Beware of Science Man

Science is the eternal pursuit of truth

The “art” of science, despite common perception, is not the act of discovering truths, but walking the constant path towards it. Considering that, this text is a short recommendation on how to interpret modern scientific discoveries, also serving as a reference for future articles.

Before we proceed, it is good that we define science for the purposes of this article. In very simple terms, science is the result that stems from applying the scientific method to a specific issue. This is certainly not the only interpretation of such widely discussed topic, but it should be enough to carry on with the discussion.

Naturally, a comprehension of the scientific method becomes a necessity. Oxford dictionary provides a good definition:

"a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses [1]".

We will not devote more time to definitions hereafter, as there is plenty of material about this topic on the internet and one should not refrain from using that resource. What is most important to pick from the quote is the last part, “modification of hypotheses”. This highlights that science is in a constant cycle, where what was correct before becomes obsolete afterwards, ad infinitum

The mind that creates is the same that destroys (and renews).

OUROBOROS

It is fair to say that our ancestors (or anyone else’s for that matter) before the 17th century period did not know science in its modern meaning. That certainly does not imply they did not use reason and logic to investigate, but only that the “sterilized” environment of scientific procedure, in regards to external (non-scientific) influence, was not something seen during antiquity.

The good and bad of scientific discovery
Deriving from the fact that the truth is always pursued by science, comes that ultimate truth is unachievable, or that it ceases to be scientific if ever achieved. Thus, the real aim of scientists is to discover conditional truths, in the pursuit of ever more precise and general ones.

An example of good science can be illustrated with the three Newton laws of physic. These laws worked before and still work just as well today. We know that because, from simple to complex devices, the majority of products we see around us are based on Newtonian physics. Hoverer, in the microscopic world, or for super fast-moving objects, Newton laws do not apply.

How can we say then that Newton was right, if his “laws of nature” cannot be applied to all of it?

The reason has to do with scope. The behaviour of regular objects from the 17th century complied with his theory of mechanics, and thus it was deemed correct. His ideas passed the scientific method, and the time came for it to be renewed with modern physics, something to be expected as normal. Examples like that extend not only to physics, but to all sciences as well.

It then becomes evident that there is a difference from an outdated and a false discovery. The false discovery never passed the scientific method in the first place, be it for incompetence or outright scientific falsification.

Establishment science
One of the characteristics of modern science is the regurgitation of discoveries.

This is the process of repeating results from previous researches, most often coming from well reputed authors, without performing a thorough investigation of the discoveries in the first place. This leads to scientific false discoveries being textually reproduced over and over again, all over the world, to the point where the academic literature around the issue is so big that it is considered “scientifically proven”.

It happens in all fields of research, from history and biology to the so called “hard sciences”. It is done this way because scientists, like any other regular human beings, want to have decent careers, and one of the best ways of achieving that is by publishing the most amount of papers one is able to.

This leads to mountains of useless research (and researchers), where agreement with the big authors is all that matters. To be the dissonant voice in any scientific circle is enough reason to be frowned upon by peers.

A very easy way to spot it is by looking at any reference section of a peer reviewed article. The number of references quite often gets to double digits, but the whole research actually only used half a dozen of those, with the others hanging there to give peer credibility.

The results
The most important thing to know is what to expect from this current mindset.
A rather harmless embodiment is seen in those diet books where the “latest scientific research” is used. It means that the book is pure malarkey, because a few years later many of these discoveries will have been invalidated, sometimes with a U-turn of scientific consensus. The scientists that published such discoveries (now outdated) and the book author (who got rich) are all doing very well, but the gullible person who religiously followed the flawed dietary advice is now paying alone for the consequences.

This also extends to the more serious questions, and it is there that this practice can have dangerous consequences. When famous media scientists laugh on the face of skeptics or “deniers”, they are doing a disservice to everyone, including their own profession. It turns science into a gospel, with the experts being its preachers. Wherever there is scientific consensus, to doubt becomes a sign of lunacy.

But, the true scientists should welcome doubt wherever it is coming from and should always be open for discussion. The pity is that such mindset is not welcomed in the academic environment and is thus selectively excluded from the higher echelons of science.

Conclusion: Be wary
While it was deemed important by me to make a text about the current mindset of science, and the partial betrayal of its roots, this subject would be mostly harmless and not worth discussing in this platform if regular people had the wits to deal with the situation. However, with the key participation of mass media, the “experts” have become the truth tellers, the only ones capable of having honest and unbiased opinions.

This has hit the hardest on younger generations, being already dragged into this mindset. Universities sometimes only worsen the situation, teaching students to listen and repeat, but not to question or think for themselves. Science has become a cool father figure to those teenagers and young adults.

This social attitude places everybody in a difficult position. Electronics, buildings, medicine, drugs (good or bad) all come from scientific knowledge and people should take it very seriously. But those without the wits to intuitively distinguish significant discoveries from academic regurgitation are doomed into ignorance.

Thus, beware of science man. Always remember that behind every “expert” there is a regular person, with ambitions, fears, doubts and secret desires. Also, remember that even if he and all his colleagues are in the right today, this might not be true tomorrow.

Be it good science or bad science, no one owns the truth.

[1] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/scientific_method

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