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Truth in science


Degrees of plausibility in science
Francis Crick Scientist
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You see, you have to ask them whether they’re stating a personal prejudice, which we all have and which I could make much stronger statements… I would say I think it’s very unlikely that this, that and the other, you see. And I… or more particularly, I'd say I’m not going to bother with that point of view because it’s so unlikely, it’s only going to make a mess of one’s thinking, you see. But if you then are… are asked, you know, just how sure are you of the foundations of what you’re saying? You have to be more cautious. That’s… I mean, that's one of the curious things about the scientific life, as… as we… we may have said already, namely, that you don’t have certainty, but nevertheless you have such… such a… a range of degrees of plausibility that the very plausible ones approximate to certainty. Whereas when you look at what other people believe, they have a feeling of certainty for things which are probably completely wrong, you see, which is bizarre in a way.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: prejudice, science, scientific, consensus

Duration: 55 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 08 January 2010