Recently, I heard some amusing comments on a YouTube video.
“We now know that we are risen apes.”
“Darwin’s remarkable idea...gives us the only workable explanation we have for the design and variety of all life on Earth.”
Even if the last quote were true, how does that justify going ALL-IN? Let me give you an analogy.
One day, you’re watching a game of No Limit, Texas Holdem poker. A scientist walks in and sits down to play. After being dealt a pair of Tens,
he yells out “ALL-IN” and ends up losing the hand to a pair of Jacks. On the way out, a bystander asks him, “Why were you bluffing on your first hand?”
The scientist replies, “I wasn’t bluffing. My poker strategy operates under the premise that all the cards that I’ve ever seen, are all the cards that can exist.
I’ve never seen a card above a Ten, so I naturally assumed that I had the odds in my favour. As a scientist—I only deal with the empirical facts before me.”
The following day he returns and goes ALL-IN with a pair of Jacks on his opening hand. He ends up losing to a pair of Queens and murmurs the same rationale, as he walks out the door.
The next day he returns again and goes ALL-IN with a pair of Queens, but this time he loses to a pair of Kings. Get the picture. A rational observer might consider this poker strategy
to be reckless at best, because the scientist has no idea how many cards there are in the deck.
Likewise, if the universe is infinite, topless and/or bottomless (infinitely divisible), scientists are destined to make an infinite number of ALL-IN bets,
coupled with an infinite number of revisions, all the while, erroneously believing that they are exercising the best possible strategy.
So why should anyone hang their soul on any of their versions with an ALL-IN bet?...especially, when they might be infinitely uninformed—at all times.
Their reckless behaviour can be attributed in part, to one word—Funding.
Many scientists feel the necessity to spew a heavy glob of vaunted hyperbole into their academic proposals in order to secure decent research funding. For example:
This study will determine the incontrovertible nature of matter once and for all.
We are on the threshold of a cognitive neuroscience of religion.
This line of investigation will expose the fundamental structure of consciousness.
Discovery of the god particle will be a new jewel in the crown of physics.
At present, the truth isn’t so black and white, so it doesn’t garner the same level of galloping enthusiasm. For example:
Today, we are staring at an encompassing gray wall of uncertainty and there is every indication, after I spend your $150,000 grant, that we will end up with the same basic shade of drab gray...
This would be truly comical, but for the fact that all too often it involves taxpayer dollars.
So scientists have little reason to exercise self-restraint and not go ALL-IN—all the time.