Belief and Its Role in Science

I often speak in class about the wisdom of not trusting “common sense” in analyzing physical phenomena.  The classic example is believing that when two objects of dissimilar mass are dropped from the same height, the heavier of the two will hit the ground first.  We all should know that indeed they both hit the ground at the same time, absent air friction.

But certainly there is belief in science.  For example, I believe that if I jump out a second story window, I am going to fall, and probably hurt myself, assuming I do not execute my jump in the midst of a category V hurricane.

In the above video, Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine addresses this issue from the viewpoint of natural selection, that natural selection induces humans to believe that they see patterns in the noise of nature, even when such patterns are not actually there.


Author: Bob Mahoney

Physics teacher

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