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Sometimes the Public Is Right

Scientists have no difficulty in accepting the proposition that they can be wrong. They work in an inherently uncertain enterprise, where mistakes are inevitable and where error ought to be no disgrace. On the other hand, many scientists are uneasy with what is often a closely linked proposition—that lobbyists and campaigners they perceive as being practitioners of "anti-science" can be right. Whether confronted with the supposed hazards of food irradiation or the supposed dietary benefit

Bernard Dixon
Scientists have no difficulty in accepting the proposition that they can be wrong. They work in an inherently uncertain enterprise, where mistakes are inevitable and where error ought to be no disgrace. On the other hand, many scientists are uneasy with what is often a closely linked proposition—that lobbyists and campaigners they perceive as being practitioners of "anti-science" can be right.

Whether confronted with the supposed hazards of food irradiation or the supposed dietary benefits of the currently most popular elements in the periodic table, scientists tend to react with reflex rebuttal. They are undoubtedly supported in this stance by a long catalog of nonsense, from laetrile to astrology, upon which the verdict of orthodox science has prevailed after much noise and emotion, time-wasting and wishful thinking. But there are important exceptions, which should encourage scientists not to dismiss so readily claims which they believe to be self-evidently absurd.

That...

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