Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga says in his most recent book, The Ethical Brain, that scientists have as much or more difficulty than religious believers changing their minds about their favorite theories in the face of new evidence. Writes Todd Zywicki, also quoting Gazzaniga:
He also has an interesting chapter on religion, where he describes how the brain reacts during religious experiences and the psychological experience of religion. One interesting point he makes in passing is that it turns out that scientists are just attached to their particular theories as religious believers, and in fact, scientists are just as reluctant to surrender their beliefs about science when confronted with contrary evidence as are religious believers. He notes (p. 146):Nowhere does the human capacity to form and hold beliefs become more stark than when clear scientific data challenge the assumptions of someone's personal beliefs. It would be easy to spin a story line about how a particular person with a set of religious values resisted the biological analysis of this or that finding in an effort to reaffirm his or her belief. There are many such stories, but they miss the point. Scientists themselves are just as resistant to change a view when confronted with new data that suggest their view is incorrect. All of us hold ot to our beliefs, and it now appears that men are even more tencious about not letting go than are women.
He adds (pp. 146-47), "Interestingly, it turns out that scientists are slower to change their views in the face of new data than are preachers."
Not surprising, considering that scientists are people too.
(By the way, the point of this series of posts is not to impugn scientists as a class, but merely to point out that they have human flaws and that scientific claims should be considered in that light rather than placed unworthily on a pedestal. I consider myself to be a scientist, and I like to think that I am humble enough in my beliefs to admit when I'm wrong or unsure.)