Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Scientific Method Versus the Religion of Science

Knowledge is power. That is something that men have known for a long time. If I know something you don't know, there's a chance I'll be able to take advantage of that fact. I can do so honestly by providing a service, for instance if I know something about electronics and you need something fixed, or I can do so dishonestly, for instance by engaging in some questionable activity like a shell game. I can chose to impart my knowledge upon others and help benefit mankind, or I can keep my knowledge secret and try to use it to my advantage, or I can deliberately misinform, obfuscate and lie in an effort to try to control the behavior of others and elevate myself in their eyes. It is this third option that is the most insidious when exercised.

People should not take anyone at their word, especially not opinionated bloggers like myself. You should always do your due diligence and check out any claims you may read for yourself before forming your own opinion. Seek out facts and figures, use your own feelings and observations, and even check out opposing viewpoints. Always question. This is the very essence of the scientific method, to never take anything for granted and to always seek out ways to prove or disprove established tenets. This is something that can be done by everyone, not just scientists.

The scientific method is one of testing and observation. The tests verify or disprove theories which are formed by observation. But tests aren't always conclusive. Things don't always happen the same way or follow the same rules. This is especially true with large, complex systems. In many cases, there are simply too many variables to draw definitive conclusions 100% of the time. Even gravity, something we all know exists and we're very aware of, is something that scientists constantly test, looking for tiny variations and a better understanding of its nature. True scientists are always open minded and though they may reach conclusions from their research, they should always remain open to changing those opinions when new research becomes available.

The religion of science, however, is quite a bit different. It works like any other religion would. It is based on beliefs that usually can't be proved or disproved. It is preached by the clerics of the scientific communities and remains unquestioned by the general populace. Most of all, the members of its church are often evangelized and radicalized to forward political agendas that have nothing to do with solving the problems these peddlers of scientific propaganda claim afflict the human race. They claim consensus and seek to force their worldview upon all, increasing their personal stature and power in the process, and they seem to have no conscience as they tend to stop at nothing to achieve their agenda.

The religion of science works because of trust. An individual or a group of individuals will somehow become pre-eminent in their field and suddenly anything they say must be true. They become trusted by the general public. Anyone who disagrees with them will be discredited and shunned. Their data will be supreme and contradicting data and studies will be ignored, even to the point where legitimate and valid research is denied the exposure needed for the scientific community to suggest and test informed hypotheses. This can quickly degenerate to the point where other scientists see the trend and start tailoring their research to meet the needs of those dominating the field so that they can reap the benefits.

When the religion gains too much power, resources tend to be used in efforts to further an agenda or to solidify the base of the power rather than being allocated to those who wish to conduct research that may actually help mankind's understanding of a problem or natural phenomenon that needs to be explained. After all, the claim will be that there is a consensus, so why should additional resources be used up in an effort to discover something that's already been explained? Instead, resources will likely be used to create propaganda for public consumption in an effort to garner public support and increase public demand for the solutions to the perceived causes of the problems offered by those with the agenda.

We are all scientists. We can all make observations. We can all form hypotheses and test them. We can all formulate theories about why things are the way they are and use these observations and tests to judge for ourselves how accurate or inaccurate our theories likely are. The trick is to not close your mind. The trick is to not fall so in love with a theory that you become emotionally attached to it. Yes, you can feel strongly about a given theory and defend it vehemently, but be ready to admit when someone else makes a good point or offers contradicting evidence and be willing and prepared to explore that avenue of possibility a little more if you are so inclined. Remember, just because something occurs that is inexplicable within your theory, doesn't make your theory wrong, it just makes it less likely that your theory is correct, or more likely it isn't the only correct one.

It is helpful when evaluating the worth of science to look at a few things outside the realm of that science. It is not just data and a desire to understand the nature of things that drives science. Human nature is also involved. Look at the things that motivate people's behaviors. Ask a few questions. Does someone benefit from presenting the theory and the data in a certain way? If so, who? In what way do they benefit? Money? Power? Control? How much do they benefit? Greatly? Only a little? Will morality be a issue? How big of an issue is morality? What evidence is there that the benefits outweigh the morality issue? These are questions that can help an individual decide what to believe when science is muddled and data conflicting.

There are many issues in the modern world where science, government and industry are entwined. Energy. Overpopulation. Food. The impact of modern society on the natural environment. These are important and complex issues that have many variables. Any one size fits all solution to these huge issues is going to be flawed. There are likely as many solutions to these problems as there are questions about them. Who should we leave the answers up to? Well, one thing is certain, with government's record of failure, it certainly shouldn't be up to them. They should not be allowed to monopolize science, especially not a bureaucratic centralized world governmental organization. Carbon taxes, for instance, are not a solution, they are a way to empower governmental and corporate bodies and stifle competition.

We all have a stake in our future. The market should be open for all who wish to try to solve these problems to compete and the consumer should be able to chose which solutions he feels would work best for his personal needs and spend his money where he believes it is best spent. In this way, we as individuals are maximizing the possibilities. We are maximizing our power. We are maximizing our independence. We are maximizing the efforts to find solutions and we are producing many different answers to the problems we face. Our wealth will expand, both our economic wealth and our wealth of knowledge. Governments, despite all their power, will limit and restrict the possibilities. They will monopolize the answers. They will produce only the solutions which will help those in power or their friends. That is the nature of government, for it is the nature of power to corrupt.

It is worth repeating, we are all scientists. Let us not forget that. Let us not fall prey to those in power who would try to pervert science for their own gain and keep true information from being disseminated. Don't simply believe the religion of science or the word of the scientist preacher, but try to look at a bigger picture and engage in the scientific method on your own. Let us try to remain informed by our own tests and observations. Remember, education doesn't stop just because you're no longer in school. Become involved in your own education and remain open minded when it comes to alternative explanations. Weigh evidence from all sides and maybe even try to come up with an alternative explanation of your own. After all, we all have brains and the more they're used, the smarter they become.

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