In one of the greatest Western movies ever made, the mysterious gunslinger Shane engages in a climactic showdown with the delightfully evil Jack Wilson. Before they pull out the weapons, the obligatory ritualistic exchange takes place. First the challenger delivers a vicious insult that cannot be ignored: “I’ve heard that you’re a low-down Yankee liar.” The required response is: “prove it.” As it turns out, the fastest usually prove their point because the disputing party is unable to refute it, being dead.
The scientific procedure for proving something is a variation on this Western theme. The scientific challenger issues a knowledge claim instead of an outright insult ( although certain claims about what is true can certainly be insulting to the intelligence, as in the case of Creationism). The required response is the same as the gunfighters: “prove it.”
The scientific method is not just about truth-seeking, it is very valuable for demonstrating what is not true. When the gunsmoke clears, after the crucible of experimentation, only the most valid theory will be left standing.