Friday, April 10, 2009

Real Bad Science. ('Science'?)

OK, so you thought that religion is bad enough for mental health, eh? Or maybe you didn't, but it so happens that I do. Ahh, never mind; there's worse things than that, though this one here does have its roots in religion as well, or at least makes copious references to religious themes.

Still, this goes beyond mere religious-inspired idiocy. And I quote!

The Rotating Earth..

Theory, Fact or Fiction?

Yeah, I kid you not. Read this thing; not for its value as an argument against the Copernican model, but as an example of an extreme, though by no means untypical, case of evidence for the thesis—and, yes, I know I'm pushing my own point here!—that people will believe what they want to believe, and that, as long a reality can be ignored and provides no 'reality-checks' with respect to those things that are being considered, people will always place their beliefs about what 'is' over the weight of the available evidence.

I know I'm playing into the hands of those believing in the power of 'reason', who will instantly jump on this and decry the benighted-ones who are represented by the article cited. They'll roll up their eyes and will say "are you really surprised?" and "some people are just stupid" and "that's what you get from all that Christian influence in America" and so on.

But supporting such claims is not the intention of this blog. Those subscribing to 'reason'—or to the perfectly unjustifiable notion that reason is the only thing that can lead to the determination of truth—ignore a giant body of evidence that points to the inability of reason to do so. And they do this by being just as unreasonable as the people who wrote this article, whose beginning I am quoting below. How often have to read 'rationalist' arguments that, with a little editing, could end up as near-verbatim clones of the thought processes of any ideologue:

Throughout ancient times it was obvious that the moon went around the earth. This is still accepted today. But in the past it was just as obvious that the sun went around the earth as well. This was not because men in those days lacked fantasy and forgot to imagine non-existent movements of themselves and their surroundings. It is because they did their homework and examined all the evidence before them, that they came to the understanding that the earth was a firm, motionless sphere, neither in rotation around itself nor wandering through space around another body.

This geostatic and geocentric nature of the earth was repeatedly tested and verified as being factual for a quite some time (going back thousands of years) by knowledgeable, civilized, free people of all stripes, i.e. those who were supposed to know, like astronomers, natural philosophers (a.k.a. scientists), explorers, teachers, traders, seamen, navigators and various other free and educated men (as opposed to schooled, wage enslaved, homogenized, "experts" of modern times who wouldn't dare bite the hand that feeds them).

Then, all of a sudden, just 400 plus years ago, a band of court astrologers started pushing this idea that the earth was orbiting the sun this time, and that the sun was standing still at the center (hence the claim of the system being a 'solar' system). Nevertheless this new claim was not accompanied by any new proof. It was simply invoked and declarations were made that the fixed nature of earth needed to be disapproved.

And it gets better with every line...


Philip said...

We "wage-enslaved 'scientists'" would argue that the difference between reason and 'fanatics' is the willingness to entertain the other person's ideas. We are all guilty of accepting some beliefs without proof and labeling those with different beliefs as wrong or at least sadly misguided. Inasmuch as scientists try to baffle and obscure with esoteric jargon and complicated equations, the anti-heliocentric article spends a lot of time calling the results of experiments into question merely by the use of adjectives, 'quotes,' and exclamation points!

The heliocentric model is neither right nor wrong. Physics doesn't care whether the sun or earth are at the center of the universe, nor does it claim either. It's just that the maths is easier if, when you're trying to predict where stars and planets will be in the next few thousand years, you assume that the sun doesn't move.

Till said...

Hey, hey! Do I sound like I agreed with these idiots?

As to your own comment, it might be noted that physics does care whether the sun or the Earth are at the center of the universe—insofar at least that it states that the question is essentially meaningless! That is a very, very profound statement of a fundamental and defining difference between the physicist and those on the other side of an unbridgeable chasm.

And, no, it also isn't true that scientists distinguish themselves from fanatics by their willingness to entertain other persons' ideas. That depends entirely on who these 'other persons' actually are. If they're scientists of the 'respectable' kind, i.e. those blessed with 'respectability' by the 'scientific community' in some form, then that will probably be true—though my experience from many years of observation and a fair number of years of participation is that even there it isn't true; but it's a pleasant fiction, I guess.

At heart and in relation to their beliefs, no matter how 'rationally' they might have been claimed to have been arrived at, people simply are not rational. What we all have in common is that we use 'reason', the process of 'reason', to go from 'here' to 'there' and conclude that 'this is so' but that 'that is not so', and so on.

That doesn't mean that the 'scientific method' isn't a superior method, if you want to put it that way, to arrive at conclusions about what is and what isn't and what works and what doesn't and how it does. I think it is. But the character flaw that the writers of the article that I found so sad and hilarious at the same time and the self-proclaimed rationalists share, is that they appear unable to stand back and actually appreciate the full significance of the chasm which lies between them; and what it says about the very basics of our thought and belief making and manipulation.

At heart, science, like any other field of 'ideas', is a battlefield for the supremacy of memes. An though one might like to think that in science the rules of war include their own Geneva Convention, it just ain't so. And the consequences can be dire and deadly.

With regards to my own hobby-horse of human longevity, it will one day in hindsight become clear that in cell biology and genetics for example, certain events in the 1970s—the direct result of irrationality and dick-wagging and turf-wars within the 'scientific' community—resulted in what was an almost 2-decade delay of acceptance of an insight that today cellular biologists take as self-evident truth.

This delayed significant progress in aging research for those two decades, and I'll leave it to you to work out how many people will have died as a direct result of the research having been held up in this way. I know, it can be argued that there probably wasn't 'enough scientific evidence' at the time and so on—and that's the usual apologia canard promulgated in science when it comes to something like this.

But it's bullshit. It was egos and whose tree was being tinkled on by whom, pure and simple. And it killed people; not by action, but by its entirely unintended, consequences. So, no actual guilt attaches to it, but it is but another example of the ludicrousness of the claim by scientists that at heart and even in their daily pursuits they're somehow better than the rest of this terribly irrational world of ours.