To not-fool yourself is why science beats all other methods of discovering the physical world – but it’s so hard! That’s why peer-review is part of science – review by someone who sees your work as objective data and not your beloved baby.
This may seem like a contradiction.Astrobiologists are actively searching for alien life.It’s their job.And yet whenever new evidence of alien life is presented, astrobiologists are the first and most vocal skeptics about it.If your job is to search for alien life, why would you be so quick to doubt any evidence that alien life actually exists?
This goes back to the famous “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” line from Carl Sagan, or the whole proof beyond a reasonable doubt thing I kept saying during my recent A to Z series on the search for alien life. Astrobiologists very much do want to find alien life. They’re eager to find it. Perhaps a little too eager.
And thus, astrobiologists have to be careful. They have to be extra skeptical, because they have to be on guard against their own wishful thinking.
And really, this is not only true in the field of astrobiology; it’s true…
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