaciones existentes o resultados experimentales-. Para que una teoría sea considerada científica, debe arrojar predicciones específicas de observaciones o resultados experimentales futuros. Si esas observaciones o resultados contradicen las predicciones, la teoría se desecha, o al menos debe ser modificada.

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