So, the same morning Prof Cox attempts to enlighten the perpetually perplexed John Humphrys @BBCR4Today with his pride in being wrong, Forbes highlights the cost of working on only what evidence can demonstrate you know for sure – 7 months loss of Rosetta / Philae data. No coincidence in the banner ad headline EY (the business consultants Ernst and Young) piece is on the need for good judgement about what you might not know for sure.
Being honestly sceptical about the contingency of “known” science and open to new evidence is great for the self-correcting nature of scientific knowledge itself – but being exclusively concerned with hard evidence-based logic is a fetish real life can do without. Being overly cautious where evidence is doubtful – the cautionary principle – is irrational. Don’t ignore hard evidence and watertight logic, but don’t deny decisions we need to make without it, as we must. Ethical and political decision-making – value judgements – should not be reduced to science or the scientific method.
Science is the best method we have – for advancing scientific knowledge of the natural world. That doesn’t make it the best method for making value judgements, or mean we should attempt to replace all value judgements with a scientific model. The aims of a multi-billion space research project may be scientific, but the project is not.