It is best not to believe in ghosts.... or the laws of science

From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"They [ghosts] contain no matter and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people's minds. Of course, the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people's minds. It's best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science.  That way you are safe.  That doesn't leave you much to believe in, but that's scientific too."

The narrator went on to explain that he was being facetious, and the book does not claim to be a treatise on the philosophy of science, but there is truth to what the narrator says here, that I suspect even the author missed.  He was trying to make philosophical points, but I don't think the author recognized the significance of the word belief when he wrote this.  In response to the idea that a person's religious beliefs may be at odds with science, I always say that it is impossible for religious beliefs to be at odds with science, because science has no beliefs.  Science is merely an approach for asking questions, and gathering data that allow us to understand our world better and better.  I believe it is important that scientists become more politically engaged.  I am frequently upset to see issues that boil down to scientific questions being debated without a scientific voice in the conversation, but we must be careful to maintain solid science values as we do become more engaged.  

I heard one thing during the primary season that struck me as somewhat profound.  Ted Cruz was being pressed on the issue of climate change.  He has been vocally skeptical of the conclusion that the primary driver of climate change is human activity, but when called a climate change denier he responded, "Look at the language, where they call you a denier. Denier is not the language of science... denier is the language of religion, it's heretic, you are a blasphemer." I was shocked by how right he was.

As scientists, we need to be communicators and educators.  We need to teach people why we want to ask questions, how we ask them, and what data we gather.  We then SHOULD argue why our conclusions are valid, and try our best to make people agree.  Asking people to BELIEVE in our conclusions, however, is underestimating our audiences.  Let us bombard people with facts, but lets remain skeptical of our own conclusions.  Let us remember that the best scientists are always finding new and innovative ways to try to prove themselves wrong.  We should be advocates for our own conclusions, but the next time you ask for BELIEF in your "scientific" conclusions, remember that you might as well ask for belief in ghosts.