The Need for Sustainable Heretics
In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know.” The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas that they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.
KeywordsHair Cell Science Fiction Carnegie Institution Confident Prediction Contentious Subject
This essay has been adapted from Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe by Freeman Dyson, University of Virginia Press, 2007.