Student's Guide - Words of Caution
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Words of Caution

The scientific world is not a world of certainty. The basis of scientific research is in developing a theory, testing it, and either finding evidence that the theory is right or discovering it is wrong. Caution must be taken in this endeavor�finding evidence in favor of an idea does not make it correct, but merely increases the chances of it being so. Whenever one is exposed to a new theory or idea, it should not be read as if it were a definite fact, but rather as a possible explanation of why something happens. Though theories do gain repute over time, they should only be accepted with caution while still in the developmental stages.

 

Opposing Viewpoints

One of the problems scientists often have in proving or disproving theories is the different ways in which it is possible to analyze and gather data. Say for instance, that an experiment on the ability of phytoplankton to adapt to radiation is performed. At the end, it is determined that there was a 6% decrease in the overall population. One scientist sees this as a remarkable change and publishes a paper based on his findings. Another scientist attributes the change to natural variation, and argues that the findings cannot be extrapolated to phytoplankton in their natural environment. The same experiment has thus been used to justify two different viewpoints. Because of this, it is often difficult for scientists to find conclusive evidence leading towards any one idea.

 

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