rat scientist, animal doctor

Would the scientific method be different if we were a different species?

I have a crazy thought. I think I have an inkling of something.

So, listening to the book The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert had me thinking about the scientific method.

One thing that has caught my attention thus far is that several scientists who have used the scientific method and come across important findings in their own right, many that still hold up today, failed to accept the next progression from their findings.  

For example, French Naturalist Georges Cuvier, first proposed the idea of extinction in the 18th century. He, however, did not accept the idea of biological evidence, which is a related concept. Similarly, the person who was influential in shaping Charles Darwin’s perspective, geologist Charles Lyell, leading to his theory of evolution by natural selection could not accept the theory.

It’s as if these men could only go so far. Also, ironically, the same ideas that they found were the same ones holding them back. They couldn’t see the next logical step, and others always had to come up with the ideas, even though the evidence was there.

What these examples made me think about was that the scientific method is sound. See, if these scientists that were stuck in their ways had simply followed the evidence, they would have come to the same conclusions as those that followed. The system isn’t flawed. It’s the users.

The scientific method probably has its limits, which we’ve yet to reach, but overall, it’s pretty reliable.

Thinking about its limitations though is its possible humanness. It is a system created by humans for humans. It is based on our understanding of the world and our physiological constraints.

What if we had a different physiology? Would we have created a different system for learning about our surroundings? Perhaps, if we didn’t have the sense organs that we have or the brains that we do, yet were still “intelligent”, we would have a different system of learning. One that could be different, but just as effective, less so, or even more so. our one that’s just as effective or even more effective. Perhaps there’s some alien species, who has a completely different biology that have their own version of the scientific method that’s unique to their makeup. I hope this makes sense. I think there’s a kernel of an idea there.

Another way to look at it is to consider the mental capacity of lower animals here on Earth. We can only understand our world so far as our minds will allow us to. There are ideas and facts that we as humans understand that are probably unfathomable to less intelligent species such as monkeys, mice, lizards, and beetles. Though each one has its own central nervous system, there is a life that is simply unfathomable to them. If there was a theoretically more cognitively complex creature than us it may have a view of life that we could not begin to imagine.

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