The March of Scientific Folly

Scientists take enormous pride in their avowals of intellectual impartiality. They profess such sobriety of view as to regard all concepts as equal in weight or significance until new evidence decrees otherwise.

The irony of scientists accepting this belief about themselves at face value is that, among the innumerable kinds of human errors, bias is a relentless nemesis to which scientists are as likely to succumb as anyone else. Given a problem, scientists are quick to urge the solution that either promotes - or appears to be demanded by - their most cherished ideas. Like many ordinary people, they firmly believe that "in the last analysis," the mechanisms explained by their pet theories will prove to be most decisive and relevant.

Recall the exaggerated influence vouchsafed, not too long ago, to psychoanalytic theory. Sigmund Freud taught that no act of daily life is ever trivial or meaningless. Hence, theoretical schemes were extended beyond reason.

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