MOLA:42’s Guide to Science In About 17 (Or So) Easy Steps
Once upon a time there was a fellow named Alfred Wegener. He was a weather man before there was TV; therefore he was a scientist, a meteorologist.
It was just before, during and after World War One that he made a pest of himself.
While Wegener was an academically trained meteorologist and a polar explorer, he also had an interest in geology. Wegener noticed (as no doubt others had before him) that the continents on a world map fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Unlike others before him he actually researched the question, examining rocks and fossils and finding they tended to match on either side where the continents would join up.
So he did what a meteorologist is not supposed to do; he published a paper for Geologists to review.
Geologists of the time didn’t take to the notion that the continents floated about like rubber ducky’s in a bathtub. Nor were they too keen on being showed-up by a weather man. Despite Wegener’s evidence and his arguments, the Geologist’s told Wegener to return to foretelling the weather and hooted him back to Greenland (where he did a good bit of his meteorological research).
Let us fast forward to the 1950’s: The Geological Community began to look over Wegener’s data again. And surprise surprise… it made sense.
Wegener is now credited with the discovery of Continental Drift and is one of the giants of the Science of Geology.
This didn’t do Wegener much good since he died in 1930 during one of his expeditions to Greenland; arguing to the end that he was right.
I’ve noticed my stories pretty much have unhappy endings. I think I might need to work on that.
So, Lesson #1: No matter what, always remember that Science is NOT infallible (which is true of any human institution). Science, as some would have it, is not God.
But also remember that Science tends to correct its mistakes (usually a generation later when all the old fogies are retired or dead).
Am I saying distrust all Science and rely on reading pigeon entrails? No of course not.
It’s just that Science is not as clean, neat and immaculate as the labs at the Center for Disease Control: Science is more like… a Mad Scientist’s laboratory. Science is messy, complex, chaotic and very, very dynamic.
This is a major reason why scientists have a very difficult time making sense to the rest of us. Scientists are in the business of finding things out; not making information comprehensible for the rest of us. The folks who do try to make Science comprehensible to the rest of us are rarely qualified for the job.
This gets me finally to the real subject of my little dissertation.
Recently in the LoCO two subjects came up to hurl the local amateur science community into an uproar: Articles on vaccinating kids and an article or two on GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) issues (due to be the subject of an upcoming referendum in November).
The vaccination issue was chock full of bad science from quoting a discredited study that claimed vaccinations caused autism (the person who authored the study has admitted he made up his data from thin air) to a strange chart someone provided showing the trend of the increase of reported cases of autism matching the increase in vaccination.
I’m not saying let Big Pharma off the hot seat; far from it. But folks, you have to choose your battles carefully and Big Pharma just loves to see their opponents say silly things; then they get to roll their collective eyeballs and say, “See what we have to put up with from all those cranks.”
If I have trod on a cherished anti-vaccination belief then I am sorry; but the science is not with you.
GMO’s are a different matter because the science is definitely not in. What little scientific data there is to look at is mostly supplied by the Happy Gene Splicers themselves, which means the evidence is rather iffy.
Neither side has the Scientific High Ground here. Monsanto (and friends) claim they’ve created better food for us with no down side (other than you can dump more herbicide on it; not a good thing to drench your food with).
The opponents claim we don’t know enough about the long term effects of genetic manipulation; that some form of Frankencorn or a mutant germ can get loose in an environment unable to cope.
Not being scientists ourselves and probably not being able to get through the literature they put out (I admit I can’t) it becomes difficult for the public to ask and answer such questions in an informed manner.
Trust me on this one folks; come the November county-wide referendum on GMO’s we shall be drowned in Scientific Minutia until it oozes out of our ears.
How do we, the unwashed masses, determine which study is bogus and which is legit? How do we know when we are being lied to and when we are getting the truth?
After all, the stakes are quite high. Do the wrong thing and whooping cough (and worse) makes its deathly return to our children. Do the wrong thing and forever modify important food crops that feed us all in one way or another… possibly with disastrous results.
How are we to sift through it all? How are we to determine who to believe?
I don’t know.
Standard Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Tuluwat Examiner. I am not on the staff of the Tuluwat Examiner. I don’t even know who these people are. But I have learned the Staff of the Tuluwat Examiner have put together and distributed a Slate Mailer encouraging the public to vote for the most conservative and regressive candidate in every race; state-wide and local. At the bottom of the Slate Mailer, written in big cheery reassuring letters:
“Every Vote Counts! Be Sure to Cast Your Ballot on Wednesday, June 4th!”
That’s a special day paid for by Rob Mcbeth and the Ingomar Boyz;
for Virginia Bass voters only!
Sorry Kerrigan voters you’re not so special! You have to vote before Tuesday June 3 at 8pm