How do we know when science, or a particular experiment, is right?
We all have fallen into to the trap of thinking of science as a static body of knowledge. We all had/have large textbooks, giving the appearance of monolithic science with a capital “S”. Those of us who are scientists, or have friends who are scientists, know this isn’t the case. Scientists are human beings. Experiments can give different results, depending on when, where, and how they are performed. Different scientists interpret the same results differently. Although a desire to use logic and reason to understand the world around us fuels many scientists’ quests for knowledge, it often takes a lot of knowledge to reach a clear understanding of the biological, chemical, and physical properties that govern us and the environment that surrounds us.
This week’s Science Savvy, available on-line, presents two articles that reach opposite conclusions (after performing very similar experiments), raising questions about how we decide what we know and what we still haven’t quite figured out. The first article was published in Science in 2000 and concluded that the same molecular mechanism (sequential induction) that promotes neurogenesis in fly eyes also governs retinal neurogenesis in vertebrates. The next article was published in Development in 2005 and provided evidence that the sequential induction model does not explain vertebrate retinal neurogenesis. Hope you enjoy the Science Savvy piece discussing the conundrum that these two papers pose!
For those of you on campus, due to a special elections campaign, the Quest won’t be printing Science Savvy this week, but you can still read it on-line. Also, if you’re here on the Reed campus, please vote for the current Quest editorial board and help keep Science Savvy alive.