What me biased?
Am I lying to you?
Probably not intentionally.
But, it turns out, that we scientists are a biased lot. This is not surprising. Humans, even really smart ones, are subjective creatures. We want to please; we want to know; we want to believe.
We really, really, really want to be right. I wrote about this many posts ago here.
When I was a baby scientist, I started a PhD project, of which the premise was based on a hypothesis. Let’s say this hypothesis was drilled into my head to be true. Like, you know, bread with yeast will rise.
The problem is that hypotheses are not supposed to be true all the time. After all, they are only hypotheses. In fact, if you believe Karl Popper, there is no way to ever know the truth. We can only falsify those things that are supposedly true but not true. Perhaps there is some truth in that.
Anyway, to make the analogy complete, the yeast in my bread didn’t make it rise. The hypothesis on which my entire PhD project was based was unsupported by the data.
I went into a set of fits. What will my adviser think when I tell him that his hypothesis (which became my hypothesis) was not being supported? Did I not collect enough samples? Maybe my design was wrong? Incorrect statistics?
After much pulling of hair, groaning, and finally acceptance, I realized that the hypothesis was not being supported because it was wrong.
I had to go into my adviser’s office and tell him that his belief was wrong. I was prepared to withstand all sorts of ridicule, yelling, and perhaps banishment.
Instead, he shrugged his shoulders.
Time for a new hypothesis.