What is the truth in science?

Two days ago a scientist and a rumor Neil deGrasse Tyson Posted in Twitter The good thing about science is it’s real, believe it or not.. The publication had a great impact and received a lot of criticism. It is not a new statement, in fact, it is one of his most famous quotes. In 2017 I was at the Rose Center in New York that ran it and it was already selling T-shirts with that phrase.

Most scholars resist using the word “truth” more than it suggests for what it means. Especially in limited contexts such as social networks, where there is no room for nuance, writing “truth” sounds like “doctrine.”

Defining “truth” is not easy. Throughout the history of philosophy, an attempt has been made to define, explain and understand what truth is, giving rise to what we call Theories of truth.

At one end it is Dogmatism, Who regards Descartes as his main exponent, who argues that it is possible to obtain knowledge that is true, absolutely safe, and definitive, that is, it is true forever. On the contrary, there are doubts, and their main supporter is Hume, who denies the possibility of obtaining true knowledge. Radical skeptics claim that truth does not exist, or that if it does exist, then man is incapable of knowing it.

Among these theories of truth, there is a whole bunch of gray. The Pragmatism Determine useful with the right. for him Cash Knowledge is possible, but it is not certain or definitive, but it must be constantly reviewed and criticized to discover errors and lies. The Cash Kantian suggests a critique of the mind to see how well it is known, and Rationality Popper’s critic asserts that all knowledge is infallible and therefore must be tested. The Perspective, Championed by Ortega y Gasset, she argues that all viewpoints are correct, and if it is possible to collect them all, from every individual and from every generation, then that would be the ultimate truth. For subjectivity to see if something is true depends on each topic. for him RelativityRecognizing something as true or false depends on every culture, time, or social group, while denying the existence of universal and absolute truths.

To determine what is true, is different Truth standards. Starting with Aristotle, who stated that a statement is true if it corresponds to reality. This definition of “truth” comes from the Latin veritas, which denotes “precision and rigor in saying.” There is also truth such as intellectual intuition, coherence, or utility of problem-solving. There is also an aesthetic approach to reality. In science Beauty is the standard of truthThis is the reason why laws and equations are validated in terms of order and elegance. Information becomes known when requested. The best example that illustrates this is the periodic table.

It is customary in science to speak of “truth” as “unanimous truth.” This is Habermas’s definition of the most appropriate truth of how modern science works. Any scientist can properly present an argumentative thesis to the scientific community. Another scientist might argue by providing better evidence. After discussing and analyzing the evidence, the scientific community will reach an agreement. This agreement is the truth, “the unanimous truth.”

The more and better the evidence, the new “consensus facts” will be created. This means that Science is the accumulation of “facts by consensus” that adapt to experiences, and for this reason science corrects itself and this is its great virtue.

The fact is not to be confused by consensus that it was out of date even though it was not science. Combustion, for example, which we know today as a chemical oxidation reaction, was once defined by Phlogiston theory. Phlogiston has become a hypothetical material that stands for flammability. It’s an outdated theory, but it never ceases to be a science. The same can be said about The ether hypothesis That served to describe the propagation of light in a vacuum, or from Miasmatic theory That before the discovery of microorganisms, he said that a malignant outflow is the cause of diseases. They are outdated theories, but in their day they represented the scientific consensus.

The importance of scientific consensus is often overlooked and much attention is paid to opposing voices. We see it in a pandemic, although this always happens with fewer outbreaks. repeatedly The stereotype of science is the fruit of gentlemen of genius working in isolation: the archetypal rebellious genius who revealed the truth and changed the course of science. Like the heroic story of Galileo before the Inquisition defended that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around. We love heroic stories, but in science they are exceptional. History of science collaborative. The natural thing now is to work in multidisciplinary teams (chemists, biologists, physicists …) sharing their findings and everyone else establishing “the facts by consensus”. Heroes and rebels look good in textbooks and museums, but they present an elitist and individualistic picture of science that is inconsistent with the reality of scientific work.

It is now more important than ever to claim the value of scientific consensus. Because The conflicting sounds are often noise and disinformationIndividuals who shamelessly proclaim themselves to be the only true holders of truth. If any of these contradictory voices had evidence, it would appear to the scientific community to try to come to an agreement, a “unanimous fact”. These discussions are not a hassle on Twitter. Although social networks accelerate communication between scientists, scientific debate does not take place there. The flag system has its own channels and they are more complex than the overt exchange of insults.

In health matters, scientific consensus is represented by health authorities. They review studies and identify issues for which there is enough evidence to renew a standard. In an urgent situation like a pandemic, the consensus can seem slow. Although the burden of bureaucracy is forcibly relieved, science has its times, and there will always be people who are dissatisfied with it: “Vaccines appeared too soon” or “Antigen tests were approved for examination too late”; It is the same, “Not known enough” or “this has been known for a long time.” They both do not go unanimously with the truth, and therefore, in such a delicate situation, it is dangerous to give them a voice and present them as Galilean.

That’s why when they ask me How to differentiate between information and misinformationThe first piece of advice I give is that Be wary of those who tend to deviate from the scientific consensus. With a high probability they will not be heroes, but they are reckless. Rewriting Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s statement, the good thing about science is that facts are consensus, whether you believe them or not.

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