Unification News For February 1996


Real Science

Our world has been transformed by Science. Almost every good thing western society has come up with in the past several decades was done by scientists. We hold these people in awe; theoretical geniuses like Einstein and Hawking who make the exotic breakthroughs, and savvy techies like Bill Gates who parlay them into vast fortunes.

While today's science is highly compartmentalized, and each field has its own special jargon, all of it rests upon the same clear principles and methods. Today, few nonscientists understand these. Worse, many who say they understand are really spouting gibberish-especially when they're trying to sell you something.

Let's take a brief look at real science. It would require whole volumes to do this right, but let's do what we can here.

Science is based in logic, conducted through strict observation, and verified through rigorous experiment. `Logic' means that there must be a rational, coherent theory, which must be mathematically correct. (That is, you have to explain it clearly.) `Strict observation' means that the phenomenon must be observable by anyone who checks it, and measurable by instruments. ("It did it before-honest," won't cut it.) `Experimental verification' means that the same result must be obtainable by scientists everywhere, using the same setup and methods, at any time. They'll do hundreds of carefully charted experiments, under precisely measured conditions. ("It works for me, so trust me," isn't science.)

Observations and results must be consistent with known scientific laws. If they appear to contradict them, a clear and public case must be made, with scientists worldwide being given the opportunity to study the alleged new phenomenon.

In the past, and among the uneducated today, `scientific' claims are offered quite differently. Logic and math play little or no role. Impressive words and titles are offered instead. Personal suppositions and anecdotes are referenced, and any experimental `results' are remarkably vague. Sometimes they're clouded in obfuscation, or worse, in alleged hostile conspiracies.

The Wright brothers exploited well-known scientific principles. Einstein offered his world-shattering Relativity Theory to account for known flaws in existing theories. Scientists devised numerous ways to test -and so to prove- those new theories and methods. Disbelievers either changed their minds-or died of old age.

Today there are many new Wright brothers and Einsteins. Some prove out, while others fall by the wayside. Claims about "cold fusion" caused an uproar, but hundreds of scientists tried -and failed- to duplicate the results. No proper theory was ever offered for it. Still, it may yet be discovered!

Shysters and crackpots take advantage of the real scientist's dense jargon, and (thanks to our dismal public schools) the public's lack of scientific knowledge. Public mistrust of science, and the appalling ignorance of the news media, often provide these crooks with a `free ride.' (Though any smart grade school kid could prove them false.)

A listing of these false claimants would fill this publication. Watch for advertising `keywords' like: magnetic, vibration, melts-fat, tachyon, aura, and miracle. If you see them-keep a tight grip on your wallet.

Real science is progressing rapidly, but (usually) by slow, steady advances, building upon past knowledge and techniques. Scientists normally communicate this progress by means of `papers'; articles published in their specialized Journals.

The mass media struggles to understand these, and to make sensational news of them. When a headline says: "A study released today reveals that-" beware! These papers are usually tentative `working papers.' Other scientists will question, and often disprove, a study's original conclusions. The media will then trumpet the contradiction, its refutation, and so on, ad nauseam.

Fortunately, some media outlets do consult legitimate, well-spoken doctors and scientists. (Dr. Dean Edell, astronomers Carl Sagan and Andrew Fraknoi, and engineer Bill Wattenberg, to name four.) Politics aside, they strike daily blows for logic and common sense.

The media has lately enshrined the practice of "public surveys as news." As in: "A majority of Americans prefer purple beebots, and seventy-five percent approve of their grumfludge policies. Margin of error four percent." Surveys on issues like "our Bosnia policy" are solemnly presented-even though three-quarters of the people polled couldn't find Bosnia on a map, much less describe the warring parties.

While objective polls are useful, many are deliberately (and easily) manipulated. For example, if a pollster asks people: "Do you prefer red or blue?" most will answer, "blue." But if asked: "-blue or red?" most will respond, "red." And so on. Even accurate polls are like "taking the public's temperature"-it varies by the day. Many foolish politicians now rule according to such polls!

Real science is a `progress report' on what we currently know about the universe. Our Earth went from "known to be" flat and roofed over, to being the center of a spherical universe, to being a small part of one solar system, within a galaxy of hundred billion stars.

In January 1996, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, the number of known galaxies rose fivefold, to at least fifty billion, each composed of (up to) hundreds of billions of stars. God and humanity have plenty of room out there!

Real science is done carefully, honestly, and rationally. There are scientists who do "pure research," and hope to uncover unexpected, even startling results. Ignorant politicians will mock expensive atom- smashers; until the day cheap, clean fusion power is running their cities. They'll laugh at scholars who spend tax money studying tiny mud-dwelling slime molds-until deadly human diseases are cured by substances found in such creature's odd little bodies.

Cutting-edge scientists reveal their results, and others then attempt to duplicate them. (Even patented processes allow `reverse engineering' to be tried.) If they cannot, that's okay too, for in real science, even negative results are quite useful.

Your author hereby offers for sale: `Genuine,' hatchable, pet Dinosaur Eggs, only $100 apiece. (Please read the fine print.) They only resemble plain rocks to the uninitiated. Any takers? A good knowledge of science will reveal hundreds of these `amazing offers' to your wondering eyes.

While the public will not -usually- blow their hard-earned cash on ridiculous `real Dino Egg' offers, they will blow their lives and fortunes on dubious `miracle health claim' offers. The terrible illnesses common in our physical/fallen world drive these ongoing scams. Media sensationalism, and the perceived arrogance of regular doctors, only add fuel to the fire.

Please rest assured that doctors do have plenty of business, and that neither they nor the scientists are hiding any miraculous cures.

Medical quacks rely on `testimonials.' As in: "Mrs. Jones from a trailer park in Hoboken is feeling much better!" Swallow an exotic powder, and your nasty cold goes away. A miracle? No. Viral colds always go away. A `natural healer' rubs on a special herbal oil, and your arthritis feels better. Never mind that he'd run out, and was secretly using Crisco; you do feel better. This is called the `placebo effect.'

Real doctors do `controlled, double-blind studies.' They'll work with 100 healthy people (the `control group'), and 100 similar people with a certain illness (the `test group.') They'll give 50 of the ill people the `real' test medicine, and 50 a similar but false one. Even the nurses won't know which is which, to avoid dropping hints.

The doctors check on how all 200 people are doing; during and after the study, and sometimes for years afterwards. Such studies, with variations, are the ONLY way to discover whether any medicine or treatment really works. Few quacks submit to such studies-but they will continue to peddle a disproven treatment.

Some `activists' misuse science for their own ends. Issues such as `enlarging ozone holes' and `discovering gay genes' are highly charged, and sometimes the scientists themselves have not-so-hidden agendas. Millions of research dollars may be at stake-and these are often granted by gullible politicians. Scientists must police themselves in such matters, and they usually do this well.

In the past, our pagan ancestors cowered before the thunderstorm. Science has changed our attitude as well as our level of knowledge. Tales like Robinson Crusoe (and his science fiction counterparts) display a confidence and cleverness that adversity could not quell.

In history, the Classical Greeks sought understanding; the Romans and ancient Chinese, technology. The monotheistic faiths know of the One God. An omnipresent, eternal and rational God, who therefore created a cosmos with universal, unchanging and quantifiable laws. The early Moslems and Europe's Christians sought -and found- those laws. Science hasn't looked back since.

Now would be a great time for scientists to acknowledge their debt to Christianity. New theories abound, looking at the very instant of Creation, and the basic forces of which it is composed. The Hubble Space Telescope is busy photographing distant, awe-inspiring scenes.

Science has barely scratched the realm of the spiritual. By their very definition, miracles are outside the realm of science. Later, when the laws and energies of the spiritual world are better understood, such spiritual phenomena will likely be regarded as `ordinary.' God will be undeniable, and will be known through everyone's Reason, as well as to their Hearts.

Copyright 1996 by Paul Carlson

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