In 1905, Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity was published to great throngs of little interest whatsoever. In 1916, Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity which also held little interest for the scientific community EVEN THOUGH, his curvature of space time finally explained the orbit of Mercury that Newtonian physics could not.

In 1919 an advantageous solar eclipse proved Einstein’s theories correct. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. (It looks like a typo – it is not.)

Discussion (11) ¬

    DaveB says:

    Science is absolutely not just another belief system. Science is accepting things based on evidence. Belief is accepting things without evedence, and even in spite of evidence sometimes.

    When Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, it was a far out concept that’s, quite frankly, difficult for the human mind to grasp. It’s hard to demonstrate experimentally, especially in 1919, but you said it yourself, after it was proven by the eclipse, everyone was “hey yeah that’s right”

    People are the weakness of any system, and science is no exception. When people have their ideas challenged, it can take a while for them to come around. The strength of science is that you can back up your claims with evidence. If someone doesn’t believe you, they can duplicate your experiments and prove it to themselves.

    Scientists believe in science the way the religious believe in religion, even when faced with evidence to the contrary. Upcoming posts will expand upon this.

    Human belief and perspective is always the weakest link.

    DaveB says:

    The problem with the word “belief” is that it can mean different things. When a scientist says they believe something, they’re really saying that they accept it based on the evidence, but that’s a mouthful so they just say believe. It’s the same thing with the word “theory.” In common usage it usually means “a guess” but in science, it’s the highest form of certainty – it’s a collection of facts that support observations of the natural world.

    Scientists accept the scientific process because science works. Our modern convienient society is proof of that. Science is self correcting. When someone proposes something that’s wrong, other scientists are quick to tear it apart, that’s the power of peer-review. Yeah, egos can get in the way and cognitive dissonance can make individuals or groups of individuals cling to disproven ideas long after they’ve been ground up by the scientific process. It’s people that are flawed, not science.

    Stephanie says:

    The problem is that scientists, being only human (as you point out in your last paragraph) can and do allow their beliefs to cloud their acceptance of said evidence. Evidence can be dismissed outright, its sources can be ignored or derrided as ‘unworthy’, and it can be simply ignored.

    If someone doesn’t believe you, they could duplicate your experiments, but if they already believe your claims are bogus then why would they even bother? Look at people like Alfred Wegener, or Luis Alvarez. Neither Wegener or Alvarez lived long enough to see the general skepticism and disdain of their discoveries subside enough to be taken seriously.

    I’m not saying that ‘all scientists are like this or like that’ and I am sure there are as many kinds of reactions as there are people who call themselves scientists. I’m just saying that when someone puts forth a theory which really challenges the beliefs of the scientific community, it is never as simple as the community duplicating one’s experiments then automatically accepting the results. That’s the ideal that is taught in school, but again, we’re all only human.

    I highly recommend the James Burke series, The Day The Universe Changed, as this is a theme of that programme.

    Well said, hi-fives for writing skills. 😛
    I’m going to have to look up Vegener & Alvarez, though you’re preaching to the choir about Burke. I love that guy!

    DaveB says:

    If someone doesn’t believe you, they could duplicate your experiments, but if they already believe your claims are bogus then why would they even bother?

    Well, if they’re going to ingore new claims because they’re taking other views on faith, chances are they’re not a scientist. At least not a good one. If it’s a claim that’s already been repeatedly disproven (which happens a lot, see Cold Fusion, Irreducible Complexity, etc) then they’re justified in ignoring it.

    Again, when new theories are slow to gain acceptance, it’s the people who are at fault, not the scientific process.

    TatiB says:

    Yes, exactly. The cited source of Einstein winning the Nobel Prize is an example of human fault and slowness to understand a new idea, NOT the intolerance of science.

    Actually, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is a great example because um, his theories ARE now accepted. Unlike in religion, which cannot change itself based on new evidence. In fact, they were accepted in a relatively short amount of time, only three years after evidence proved it! That’s a really fast turn-around for a concept that is so hard for many people, including scientists of the time, to understand.

    Unlike religious dogma which never, ever, ever changes for thousands of years. It takes some time for radical knew ideas to be *understood*, much less accepted. Science has evolved wildly since its conception, and continues to do so today. Science. Evolves. Based. On. Evidence.

    Like you said, “believe” can mean different things, but saying scientific belief is equivalent to religious belief is willful misinterpretation.

    And now I’m arguing on the internet for no reason! Ahhh! I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself, carry on you guys!

    TatiB says:

    Yeah, he’s right, and this is a ridiculous argument.

    Regardless of how some close minded individuals respond to being challenged, science is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world. It is reliable knowledge that has to be logically and rationally explained. Religion and spirituality is about personal truth and untestable knowledge, not the same at all.

    Lezley says:

    Continental drift, dinosaur extinction, stomach ulcers, black holes and gobs more links illustrating that this is far from being a “ridiculous argument”.

    Thank you Stephanie for pointing out that science doesn’t exist outside of human influence and all factors personal, financial, social, political that may weigh in on any given reaction to proposed scientific theory.

    Though kudos for dogmatically defending your belief in a scientific ideal people.

    Stephanie says:

    The thing is, I’m seeing people talking about Science as if it were a living willful entity. It is not. It is an ideal, perhaps it could be called a philosophy (many of the early scientists were philosophers after all), and in that regard, it is a belief system. It is a construct created and maintained by human beings.

    My point is, in and of itself Science cannot and does not do anything, right or wrong. People who are acting in the name of science, who call themselves or are recognized as scientists, are what I’m talking about.

    In the two examples I mentioned earlier, Wegener and Alvarez, they were both ultimately (posthumously) proven correct and the scientific community eventually accepted their theories.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither a fan of nor a defender of organized religeon. I’m just calling out what I see as a bit of hippocracy on the side of the rah-rah-Science crowd. And for what it’s worth, Science gets extra points for being faster to evolve and grow than organized religeon. Because yes, their ideal is to accept proven new facts and theories.

    It’s just that in my opinion and examples given, in between initial discovery/proof and widespread acceptance, there was a long delay caused by humans refusing to let go of their previous beliefs.

    My third and final example of the thread is the matter of Drs. Marshall and Warren and their discovery of the h. pylori bacteria, and what their discovery means for health – and the question of how many people suffered and even died in the decade or two that their work was dismissed by the scientific community because it flew in the face of the traditional ‘knowledge’.

    Jules says:

    I believe in God, or whatever name you use to describe the spirit that flows through us all. I have faith in the existence of God and in my belief system. I also believe in science. I think that religion and science are the same, in that they are both methods of making sense of the dimension and space we exist in. They both deal with the present, past and future.They are different approaches with varying results, and because they are both human constructs, contain the seeds of greatness and a balancing dark underbelly. Somewhere in the future they will merge. Individuals such as Newton, Einstein, Currie and Galileo (to name just a few) demonstrate exceptional creativity in their discoveries. The leaps and associations they have made to further explain elements of our existence and environment are beautiful in their awesomeness. Also beautiful in their accomplishments are individuals such as Jesus, Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Fry, William Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, Oscar Schindler, Pope John Paul and I am not sure what role science played in their life choices.

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