Scientists Are Not Dogmatic
"It [Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), the quantum field theory of electromagnetism] was just patched together out of bits and pieces, in order to explain some experiments," says Freeman Dyson, one of the theory's architects, now at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. "We didn't expect it to last," he adds. "Every time there was a new experiment, we all expected that the theory would be proved wrong in some interesting way. Instead, each experiment still agrees with the theory. That's sort of a disappointment."
"There is no wiggle room if theory and experiment disagree," Kinoshita says. Some fundamental aspect of QED - quantum mechanics, say, or special relativity - might have to be modified. "If quantum electrodynamics is wrong, that would be a fantastic discovery," says Gabrielse. "The stakes are really high here."
"It has worked so remarkably well for a number of years that it has made it into all of our textbooks as if it's the gospel truth," Gabrielse says. "Most of us would be surprised if it breaks down, just because we've failed to make it break down after trying so hard." He adds, "We're in a rut, for very good reason, in using these field theories. They have been wildly successful. But it seems to me sort of part of the human experience to always ask, 'Is that the whole story? Or is there something more to it?'"
Yup, that’s dogmatic all right. Because if anything’s dogmatic, it’s wanting your supposed “cherished theories”, which are now “gospel truth” to be wrong. One of the principle architects of QED wants the theory, which he helped create to be wrong! They want to have to change it! These are not nut-jobs, out of synch with the majority of scientists. The fact is that science only really progresses when we don’t understand things, so if we knew everything about the universe scientists would be out of jobs!
One of the most important ways science progresses is by actively trying to find flaws in our theories and models. The only way a hypothesis can develop into a theory is by withstanding the unrelenting scrutiny of scientists. No incorrect hypothesis survives long under this intense pressure. As an example, disproving current theories is one of the biggest things going in particle physics right now, and the first team to find what’s wrong with the Standard Model will get a Nobel Prize, probably the same year they do it. If any of our current theories (except wholly theoretical ones like String Theory) could be proven wrong with what we have on hand, then they would have been proven wrong by now.
When a scientist says that a theory is right all that they mean is that all evidence gathered has supported it or its predictions. Everything could be wrong, but many theories have so much evidence behind them that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll need anything other than tweaking. The simple fact is that these thousands of scientists aren’t part of some grand dogmatic conspiracy, they just want to understand the way the world works; they want the truth. And currently, the scientific method is the only thing that gets us reliably to the truth. It might be a rocky, uneven, and bumbling ride, but it works. Which is far more than can be said about anything else.