Blinded by Science

 

I have something of a love/hate relationship with “Science.” My father would be considered a scientist today, he has a degree in chemistry, and actually worked as a chemist for a few years before applying his degree towards the sale of devices to measure chemical processes. This is the “Science” I grew to love, every evening there was likely to be at least one discussion about science and its applications, they might relate to the preparation of dinner, the PH balance of the pool, the earthquake we experienced the night before, the latest gas chromatograph or liquid scintillation counter his company had produced or the most recent space launch. I remember being yelled at about a few projects I had devised with my chemistry set, a part of me chuckled when he would say “Don’t you realize what could happen” because I did, that was the purpose of the project. Back then, a scientist performed research.

Science made sense. It was rational. It didn’t care how you felt about it.

As an adolescent, “Science” became popular with society. Quotation marks science, just the word, not the method. With total disregard for the scientific method, the word “science” was bandied about as if it were some deity. In many cases, it was, as people made thoroughly misinformed statements about a conflict between God and Science. This is where my hatred was formed. An individual who understands neither God nor Science claims they are in conflict. Were it one person the data would be anecdotal, but it was common. This is the beauty of science, you can reproduce the experiment yourself. Ask a dozen atheists about a conflict between science and God, they will demonstrate an ignorance of both, regardless of the God in question. Well, perhaps not in the case of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but any religion based on historical texts. The most frequent error is assuming a religious text is a science book, then pointing out differences in language. Assuming every follower of a religion interprets the texts precisely in the way the atheist interprets what he’s heard about it is also quite common.

As common meanings continued to be discarded, everyone became a scientist. Typically the credentials these scientists hold is having read an article about an interpretation of an abstract. In an impending “Scientists March on Washington” everyone is included in the name of diversity, it’s not even being called a “Scientists March” anymore, within days it became “The March for Science.” It was no longer about science, it was about “Science” advocacy, which means whatever you want it to mean. I received this message before dropping out:

“We are taking seriously the many important criticisms regarding (lack of) diversity on social media stating that for this march to be meaningful, we must centralize diversity of the march’s organizers (both in leadership positions and at all levels of planning), speakers, and issues addressed as a principal objective for the march. We hear you, we thank you for your criticism. In the March for Science, we are committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with African American, Latinx, API, indigenous, Muslim, Jewish, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates.

-March for Science Diversity Team”

I’m not quite sure what “Centralized Diversity” is, I had heard enough doublespeak to know better than to pose a question. Which is, of course, the reason for throwing around the word “science.” To silence opposing viewpoints. To enhance the self described “intelligence” of the speaker. No doubt it works with large groups of people. You have heard someone say about anthropogenic global warming “The science is settled.” Science is never settled. Anyone who tells you it is does not understand the scientific method. Science is about excellence, not diversity. You do not know who George Washington Carver was because of the color of his skin, or Marie Curie because of her gender.You know them because they performed revolutionary experiments, verified their results, and then communicated the reproducible results.

So it is a Brave New World. I’m thinking it’s more of an Animal Farm, the porcine population seems unusually prominent. I am fortunate in that part of my therapy is recognizing things won’t be like they used to be,  but it is supposed to be me that is different.

We made such complicated things look so simple, we forgot how hard it was to get here. Everyone was not just equally important, they were special. Everyone might be unique, but they cannot be special, superior to each other, and still equal. The next step is even more bizarre, everyone else is stupid. I’m not sure how these folks celebrate diversity when they truly believe people who do not share their views are not just misinformed, they are mentally deficient. This would give me a headache even if I didn’t already have a brain injury. The generalities and exclusive inclusion suggests a logic most often found in asylums.

You will see a March for Science, they’ve already ordered merchandise for the selfie crowd. Suggested speakers include Alan Alda, whose television commercial mocking actors as doctors should be force fed to the organizers of the march a la “A Clockwork Orange.” Other pop-science advocates have been suggested, Bill Nye and Richard Dawkins among them, and Neil deGrasse Tyson surely won’t miss an opportunity to be on camera. Sir Magnus Pyke would have been excellent, but as an actual scientist I suspect he would have declined. What you will not see is a march of people who are scientists, or have any idea of the components of the scientific method. It will be a March for Obfuscation, quite the opposite of the original intent.

I had hoped, out of naivete, to actually advocate for Science, perhaps help lead people to an understanding of why the method has been revered since the seventeenth century. Perhaps the realization that we have arrived at the tower of Babel is the most depressing thing I have learned in all of this.

 

 

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Here’s the right way to do it partners!

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Poseurs

My first exposure to the word “Poseur” was from a friend (the Suicide Bomber) when he explained why he no longer wore earrings. “They used to mean you were a bit radical, now they mean you’re a poseur.” Other than my tragus piercing, I don’t wear earrings myself anymore, and poseurs have created an entire movement, going beyond trying to be “cool” by dressing like those of us who are, they tried to simply redefine “cool” by creating the ultimate poseur lifestyle, the “hipster.”

The scope has widened, and now poseurs infiltrate all walks of life. I’m sure this has always been true to some extent, but the definition “Poseur is a pejorative term, often used in the punk, heavy metal, hip hop, and goth subcultures, or the skateboarding, surfing and jazz communities, to refer to a person who copies the dress, speech, and/or mannerisms of a group or subculture, generally for attaining acceptability within the group or for popularity among various other groups, yet who is deemed not to share or understand the values or philosophy of the subculture.” no longer applies to a subculture phenomena, it is seen everywhere, as self identification has become popular. People simply say they are something, much like my old manager said his degree was in engineering in the days before the internet. He was an English major who had dropped out, but he got the job because no one checked.

My ex-wife, as the first example, continues to say she is a “good-person,” despite her self admitted anti social behavior and absolutely evil things she has done to me and other people who cared about her.  Lieve doesn’t remember having to repack the boxes for Belgium to remove my things, or that I learned Flemish and obtained the paperwork to become a Belgian citizen or that on our last visit we spoke to officials at the town hall in Leuven. She just says we never planned to move to Belgium together. She’s going with the “It doesn’t matter, I’m a good person because…I believe I’m a good person” line of reasoning. She poses as a “good person” rather well, until you have the opportunity to see behind the curtain.

My second example springs from that experience. Tired of being lied to I decided to look into an open relationship. Ethical non-monogamy or Polyamory. Not promiscuity or swinging, just open honesty between committed partners. My partner is free to do whatever she wants, and there is nothing to lie about so no need to lie. I’ve really come to detest lying, probably because I was blamed for causing my next girlfriend’s seizure, because he couldn’t handle the stress of lying to me. Polyamorists tend to over explain, and tell what some might consider too much. Polyamory is fairly popular in certain circles, and attracts the same predators as monogamy. There are a lot of guys who say “I’m polyamorous, my wife is okay with me dating” when in fact the wife thinks he’s out with the guys. Low lifes will use whatever tools are available. We started getting involved in discussion groups and found a large number of those kind of guys and girls, predominantly the younger ones. One person started a discussion aimed at people over forty, looking for more mature responses, and a fair number of people tried to join in with such statements as “I’m mature for my age.” They were not, having just “gotten engaged” to someone they met on line and would most likely never meet in person. Another said “I’m old, I’m twenty three.”  Well, we had said nothing about being “old,” and twenty three is far less than forty so the reading comprehension that comes with maturity was clearly missing. We eventually started a separate group, with Sam and I moderating, for people over forty and still had requests to join by people in relationships with partners who were over forty. I had to explain their partner was welcome, but they would have to wait. Who would have thought being older would be so fascinating? They have been posing as mature so long they believe it themselves.

Next I want to discuss education. I know many highly educated people, some of whom attended prestigious universities and have advanced degrees, others who obtained their education through life experience. None of them speak about how educated they are, they simply use the education to prove it. Maybe it is because it is an election year, and so many people are questioning the intelligence of their opponents rather than debating the issues themselves, but I am hearing a lot of people talking about how educated they are. Someone talking about how educated they are is similar to someone driving a Prius shouting to a person driving a Ferrari about how fast they can drive; if your Prius is up to it step on the gas and show me.

Most recently, an old acquaintance picked up the habit of starting statements with “My education tells me…” I know about his education, and his character, neither of which are anything to be proud of, but like many acquaintances I’ve known a long time there are sentimental reasons to maintain the relationship. His field of study was hospitality services, and while he never learned about being hospitable, he still feels confident in posing as educated. What troubles me, more than having an arrogant and ignorant acquaintance, is the growing prevalence of considering an education as something derived from being in the proximity of famous buildings. Students at my neighborhood university (Princeton) are under the impression they are all knowing merely because they were accepted as students. Even the university itself leans on the reputation of Albert Einstein, despite the fact his only association was teaching a preceptorial course (he didn’t even give the lecture) while he was a professor at the nearby Institute for Advanced Study. In the real world, an education is a reflection of the individual, not the institution they attended. 

We presently have a couple of candidates for President of the United States, both posing as civilized human beings. If you so much as scratch either of their veneers, you can see they are only posing, but oddly, only the Democrats can see the Republican for what he is, and only Republicans can see the Democrat for what she is. Just because you can each fool some of the people doesn’t mean they are all the same people, but it will be enough people to elect one of these clowns, because personal responsibility has been so degraded the thought there might be someone else qualified for the position has not occurred to an adequate number of voters.

Brian Williams, who spoke about the helicopter he was in being hit over Afghanistan, only to be corrected by other passengers that the other helicopter with them was hit, then brushed off his bald faced lie characterizing it as “mis-remembering due to the fog of war.” Poseurs are accepted by society. Okay, Brian lost his job, but Hillary was made Secretary of State after “mis-remembering” taking sniper fire in Bosnia.

When we don’t stand up for the truth, the truth dies. Do not be an accessory to murder.

 

 

Foundations

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a structure is only as stable as its foundation.

The art of compromise rests upon the ability to find a mutually satisfactory agreement. It does not mean that both sides suffer equally. Selling out your ideals means they weren’t your ideals, whatever you sold out for is your ideal.

We form these principles either through admiration of the ideal or as a response to the negative effects of their abuse. Speaking for myself, I was surrounded by secrets for so long I now have an aversion to them. It has been said that I have a “hangup” about honesty, which still makes no sense to me. Trust is critical to my existence, without it I can continue, but it is with a troubled mind. Certainly knowing from the outset that someone has the opposite need, the need to keep secrets, is useful, there is a certain amount of honesty in the phrase “I’m going to lie to you”, but it is not the foundation for a solid relationship.

I am of the understanding that this is accepted, and even normal, behavior. Allowing people to lie is how life works. Everyone can understand the little white lies, told to avoid hurt feelings, and in that understanding begins the decline into redefining the truth.

I was always admired for direct truthful responses, because they were consistent. I hurt Fred’s ego today, but tomorrow my directness boosts Fred’s ego. Fred realizes the value of the truth. We don’t always agree, but he knows where he stands. Sometimes he changes my point of view, sometimes I change his. It is a healthy, growing relationship.

No one person should see themselves as the target for this essay, it is merely a commentary on society. I am tired of society right now, and need to rest my soul. It has been typical for me to take a period of time around this season to reflect, to recharge, and I’m going to do that now. Autumn has that effect on me, and November is my birthday month, so many years I took off the entire month of November to regroup. I won’t be taking an entire month this year, maybe not even an entire week, but I do need to take some time to evaluate the last year.

There is nothing unusually wrong, I just need a break. I have an article in mind for 28 October, and I’ll most likely be back in just a few days.

Mob mentality

I prefer to stay away from being topical. One reason is that I wish to understand a subject before commenting on it, another is because I detest being part of a herd jumping on every facet of a topic. While this post might be considered topical, as it is inspired by recent events, the trait is as old as the first crowd.

Last week at the Boston Marathon, two explosives were detonated near the finish line, killing three spectators, wounding at least one hundred seventy. Many of the wounded lost limbs or had other life altering injuries. One of the dead was eight years old.

Big news. A pending nuclear attack from North Korea disappeared from the headlines in the media hurricane. And a hurricane it was, twenty four hour news outlets bored of repeating the same five minutes worth of information grasping at anything to get an edge in the ratings. Speculation and misinformation opening the door for the conspiracy seekers, who see any conflict of statements as disinformation. Reports were broadcasted that a Saudi had been arrested, then changed to state that he was a “person of interest”, then reported that he was visited in the hospital by the first lady, then reported that he was on a terror watch list and had been deported. A humming sound can be heard near Edward R. Murrow‘s grave as he spins faster than a CD.

One man’s speculation becomes another man’s “facts”. As one reporter speculates that the culprits are terrorists, another picks up the story and reports it as fact. It was blamed on left wing extremists, right wing extremists, Al-Qaeda, and a government false flag operation. Video of the scene, ubiquitous in a world of cell phones and digital cameras, reveals “suspects”. Suddenly everyone is a forensic photo analyst. The entire city of Boston was CLOSED for two days, while armored personnel carriers brought thousands of “troops” (it still isn’t completely clear under whose command they served). Neighborhoods were searched door to door by armed troops. Hysteria was the mood of the moment.

When the two suspects are located, one is shot and the other escapes. The troops fire over a half million rounds during the pursuit, [the source for that data has acknowledged that his estimate was based on recent ammunition purchases at DHS] and the subject is taken alive. Think about just that for a second. Assuming 147 grain bullets, that’s over five tons of lead. Spontaneous crowds cheer the troops as they transport the suspect. The Justice Department states that it will not advise the suspect of his Miranda Rights, citing public safety and “imminent threats” (considering he wasn’t conscious for forty eight hours, it doesn’t appear that anything was imminent after he was able to speak).  The idea of treating him as an “Enemy Combatant” is tossed around, but just can’t squeak through the hysteria, seeing that he is an American Citizen on American soil. He is eventually charged with using a weapon of mass destruction, by the same people who insist that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any WMDs.

Only a few days have passed, no new tragedy has taken its place, so the mob turns inward, and starts to eat itself. The discussion over civil rights abuses becomes arguments over compassion. Somehow the youngest victim being eight years old is more important than the fact that all the victims were random. The people who consistently go in the “what if” direction miss the point that it could have been anyone. The level of response gets the Monday morning quarterback treatment, again, the victim being the justification. No balance with the hundreds of children killed in urban settings every year.

The suspects weren’t Arab, but at least they were Muslim. The question becomes not if they are connected to Al-Qaeda, but how they’re connected. It comes to light that one was questioned by the FBI at the request of the Russian government. He was on a terrorist list (this “being on a list” bit is getting a little scary). No one seems to understand that the Russians wanted him questioned because they are concerned with Chechen terrorists. We didn’t care, as long as we didn’t think he was anti-American.

In the midst of all this the crazies of opportunity hit the fan. An Elvis impersonator sends envelopes laced with Ricin to Washington DC. A plan to disrupt train service in Canada is linked to Al-Qaeda. A totally unrelated chemical explosion takes place in Texas, twenty years to the day after the Branch Davidian massacre. The conspiracy theories travel over the internet at the speed of light. Everyone has something to be afraid of.

In the aftermath, there is so very much to be learned, but very few people willing to learn. Reddit has apologized for identifying people at the scene of the bombing after they turned out to be innocent bystanders who then faced a witch hunt. “Witch Hunt” was the phrase that started this post fermenting in my mind. The mobs of passionate individuals looking for an answer, and unable to look for that answer in the mirror. No other networks have apologized for their reckless behavior, whipping up the frenzy. There’s no reason that anyone should learn the lesson of Richard Jewell. Apology or not, once published those inaccuracies are still alive, floating about the internet, like a nude picture from Spring Break. Next month those reports will be someone’s “proof” of an already dis-proven theory.

The security of the herd allows us to say things we would never say to someone’s face, do things we would never do, even support ideas that we would never, under normal circumstances, believe. We have to be careful about what we say or write. It doesn’t go away, and is always waiting around the corner to hurt someone that we had no intention of harming. What is worse to me, is that it clouds the truth. With so many inaccuracies to shift through, finding the truth gets more and more difficult. There are some conspiracy theorists who believe that is the point.

Good day, and good luck.