Creationism and other doctrines. Was Mindforth

John Doty jpd at w-d.org
Thu Jan 2 08:27:53 EST 2003


In article <3e1127ba$0$79559$8eec23a at newsreader.tycho.net>,
rstevew at deeptht.armory.com  wrote:

> People who even USE the word "scientism" are selling shit for tootsie
> rolls. It's a weasel-word, the jargon of cranks. People believing in
> Science are far better off than the morons who believe that "Science 
> could be wrong" and haven't the brains to grasp that their whole notion
> of Science is fucked and that they are believing cretins like you who
> feed them crap.

So polite :-)

Steve, I'm a professional scientist. Out at the cutting edge, when you're
really using the scientific method, science doesn't look infallible at
all. The practice of science is largely confusion and error. The
difference between a crank and a scientist is just this: a good scientist,
when presented with strong evidence against one of his hypotheses, will
modify or abandon it. The crank clings to error.

We don't teach this process to our young students: instead "Science" is
presented as a body of settled, proven fact. Teaching materials are, in
fact, filled with errors and misrepresentations. For example, a few years
ago I bought a spectroscopy chart from an educational supply house,
showing the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to cosmic rays.
Cosmic rays are not electromagnetic radiation: they were shown to be
charged particles back in the 1930's. I have read that this error
persisted in American textbooks because Millikan was a proponent of the
hypothesis that cosmic rays were electromagnetic radiation, and his
prestige in American physics gave him an undue influence. Millikan himself
modified, and later quietly abandoned the hypothesis, but it remained as
"truth" in "science" teaching materials.

The science in engineering texts isn't quite so bad, since damaging
misconceptions tend to get weeded out. I could, however, wish that more
EE's understood that Ohm's law is just a fairly common material property,
not a basic law of physics, while Kirchoff's laws are largely a pledge by
their user to carefully account for all displacement current and
induction.

By presenting "Science" as a body of "Truth" to be accepted on the
authority of the educator, we fail to equip students with the tools to
distinguish reality from fiction. Indeed we give the enemies of real
science a free ride: if science is based on authority, to get different
science ("Creation Science" etc.) all you need is different authority.

-- 
| John Doty		"You can't confuse me, that's my job."
| Home: jpd at w-d.org
| Work: jpd at space.mit.edu



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