Freedom of the press can try your patience

I just learned of a book and have read a few quotes and sections from it and I am already angry.
It's called "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science". I have to read thru it completely to fully make sure I'm not misreading it but I'm already mad.


I do hope it's a tongue in cheek piece or else, whew. Where do I begin? If you are going to attack science it is helpful to actually know something about it. I mean if, for any religious or faith reason you are opposed to parts of scientific theory then by all means, state so and try and refute it. That's what science is all about - challenging and learning. I read a brilliant book a while back that summarized the history of science up to the 1900's in all areas - unbiased history. It's fascinating to see how science developed and has changed, contradicted itself and ultimately advanced over time. Who is to say our theories now won't be refuted in the future? It is constantly repeated to me and others in our lab that we can't bias or place our hopes of results ahead of our actual true results. Results are what they are and theories have been "proven" by "tweaking" data and others that have been thought to be canon law have been proven true or false accurately. Many have been and many will be. That's what we're here in the lab for - to learn with an unbiased and interested mind. Part of learning what is true is finding out what is false. Refuting what is your theory of what science is is not helpful. Taking the crap associated with science and exposing it is fine - a lot of what is called "science" today should be closer examined. But jeez...

This books appears to just spout reactionist theory. If it was written as a opinion piece or even humor I could stand it, but it's nothing more than crackpot who hasn't made the effort to study the many things he opposes or more accurately the legitimacy of what he opposes in the scientific community, with responses that quite honestly make me angry and ashamed to have a belief and religion. Why oh why are we so frightened to honestly examine something analytically? Is our belief not strong enough? And if it isn't - why do we keep it around? We have minds - what we can accomplish with them for the betterment of all is staggering when it is focused on doing good. Science, like religion can be used to do bad things. People are bad...theories are not. They can be wrong, but I don't really think that makes them bad.
Burying your head in the sand will not make society better. Science is itself in many ways a religion of sorts. There are theories and beliefs, many things based on unproven (and often later disproven) concepts, but we work with what we have and try to learn. I mean Evolution is just a theory. Creationism if you break it down is just a theory (from a literal pont of view). Faith does not mean turning off your brain. Literal mindedness is not scientific. There are not enough scientifically minded people out there to read this book and go "Whah?". The more I learn as a scientist I worry when books are aimed at the non-scientific trained person and sell them the "many evil holes" of scientific theory. I am not a bad person. I am not a stupid person. In fact the more I learn about the intricacies of life and the way we work, I am more and more convinced things couldn't have "just happened". The fact that science and scientific method have nothing to do with that seems to fade ito argument for argument's sake.

I have seen both sides of this argument. I mean, I like to hope for interesting and unexplainable things (so I can try and explain them..!). There was a time after seeing "What the *&$@*! Do We Know?" that I got excited about the water scientist who calaimed to observe physical changes in the property of water when exposed to anger and joy and other thoughts and words and music styles and that he'd "published" his results. Turns out he was a quack as his work was not consistent and it is not reproducable - although I still like the idea behind it. I just can't accept it as a fact. Pretty pictures tho and I like to think that there are still people out there who believe in the impact of emotion and surroundings on nature and science. I've seen things I can't explain and I like it that way. I like to think that there are some mystical creatures still hidden away and that there is still magic in the world.
But apparently magic is bad too...
What's a scientist to do?
Put her soapbox away and get back to the lab I guess...


Trent said…
And my advice to you is, Get over it. Science will survive. If it doesn't well, then, as you've pointed out, it has been tested and found wanting, and in that, the scientific method has been proven.

It does seem a bit ... reactionary and inflammatory, like a kid at school that's being picked on lashing out. But whatever. There's been so many of these type of attacks leveled at the Church that I've become inured to the whole thing. I mean, seriously. Some right-wing reactionary spouting off? Yawn. Some left wing cynic taking another run at the church? Been there, done that. Got the tee-shirt.

This book is just preaching to the converted (and there are a lot of people out there who have this point of view). Anybody else will ignore it, or more likely, get involved in a flame war for a few days, and then move on, neither side changing their point of view.

It seems like what he's doing is attacking science's past errors/misguides and current points of contention and using that as basis for the book. The trouble is, the people who have gone through and proven this science wrong? Scientists.

You have to admit, though, that there's a lot of people out there who hold to some of these theories as gospel truth. Not just E vs. C . Einstein doggedly attacked scientific studies that called into question any of his theories. And so it goes. Science becomes religion and scientific methodology dies. Not, perhaps, in a larger context, but on a personal level. For this person, science has become SCIENCE.
Geosomin said…
So true. A larger number of schools are starting to include ethics as part of their science degrees to adress that very issue. Not only to debunk the myths of almighty science but t o instill a sense of ethics into people as they plan their scientific careers. SO much of surrent science is largely partly proven theory and it's funny how science can be as almighty to some people as religion (I work with a few people who fall into both extremes. Makes for interesting discussions). Often I'm worried to say "I'm a biochemist" when people ask me what I do as often the reastion is not an "oh" and they change the subject (which is fine...not everyone likes science) but an "how can you do that...mess with creation and..." it generally causes me to have to run home and get my +5 Leather Labcoat on to continue the conversation, proving my goodness s a general person. Maybe I've just tun into a few too many negative people the past while.
I wish people could look at inconsistancies proved wrong in the past as GOOD things. I mean, look at so many religions and sciences. I'd like to hope that people question the truth. I like to try to, so that I know my faith and what I believe to be true on all levels is *real* to me and not just something I haven't considered and accept. Belief does not require proof, persay, but when I can prove something wrong that is another matter...
I don't know why the book bugged me as much as it did...I should be used to that stuff by now. I just am still amazed that people think that way and are willing to get it published, *and* that there are people who agree with them.
Wierd. Oh well...I suppose it takes all kinds to make the world go around.
Magnus said…
Pardon the pun, but all the Right people seem to like him. When a book starts receiving rave accolades from the Heritage Foundation and the National Review that says a lot. So tired of the conservtive vs. liberal debate.

"Science has been politicized – not by the Right, but by the Left, which sees global warming, Darwinism, stem cell research, and innumerable other issues as tools to advance its agenda (and in many cases expand the reach of government)."

Classic stuff, there. "...expanding the rach of the government" is such a big threat to Conservatives, yet somehow when some of their own do it through things like... the Patriot Act, for example, it suddenly becomes something good and necessary. Trent's correct in his assesment that Bethell's book is just preaching to the choir. Insecure peoaple who need to reaffirm their bias will read this and cling to it the same way anti-Christian types cling to Holy Blood, Holy Grail. (and The Di Vinci Code for the morons) Look at the "ostrich head in the sand" type policies of the current US Admin and the book makes perfect sense.
I'd like to see what the writers at New Scientist have to say about this book.
Geosomin said…
Yeah but Einstein was known to be more than a bit of a jerk...!
Looks like I beat your post by mere seconds...!
BTW - Are you both getting my e-mail replies? I have no idea why my mail was going back to you...hope it's working now.

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