October 2, 2009

But It's Counterintuitive!

I recently had someone tell me that one of their reasons for doubting a certain scientific explanation was that it was “counterintuitive”. That got me to thinking – how reliable is our intuition, and is being counterintuitive a valid reason for rejecting a premise?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that almost all useful advances in knowledge begin with a counterintuitive step. And that’s precisely where scientific discovery operates, and where science is often attacked: at the point where new observations contradict our intuition.