Science’s natural humility

unimportant shrub

A genuine scientist

I was talking to my scientist friend, Bob, earlier today. We were discussing recent developments in disproving the theory of CAGW and he described to me a summary paper he’s about to write, saying he’d get comments on it from competent scientists before offering it more widely to both AGW proponents and sceptics to see what they think of it.

Bob said he would distribute the paper because he wanted to know if he’d overlooked anything. He wasn’t pulling the wool over my eyes on that, he was perfectly genuine. It struck me that he welcomed the notion of criticism. If something in the paper was pulled apart he’d call it an improvement.

I had seen the natural humility of a genuine scientist. It is worth describing again and again because it’s becoming rarer with every IPCC assessment report.

Humility is nothing to do with washing someone’s feet or bowing one’s head in a public show of piety. Humility is simply standing quietly listening to the ignorant opinions of others, taking it all in and remaining open to learning all you can.

This doesn’t mean you must lack ambition, drive or determination to succeed; only that, when in touch with the knowledge, or the question, or the problem, then ego falls away, replaced with that innocent, clear-eyed curiosity that begins every childhood.

Bob could no more declare the debate over, the conversation ended, the science settled, than claim the ability to fly. He welcomes contrary opinions, thrives on them. They are a means to knowledge.

God bless him and all others like him (and I could name dozens) — they’re worth listening to.