You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the “Continents drift”, well maybe we did.

MOLA:42’s Guide to Science In About 17 (Or So) Easy Steps

weird science

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 Wegealfred wegenerner’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 mad scientistthat 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 could recreate the same chart where the increase in reported autism is linked to Global Warming or the rise of the GDP of China.big pharma

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 diffemonsantorent 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.

The counter arguments? Propaganda and Scare Tactics (in that order).franken food

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!”

Ingomar club Examiner addendum  to the Standard Disclaimer:

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

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9 thoughts on “You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the “Continents drift”, well maybe we did.

  1. MOLA asks the *really* important question and give their answer:

    How are we to sift through it all? How are we to determine who to believe?

    I don’t know.

    This is another of the tragedies of our time. Once upon a time, you went to an expert. Lots of the experts lived in universities. They had been trained in critical thinking, prided themselves on objectivity, were far more concerned with the opinion their peers held of them than they were with fame or money or what the unwashed masses like MOLA, me, and you felt.

    Then, big money arrived, and demonstrated that you could always buy an expert. It ought to be enough to say “tobacco” to prove this. Note that saying “you can always buy an expert” is absolutely not the same thing as saying “a specific expert can always be bought.” Most people have more integrity than that.

    Then, critically, the 70s (the phrase is the 60s, but I think it was the 70s) destroyed much of our faith in authorities of any kind, for exceptionally good reasons. The result was liberating at the time. But, when combined with the ability to buy an expert, it was extraordinarily corrosive to the task of, as MOLA says, “determin[ing] who to believe.”

    So it’s a hard problem. Mostly, the attempts seem to be to convince us great unwashed that there is a huge consensus among experts.

    This is failing, with devastating results for the future. Buy enough air time, and your expert, the one you bought, becomes the ultimate authority. Thank heavens for freedom of speech, SCOTUS-style.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Duckies

    Thank you for another interesting article. One thing people can do in response to this issue is to read. Read a lot. I recommend Kenneth Bock’s book Healing the New Childhood Epidemics. It is not about vaccines. It is about various medical interventions that can mitigate or remove “autism” symptoms for some kids. Autism is a spectrum, there are different manifestations of it, it can mimic other things – and sometimes interventions can remove most or all of the symptom burden on a kid to the point where he can learn to talk, interact, and function in a school classroom. There is a lot to be gained from approaching the subject from the “autism” side rather than the “vaccine” side. There is debate about whether classical autism is actually what’s going on for some of these kids. My son’s grandfather was exposed to Agent Orange during the war in Vietnam. I give my son one million times the daily recommended dose of B-12. Without it he is violent and assaultive and runs into traffic. With it he is a happy kid who gets along well at school. Is it the genetic history? Something else? I am lucky to have found a key to helping my kid. But parents who have dealt with it will do everything possible to avoid having those issues affect their kids. As anyone who has ever read the pediatrician’s fact sheet on vaccines knows, there are well established other things that can happen to a kid after a vaccine, many of them rare. But not all. We have had many partially-honest retreads of criticism of that invented study, without much dialogue on autism from a public health perspective. “Wow, you’re still stupid!” Does not help parents make informed choices about how and when and whether to vaccinate. A way in which you can be a public resource is to spend a few extra minutes digging up additional resources like Jenny McCarthy or Bock or more info on particular vaccines, and point to some places readers might increase their knowledge. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the conclusions they might draw.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for a thoughtful article and for the thoughtful comments as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Scientific theory and fact are like a flower unfolding through time, changing as new information is found. So the rose dies and then is reborn again next season, never quite the same as the previous one. That is a hard pill for the current creationists, because there is no truly solid place to hang one’s hat.

    Like

  5. “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.”

    I would argue both science is infallible (given infinite time and assuming theories that have measurable characteristics) and that science is not God. Why? Because that is what science is – it measures what is and tries to explain it. If we observe something that contradicts what we think, we change what we think or don’t say we no longer know. Who argues science is God btw? Other than the right setting up a straw man?

    “The folks who do try to make Science comprehensible to the rest of us are rarely qualified for the job.”

    This was an interesting section of the article. I don’t think this is the problem. And if it is a problem, it’s at least 3rd on the list of problems. Here are the first two. a) The pseudo science on the right (and left) based on advocacy with critical thinking less important than not letting go of your principal (please see Sohum P’s 4/17 600 comment (and still growing) thread on critical thinking. b) I think a push by the right to diminish science, civics, and critical thinking in our schools. I don’t think the latter is a concerted effort by all conservatives, just the result of strands of conservatives – religious conservatives who are threatened by the effects of scientific theory on their, their community’s and their children’s belief, and a push by anti-governmenters to diminish any sort of public participation based on common (ie public) goals as socialistic, and finally the push by issue-advocacy based on free marketeers like the powerful oil companies in Wyoming in this recent nyt article.*

    But there is a problem passing on scientific information to the public – and MOLA 42 I’d enjoy working with you on this on the GMO issue if you are interested. I have a science degree and being a science reporter was one of the things I would have loved to be able to do – but I could never write (apparently unless I’m writing opinions – and many would argue I still can’t write)

    I could probably make it a good way through this or that scientific journal if you need help, but if you’re curious from a more layperson’s point of view (ie not the peer-reviewed technical science papers) there are great resources out there like Science News (UK) or Scientific American. There are also great science blogs – Google “Mike the Mad Biologist” for one I randomly found because it came up on the WordPress scroll back when I was beginning to blog. I just searched that site for “genetically modified” and came up with an article.

    That’s a good way to wrap one’s head around this issue (or any). Step outside advocacy and find trusted sources or sources that care about the same ethics you do. .

    Really, what this boils down to is an extremely complex risk-assessment that we need our representatives – one that consider what their constituents think and take in the real science – to make these sorts of decisions. I’m not a fan of the initiative process in general, and this is a perfect example of why. This is an immensely complicated issue and in the end, we are going to make a decision based less on science and more on advocacy and emotion.

    *http://www.lwv.org/content/history-federal-government-public-education-where-have-we-been-and-how-did-we-get-here

    At the risk of becoming spam – here is a good article on corn found by searching Mike’s site for “Genetically Modified”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/08/can_gmo_corn_cause_allergies_don_t_believe_elle_s_scary_story.single.html

    Like

  6. Pingback: Tuluwat Examiner | This weeks burnt offering! Again

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