The Climate of Science Change
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 23, 2012
“If you thought before science was certain - well, that is just an error on your part”.
-Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law
Bertrand Russell, in his time considered the greatest philosopher, said science is all there is to know. There is nothing beyond science as far as knowledge goes, and only beliefs supported by science are respectable or worth holding.
But if that is so, then the irony is that that belief itself is not supported by science because for that belief there is no empirical evidence, so it is either sophistry or a piece of philosophy. It is not a piece of science.
Philosophy and science were once interchangeable words. Science was called ‘natural philosophy’. In the days since Russell, ‘mission creep’ has given scientists the idea that they can declare what is morally right or wrong, formerly the domain of philosophy.
Yet science was once itself anathema to the status quo. Darwin said you may think your eyes are open, but if they are not really open and are therefore missing something that can take you in a whole new direction, you may have lost the true path of science.
A true scientist was never satisfied with what he had learned and been trained in. A qualification was not used as a blunt instrument to provide credibility, as the worth of knowledge was contribution to society and useful advancement. Science was better than qualification.
Because ideas have a shelf life, what was learned was continually poised for challenge, which was how current ideas arrived, by which otherwise could be no progress. Consensus was the enemy of science.
A true scientist was like an artist living in a garret. Both were prepared to pay dues for their art and to suffer ridicule. But ridicule for science is hardly scientific - just the desperate resort of lesser achievers.
In fact when fellow practitioners disagreed with you, it was confirmation of the road less travelled. You were possibly on some new path of exploration leading to the charting of a new frontier.
The scientist that instigated, joined or took part in this became part of the science of the future. The status quo scientist quickly faded into forgotten history like other dinosaurs.
A new science direction became a stepping stone to other lines of enquiry or led back to an old unfinished idea. The best ideas are life-forms and can stand re-visitation because they evolve.
If science was settled and closed it would no longer remain science. That which is dead and in a shut box has passed its useful life and no longer has value except as a historical stage to reach the present. But it is not part of the present.
For science to be relevant it must be appreciative of its own uncertainty because it is this uncertainty that keeps the receptive lid open.
The science of climate change has really been a climate of science change. Uncertainty is dismissed as irrelevant, evidence is not needed and results are now decided by computer rather than by life and observation. Although the climate is not changing, there is no profit for anyone in saying so.
Ideas were the way science opened locked doors. New cultures are seen in ‘new’ and ‘fresh’ light. The extent of resistance indicated greater exigency that a ‘door’ be opened, because the enemies of science had greater investment in keeping it shut. Deception lasts longer in the dark.
Climate change is science embraced by politics and rubber stamped by consensus, and journey has been replaced by destination. Previously, science never wished to arrive, and process did not change places with product because each gave sustenance to the other. But climate change is apparently “here now”.
Resistance to discovery does not stifle pursuit of it. A society is defined as free and on its way to greatness, or bought and on its way to oblivion. Money is like mercury, it finds and slips through the cracks, and then even rents out the cracks. We end up with everything we want, but nothing is of any value.
Science must decide if it is still empirically-based or theologically aligned; if still open-minded or closed and settled, and if available to all or only through the narrow portal that is monitored, censored and sold by some high church.
It must work out where the new line is regarding access and suppression, remembering that in previous theology alternative pagan information was removed angrily “for the good of the people”.
These are difficult times for science and scientists. The public can go sideways to the internet for information, and quickly become experts themselves for little or no cost or degrees.
Evolution happens by new life rather than adjustment. Like new born babies, new ideas do not exist to be abused. Each baby is a new possibility to find truth. In the natural world the attacker is the one fearing the most that his own weakness will be exposed. The playground bully needs to control because he believes he is out of control.
Science has changed because it has lost control. The null hypothesis is dead, something can be proven if enough funding is offered, and in this new milieu where alternative ideas are attacked just for sounding different, true science that used to be free is now the new enemy.
Computer models say the future extends the past. New and anomalous data that previously fired intuition is bothersome, needing more and bigger computers to unravel it. In the end we are no further ahead.
Excitement for the magician’s audience was the challenge to the senses of what we thought we knew. We need to look back at children’s faces. The suspension of disbelief is what engages the mind. It is the ongoing magic of life. Once upon a time it was called science.
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