Dogma has no place in science

I detest dogma; it always gets in the way of progress. But then again, that is its purpose: to preserve existing knowledge and to be skeptical of anything new or foreign. Dogma is useful when used to further a higher goal like the integrity of science. Science would lose all credibility if it routinely accepted new ideas as fact one day and then discredits them the next. But dogma is too often the result of petty or selfish agendas.

I guess I should clarify. I hate it when people are dogmatic for the sake of being dogmatic – when they go beyond rigorously testing your ideas to just impeding your way because they don’t like you or your ideas. This is when dogma no longer serves a higher purpose and becomes a weapon for personal attack.

You see it all the time, even among the most highly educated. It’s extremely disappointing to see otherwise respectable scientists duke it out like kids in a schoolyard. Yes, I know your life’s work might be in question, but if you are wrong, you are wrong. You are only delaying the inevitable; you might as well be gracious about it.

4 thoughts on “Dogma has no place in science

  1. Hm… I would even extend that statement from my position, and say: “Dogma has no place in life.”

    The creed by which I go is: Homos sum, et nihil humanum a me alienum puto est. (I’m human; nothing human is alien to me)

    Thus I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to understand Dogma, even though I myslef tend naturally to question things(to great extent).
    Take for example the dogma(or doctrine) of religion – it was always a riddle to me how people, especially those steeped in philosophical thinking and scientific research, could accept such a dogmatic approach to explaining the universe. In the end it boiled down to the two extreems of progressivism and conservatism for me. (Hm… before entering this I opened the wikipedia articles on these terms – you should take a quick look too. Btw, wikipedia pawns!)
    Back to progressivism being the anti-pole of conservatism. These are two distinct “habit[s] of mind, …mode[s] of feeling, …way[s] of living.”(Wikipedia on Conservatism ) I have experienced different moods throughout my life, and even though I inertly believe in progressivism, I have lately also begun to feel conservative tendencies(which I don’t like and attribute to having to deal with stressful situations). But none-the less, before I go so far as to assign each tendency an objective value, I just want to state, that I believe both are something fundementally linked with emotions, thought and experience. I don’t have a reasonable answer to whether Dogma is a vice or virtue yet, but how I feel should be noticeble from my comment.

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  2. Rafael, I like your thoughts about progressivism and conservativism; I’ve had similar thoughts as well. And yes, Wikipedia pwns.

    In my life, I continually swing from one extreme to the other like a pendulum. I am constantly learning and reevaluating what I know, only finding rest during those fleeting moments when the pendulum passes through equilibrium. Which extreme I’m at sometimes depends on my mood, but mostly it fluctuates depending on my most recent insight and how it relates to my current understanding of the world. Being a free thinker is both exhilarating and exhausting, and it’s clearly not for everyone.

    To me, dogma itself is neither good nor evil; it simply fills a need for many people. It is safe and restful compared to the maelstrom at the edge of the unknown. I do not begrudge people who use dogma for personal guidance, but I do lament when dogma is used to systematic suppress new ideas solely to maintain the status quo. It is then that dogma ceases to be a useful tool and becomes a weapon.

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  3. Yeah…you got me. Technically, science has its own dogma. It’s based on the premise that nature is intelligible. That we can explain everything using reason. I suppose I should retitle this article as “Dogma, other science’s own, has no place in science,” but that just sounds awkward. Thanks a lot, Phil. :P

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