Quotes of the Day, May 16 2011 — Reality doesn’t care about your model

‘ “Science is not a religion,” said Howard, “it must be criticised”. ‘

– Alan Howard, May 2011, as reported by Andrew Orlowski in the The Register. [1]

‘A few years ago, a U.S. government physicist authored a professional article claiming so heavy a projectile could not have traveled that far propelled by black powder. Firearms industry writer Mike Venturino disproved that claim with a live-fire demonstration at Arizona’s Yuma Proving Ground’

– Major John L. Plaster, 2008, The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting pg 260 [2]

‘ “People underestimate the power of models. Observational evidence is not very useful,” adding, “Our approach is not entirely empirical.” ‘

– John Mitchell, May 2011, as reported by Andrew Orlowski in the The Register. [1]

A lot of smart people get so caught up in how smart they are, they forget their models have to match reality. Instead, they fall in love with their models & try to find ways to selectively view reality so it clearly conforms to their models.

Although the first two quotes above come from very different sources and are talking about very different things, they both convey the same thought: a theory may be scientifically plausible, but until it’s compared to real life it’s just a theory. It’s something to study and test (if possible) but not something to get married to.

The third quote is a good example of how a lot of scientists, engineers and other officially designated Smart People view their theories: yes, you may have direct observations that would seem to disagree with my theory, but those are just observations — you underestimate the power of my theory.

[1] Orlowski, Andrew, “Would putting all the climate scientists in a room solve global warming . . . – Skeptics Meet Warmists at Cambridge”, The Register, dated May 13 2011, site accessed May 16 2011

[2] Plaster, Maj. John L., The History of Sniping and Sharpshooting, Paladin Press, copyright 2008, ISBN 978-1-58160-632-4

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