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GRE Argument Essay: Inacurate Scientific Theories?


Aug 26, 2017   #1
Essay Prompt: "Scientific theories, which most people consider as 'fact,' almost invariably prove to be inaccurate. Thus, one should look upon any information described as 'factual' with skepticism since it may well be proven false in the future."

Write an essay in which you take a position on the statement above. In developing and supporting your viewpoint, consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true.

skepticism of scientific facts



My Essay: It is always good to be skeptical of established ideas, norms, philosophies, and political systems. However, when it comes to science, although a health dose of skepticism is necessary to make breakthroughs, it is simply unwise to be skeptical of established scientific theories. The key here is that these theories are "scientific", meaning that they have been assessed through the scientific method, as opposed to simply being called "scientific" because a random scientist claimed his theories were factual.

The argument that scientific theories have always been contested and cannot be considered factual is often used by those who deny global warming. They claim that there is no such thing as settled science, as theories always change. Their proof? The fact that scientists thousands of years ago believed that the Sun and all the other planets rotated around the Earth, when in fact it was shown by Copernicus that the Earth orbited around the Sun. Is this not, as they say, a complete reversal on what was believed to be scientific fact? And if the geocentric theory was shown to be inaccurate, then who knows if our current scientific theories will also be shown to be false in the future? What proponents of this argument forget is that the geocentric model of the universe did not have its roots in science. Rather, it had its roots in Aristotelian philosophy, and the Christian belief system that claimed that man would be at the center of the universe. In fact, it was through science, and the scientific method that the heliocentric model was proven. Therefore, this example shows that it was not as if a scientific theory was refined and later replaced with another scientific theory. Rather, science triumphed over pseudo-science and religious belief, showing that it is only through science that we arrive at the truth.

Of course, it is good to have a healthy dose of skepticism. Before Einstein, every scientist thought that Newtonian mechanics could perfectly describe the universe and its various phenomena. However, it was Einstein who eventually that time and speed are relative, and introduced the concept of spacetime. The replacement of Newtonian mechanics with Einstein's general theory of relativity shows that scientific theories can be proven to be inadequate, or even wrong at times. However, it must be mentioned that Newtonian mechanics wasn't completely rejected. In fact, it is being used all the time, and is being taught to high school and freshman students in university. This is because although Newtonian mechanics failed to explain every phenomena in the universe, it explained basically all observable phenomena here on Earth, and works perfectly in describing everyday situations. After all, no one can physically experience the hundredth of a millisecond difference in aging between a man at sea level and a man standing on top of Mount Everest, as Einstein's theories claim. Therefore, although scientific theories can prove to be inadequate at times, it is simply wrong to claim that valid scientific facts are inevitably proven to be inaccurate in the future.

In conclusion, although skepticism and an inquisitive mind is necessary for science, skepticism of all scientific facts and theories is misguided. The scientific method has been proven to lead to correct facts and theories, even if these can fall short of describing every phenomena in the world. In the end, the scientific community might end up disagreeing on something like the rate at which the planet is warming, and the amount of time we as a society have left in reversing climate change, but the scientific fact of climate change has not changed, and no amount of misguided skepticism can change theories that have been scientifically proven to be accurate and sound.

Please leave me your feedback and suggestions :)

Holt - / 7,527 2001  
Aug 26, 2017   #2
Hi Patrick, I think you have written an essay that can get a 4 in this instance. You present some very good discussions regarding reasons that one should be skeptical of scientific theories. However, the samples that you give have some inconsistencies. Take for example, the part of the essay where you mentioned Global Warming. After you mentioned it, there was no development of that idea in the discussion. You said they claimed that there was no such thing as settled science. Rather than building on the Global Warming scientific theory, you immediately moved on to various other examples in the hopes of being able to impress the examiner with your knowledge of the topic, rather than your competence in the discussion of the topic.

Since the GRE requires that you look for the loopholes in your own discussion and then offer explanations as to why those loopholes are wrong or should not exist, it would be better if you focus on developing only one example per paragraph in relation to a chosen discussion presentation on your part. The GRE exam looks at your ability to analyze a given statement on an extremely deeper level than average. The analysis you presented became shallow in that aspect because you tried to discuss too much information in it. By the way, it would be beneficial for your essay if you refer to more recent scientific theories such as those proposed by Stephen Hawking and say, Elon Musk. That way, you show that you have a knowledge of the most current scientific discussions in relation to the prompt statement. It offers an opportunity for a higher score. There were a few problem sentences in your essay:

although a health dose

- ... HEALTHY dose

it was Einstein who eventually that time and speed are relative

- What did Einstein do? Points deduction due to an incomplete sentence and thought process.

BTW, don't start an academic discussion with "And". That is a connecting word that, when placed at the start of the sentence makes the statement grammatically inaccurate as it does not connect one discussion to the next. The previous discussion ended with a period and therefore, cannot connect to the next sentence.


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