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Not acting until you have a good idea of any adverse consequences
is called the precautionary principle.
This happens every day.
Products are tested before they go to market,
to prove that they're safe.
Because there's a chance that they're not.
But it's difficult to remove all concerns about the risks associated with every
single action. Let alone those based on the complex series of tests and observations
required by science.
And here we run into some confusion about how science works.
Some say global warming and evolution aren't facts,
they're just theories.
But there's no 'just' about it.
In science the word theory doesn't mean 'I reckon' it means a well tested rule, which
is based on logic, explains repeated observations, and has been used to make
accurate predictions.
This makes them incredibly useful
and difficult to ignore.
Newton's theory of gravitational attraction, is a theory.
It explains how objects with mass move the way they do.
It's a theory so useful that some three hundred years after it was first
published, it's still used to send objects from Earth
to the far reaches of the solar system. Observable or proven facts are only part
of science.
When we're faced with the risks, it's natural to want to wait until there's a hundred
percent certainty about it.
Unfortunately, that's impossible.
The best that can be achieved is that given all our current theories, repeated
testing, logic, and the facts, that we're reasonably confident something is safe.
And this is where the precautionary principle can be misused.
Waiting for more information is useful but waiting for that unattainable one
hundred percent certainty, prevents anybody from doing anything.
Consider mobile phones and fears that their radiation emissions may cause cancer.
If we choose to wait until mobile phones were proven to be one hundred percent safe,
or not,
we would have no mobile phone technology.
Cancer is not something to be taken lightly, and concerns should never be
dismissed.
But waiting for irrefutable data, which is logically impossible, is a bad way to
make decisions.
And by doing so, we may lose amazing opportunities or encounter new risks.
Asking about risks is sensible. But demanding one hundred percent safety,
stops technology from evolving.
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Critical Thinking Part 6: A Precautionary Tale

5019 Folder Collection
賽魯 published on April 23, 2015
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