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Good Scientists Don't Think Like Lawyers

Are scientists different than you and me?  I don’t think that’s particularly true.  I think the difference is how they think about things. One thing that most scientists I know have at their core is when they hear an explanation for something and they don't think it works they do an experiment to probe whatever it is they’re studying to determine whether the current explanation holds or whether it is challenged by new experiments. So this constant posture of disbelief of the current is what makes science great. And over time the underlying science gets better and better and better.  That is the scientist’s mind that is at work.

There are a lot of professions that don’t do that. They go and learn the rulebook of their profession and they play by the rules and don’t say "I think this thing ought to be thrown out." Law is one example. In law there is a rulebook and what the lawyers get extremely skilled at doing is learning how to play by the rules and they can tell you when you’re not playing by the rules. That’s fantastic and they’re running that show, but that’s not how scientists think. Scientists say "you know that is a silly thing, just get rid of it, let me show you why because there is new thinking on it and so forth and so on."

So there are these cultural conflicts between the various professions and scientists are always saying "I don’t think you know, let’s make sure it works that way, let’s try again and come at this another way and see if we come up with the same answer as we have had before."  So that is a big deal within science.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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