Doubting dmanisi

Patty Lee Shipman

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Why are some discoveries welcomed, whereas others are received with skepticism? I am prompted to ask this by recent developments in paleoanthropology. On the face of things, the story is an old one: International team finds startling new fossil human, oldest of its type in the region; experts agog. The catch is that the new find now being hailed merely echoes an earlier one in the same place, by many of the same researchers-but the early find was received with a 'wait and see' attitude, if not outright disbelief. What makes the difference? This episode offers an important lesson about how science is done. When we scrutinize a colleague's work, we try to make an objective judgment. We evaluate the work against the holy grails of Replicability and Causality, but these are largely unattainable goals, at least for those working with fossils. Like most scientists, we tend to accord an extra dollop of credibility to studies conducted by colleagues known to have done reputable work. But should the work of the young or the less known be held to higher standards than that of the great matriarchs and silverbacked males of the field? Skepticism is a cheap stance to adopt, for it is easier to cast doubt than to substantiate, especially if new techniques and new paradigms must be forged along the way. Science is a process of discovery, not confirmation. Let us allow for the occasional, delicious surprise that makes us rethink all we thought we knew.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages491-494
Number of pages4
Volume88
No6
Specialist publicationAmerican Scientist
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

Fingerprint

Skepticism
Fossil
New Paradigm
Paleoanthropology
Credibility
Causality
Stance
Surprise
Holy

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Cite this

Shipman, Patty Lee. / Doubting dmanisi. In: American Scientist. 2000 ; Vol. 88, No. 6. pp. 491-494.
@misc{54794595f4f149f68a71fc8c383e6481,
title = "Doubting dmanisi",
abstract = "Why are some discoveries welcomed, whereas others are received with skepticism? I am prompted to ask this by recent developments in paleoanthropology. On the face of things, the story is an old one: International team finds startling new fossil human, oldest of its type in the region; experts agog. The catch is that the new find now being hailed merely echoes an earlier one in the same place, by many of the same researchers-but the early find was received with a 'wait and see' attitude, if not outright disbelief. What makes the difference? This episode offers an important lesson about how science is done. When we scrutinize a colleague's work, we try to make an objective judgment. We evaluate the work against the holy grails of Replicability and Causality, but these are largely unattainable goals, at least for those working with fossils. Like most scientists, we tend to accord an extra dollop of credibility to studies conducted by colleagues known to have done reputable work. But should the work of the young or the less known be held to higher standards than that of the great matriarchs and silverbacked males of the field? Skepticism is a cheap stance to adopt, for it is easier to cast doubt than to substantiate, especially if new techniques and new paradigms must be forged along the way. Science is a process of discovery, not confirmation. Let us allow for the occasional, delicious surprise that makes us rethink all we thought we knew.",
author = "Shipman, {Patty Lee}",
year = "2000",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1511/2000.41.3359",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "88",
pages = "491--494",
journal = "American Scientist",
issn = "0003-0996",
publisher = "Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Society",

}

Shipman, PL 2000, 'Doubting dmanisi' American Scientist, vol. 88, no. 6, pp. 491-494. https://doi.org/10.1511/2000.41.3359

Doubting dmanisi. / Shipman, Patty Lee.

In: American Scientist, Vol. 88, No. 6, 01.01.2000, p. 491-494.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

TY - GEN

T1 - Doubting dmanisi

AU - Shipman, Patty Lee

PY - 2000/1/1

Y1 - 2000/1/1

N2 - Why are some discoveries welcomed, whereas others are received with skepticism? I am prompted to ask this by recent developments in paleoanthropology. On the face of things, the story is an old one: International team finds startling new fossil human, oldest of its type in the region; experts agog. The catch is that the new find now being hailed merely echoes an earlier one in the same place, by many of the same researchers-but the early find was received with a 'wait and see' attitude, if not outright disbelief. What makes the difference? This episode offers an important lesson about how science is done. When we scrutinize a colleague's work, we try to make an objective judgment. We evaluate the work against the holy grails of Replicability and Causality, but these are largely unattainable goals, at least for those working with fossils. Like most scientists, we tend to accord an extra dollop of credibility to studies conducted by colleagues known to have done reputable work. But should the work of the young or the less known be held to higher standards than that of the great matriarchs and silverbacked males of the field? Skepticism is a cheap stance to adopt, for it is easier to cast doubt than to substantiate, especially if new techniques and new paradigms must be forged along the way. Science is a process of discovery, not confirmation. Let us allow for the occasional, delicious surprise that makes us rethink all we thought we knew.

AB - Why are some discoveries welcomed, whereas others are received with skepticism? I am prompted to ask this by recent developments in paleoanthropology. On the face of things, the story is an old one: International team finds startling new fossil human, oldest of its type in the region; experts agog. The catch is that the new find now being hailed merely echoes an earlier one in the same place, by many of the same researchers-but the early find was received with a 'wait and see' attitude, if not outright disbelief. What makes the difference? This episode offers an important lesson about how science is done. When we scrutinize a colleague's work, we try to make an objective judgment. We evaluate the work against the holy grails of Replicability and Causality, but these are largely unattainable goals, at least for those working with fossils. Like most scientists, we tend to accord an extra dollop of credibility to studies conducted by colleagues known to have done reputable work. But should the work of the young or the less known be held to higher standards than that of the great matriarchs and silverbacked males of the field? Skepticism is a cheap stance to adopt, for it is easier to cast doubt than to substantiate, especially if new techniques and new paradigms must be forged along the way. Science is a process of discovery, not confirmation. Let us allow for the occasional, delicious surprise that makes us rethink all we thought we knew.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0033710833&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0033710833&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1511/2000.41.3359

DO - 10.1511/2000.41.3359

M3 - Article

VL - 88

SP - 491

EP - 494

JO - American Scientist

JF - American Scientist

SN - 0003-0996

ER -