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Cowboy Science

I've been thinking about this for a while. I fancy myself a scientist, which means I use the Scientific Method to figure things out. So I make a hypothesis, and try like crazy to falsify it, and at the end maybe there's some interesting not-yet-falsified ideas.

I train myself in all sorts of science, I keep real genuine article scientists as friends and compatriots. But y'know, I probably wouldn't be called a Scientist by the vast majority of people in this day and age.

So I started thinking. What is someone who does science who doesn't have impressive scientific credentials? And I came to - a Cowboy Scientist.

Cowboy Science is trying to figure out how things for practical reasons or for curiosity, not for academic or institutional prestige.

A rancher who tries to figure out what the best mix of water and grazing and movement for his cattle by takes notes, making a guess at what'll work, and testing that guess - he's doing science. But no one would call him a Scientist with a capital S.

Trust Everyone, But Cut The Cards

Mistrusting people is a horrible way to live. It leads to getting lonely and isolated. It's hard enough to accomplish enterprising and creative works in the world, it's hard enough to raise a great family, it's hard enough to make a positive impact on the world around you and have things run ab it better. Trying to do so without trusting anyone you meet is no good.

On the other hand, highly trusting souls who look to do significant things frequently find they've misplaced that trust. A majority of people are well-meaning, but details get fudged, enthusiasm fades, memory is poor, interpretations are different, judgments get clouded, and external circumstances intervene.

Hence, the counsel of the humorist Finley Peter Dunne --

"Trust everyone, but cut the cards."

It's an entirely solid policy -- give everyone large degrees of trust and goodwill, but don't put them in a position where they'd be tempted or benefit from doing wrong. Don't hand off mission critical tasks to people who aren't vetted; don't bet on people if you can't afford to lose those bets and haven't gone to war with them before.

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