The illusion of choice: The Limits of Science—and Scientists

It must be tough to be a testifying witness in any trial. It must be incredibly difficult to be a testifying expert witness at trial. There is pressure to have the answers. There is pressure to preform in keeping with one side or the other’s theory of the case. There is pressure.

At some point, I imagine that a testifying expert witness has a choice to do science or advocacy. It is the illusion of choice, I suppose but not a real one. One takes an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth includes that there is a limit to science. The truth includes that there is a limit to every scientist and what he or she knows.

I recently I read an interesting article on this point. I offer it here:

The Limits of Science—and Scientists

By Ananyo Bhattacharya, chief online editor of Nature magazine.

“About what one can not speak, one must remain silent.” The last line of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus tends to resonate with scientists, sceptics, atheists, and other fans of rationality. If your thought cannot be articulated sensibly in plain language then you had better keep it to yourself. Written amid the slaughter of World War I, the book became central to the Vienna Circle, a group of philosophers who sat around the Café Centrale in the 1920s discussing which statements could be boiled down into verifiable empirical claims and those that could not.


Unlike religion, science does not require blind faith, they said—only trust in scientists, who had, after all, produced verifiable results and made successful predictions in the past. But that is to conflate well-established science—a body of knowledge supported by so much experiment and observation that it is very likely true—and the new findings of science at any particular moment, which are quite likely to be false. Scientists are of course human, many as fallible as any whisky priest.

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