Abuse of science

ImageI was in a chat room late last night and I encountered a poorly educated person talking about all these things “science says”. This also reminded me of something I had read about the 1920s. Science says this, science teaches that. Bunk. Science is not alive, it doesn’t do anything. Science is a tool. It is one tool among many for discovery of information. 

First, science is not all the shit we know. Many people assume that learning about cells or clouds or computers or other shit is science, it’s just learning shit we know. In that way it’s no different than learning history, math, or language arts.  Science is a process, a series of steps that follow a general flow. Ask a question, think about possible answers (called hypothesis) do some testing and review the hypothesis to see if it still fits, if it is still valid. Do this over and over until your hypothesis can not be disproven. Then you combine several hypotheses into a general theory which explains how something works.

Important here is people don’t know what a theory is. As I just explained, its an explanation for how something works. “Oh, that’s just a theory” is a frustrating statement because it seems to assume that a well thought out and tested set of rules is some how easy to discard. Well, In our world idiots ignore reality and pretend their delusions are real. “it’s just a theory” is like being dismissive and saying “it’s just a bunch of observed facts that are shown to apply in this case.”

The thing about this is science doesn’t make the discovery here, the scientist does. The person applying science. Not all people who discover things use science. The ancients didn’t. The greeks and romans and ancient chinese didn’t.  I have not studied all the ancient thinkers, just a handful of the big names, and from what I have learned, they did not use science. Aristotle didn’t, Ptolemy didn’t, Archimedes didn’t. While they learned things, they discovered things, they did not use the method of observing, hypothesizing, testing, and repeating. They just measured things and said it was so. Rarely did they apply what they learned to other areas or used other information in their areas.

At best they could be thought of as proto-scientific.

Thomas Edison wasn’t a scientist, he was an Inventor. Different thing. He didn’t discover the world and how it worked, he built things. I hope that clears that up.

 

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Science (optional) fiction

For the last month I’ve been netflixing Star Trek: The Next Generation and am now half way through season 7. (Season 6 was my favorite). It’s star trek, its the bottom edge of science fiction.  They have flashy space ships, phasers, aliens, and lots of amazing technobabble but most of it isn’t scientific, its just story telling with “aliens” that humans (Americans specifically) can understand.  Star trek has a habit of making an entire alien race so uniform that it is rare for there to be cultural differentiation with in the species.

I’m only basically educated in many sciences. I am probably more educated than most, but that still leaves miles and miles of stuff that experts know that I don’t. But I’m pretty sure i know more than the writers of Star Trek. They make huge mistakes in scientific reality and probably do it for writing expediency. When they filmed TNG they only had about a week to write an episode, about 45 pages of script.

Star Trek TNG was over in 1994, meaning they really didn’t get into continual story telling like so many other shows are doing. Deep Space Nine did that a lot more with the dominion war.  Each episode was stand alone, there were very few references to what had happened before.  But the even with all that, you’d think they could find some science guys who would love a low paying job science checking the scripts.

It’s freaking star trek, millions of fans, many of whom grew up on this stuff and went to MIT or Stanford or what ever.

So many aliens are half breeds. Spock for instance, Alexander (Worf’s son), B’lana Torres, and Diana Troy, all were mixed. Aliens who evolved on different planets who happened to look nearly human (for makeup sake).  This is the focus of my rant today because I think this has caused major damage to our scientific community.

Too many astronomers who get to be on TV talk about fining life only on “Earth-like” planets. Meaning they aren’t looking for aliens, they are looking for humans in star trek makeup. Even on earth we find Terran life in very strange places, ya think we might find ALIEN LIFE IN ALIEN ENVIRONMENTS. 

Too many people are unable to think outside of the box.

It’s frustrating.

Today’s Gripe, science, or lack thereof

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a pony trying to science

My OCD sense goes off every time people say “I believe in science”… no, if you believe in science, you fail.  Science is not faith. Faith requires no test, no questioning, just an ability to go with what you are told. This is not science, but it might be science class.  Currently I am a student in college. I am getting my 2nd set of degrees. I am about ten years older than the bulk of my fellow classmates and as a result I have more experience. I watch in horror as they absorb what ever the professor says without thinking about it.  There is no thought about what they are told, they just ape and parrot and it makes them look like jackasses, (lol, three animals).

Science is very misunderstood. It is not the body of knowledge that we know. It is a specific form of discovery and explanation. It is not magical, hard, or difficult to do. The individual research steps might be complex for complex subjects. It takes a lot of knowledge to smash atoms to find subatomic particles.  You have to be pretty experienced to identify all the little bits under a microscope. It takes time to collect enough data to know  what you are doing, But science itself isn’t complex.

Put simply science is looking at a problem and asking “How did that happen?” Then you sit back and think about some possibilities. “Maybe it did this, then this, then this” you get a few of these possibilities called hypotheses. The next step is the important one. (The ancient Greeks stopped at hypothesis and said it was so, this is also what religion does)  After you have your ideas, you TEST THEM.

A great example is Galileo and his gravity experiment. He asked “Do things fall faster if they weigh more?” The ancient Greek Aristotle said if its heavier it falls faster (dude never tested things) and because he was ancient and Greek, the church assumed he was right. It became dogmatic.  Galileo built a machine to test this. you can see them in Firenze (Florence) Italy in the Galileo Museum right on the Arno river, Very nifty stuff. He demonstrated that weight and mass do not change the rate at which things fall. (So did I with my 4th grade science fair project). That second bit is important, OTHER people do the same test as you do. And when the same results come up we Know something is true.

Once we know something is true we construct a Theory. This is key, a theory is not an untested idea like too many people think it is. “Oh that’s just a theory” to me that is some one saying “oh, that is just a highly tested and repeatedly demonstrated true statement”  The problem is non science fields also use “theories” in their nomenclature.  Hollywood writers improperly apply the word when writing about scientists in their dramas. So people don’t use it correctly.

Too many people sleep through science class (i watched a few in both my bio and my earth science classes while in college) and have no effing idea what science is. When I debate scientific things in public or in chat rooms people attack me as unable to discuss such things because i lack a scientific degree.  This second part is very unnerving because it assumes that only the indoctrinated are worthy of discussing such things. This is very far from the truth. Anyone can be a scientists. I am one. It’s a process, a method, anyone can do it. Just observe, ask questions, test to see if those hypotheses work. If they don’t work, revise hypotheses with what you learned in testing, and repeat until you demonstrate that it works or does not work.

If you are OCD like me and watch the comment section in various news articles about scientific discoveries you might blow a gasket.  You watch people make huge failings in the realm of science. Humans become devoted to ideas and often times those ideas are divorced from reality. People will support things contrary to the evidence because they have worked so hard for them. Including Ph.Ds  Many doctors of science work decades on their pet projects and refuse to accept new data because it would require a fundamental world shift. Even Albert Einstein is guilty of this. He discovered quantum mechanics and spent the last half of his life trying to disprove it. He failed. He is an icon of scientific excellence and he too ignored reality because he didn’t want it to be so.

Dr Dean Edell had (maybe still has, i can’t find it anymore) a medical talk show on radio. He said something about doctors that is important here. “Doctors will get off their pedestals if patients get off their knees” meaning we worship at the sight of a doctor (medical or scientific). We treat them as priests bringing holy writs that are unquestionable. Historically doctors were treated as holy men, in the middle ages a doctor would read from a text book while a barber would do surgery. The doctor would sit on a throne like chair while doing this. (the medical text books came from the ancient Greeks and were very very poorly done as they didn’t have any kind of real scientific investigation at the time, very few Greeks were what we would call scientists, and they were generally not the famous ones.) 

People hear a doctor on TV or the radio and think “they are smart, ill do what they want!”

Michael Mann and Memmet Oz are two such media whores who promote horrible flawed science for profit and fame. They might actually believe what they are saying but reams and mountains of scientific evidence show both to be promoting buffoonery.  The actual real world tests show what they say is false and dangerously backwards. They are doctors of climatology and medicine respectively. Both are highly respected in circles of people not known for thinking critically and questioning things.

I question everything and get savaged for it. But It’s who I am. I will end this rant with an Einstein quote that I came across but can not find a time or date to source it, it might be urban legend.

“No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”

The idea that people hold to their “Faith” in science in the face of evidence that proves them wrong is painful to me. Even Einstein failed in this regard. I have failed in this regard, I have held things true even when the data showed me otherwise. I work to fix that, but see that it is not uncommon, it is a pastime.

Fuck facts, go with what I like…. and we all suffer for it.