Monday, September 22, 2008

Fact Free Science: A Threat to Western Civilization?

Faced with ever diminishing educational budgets and the rise of extremist religious orthodoxy, is this cherished body of knowledge we call science in danger of dying off in our ever-complacent Western Civilization?

By: Vanessa Uy

Maybe it was one of James P. Hogan’s musings about “science” being too often referred to as this body of information that “everybody knows” because they heard it somewhere that got me thinking about why I find mainstream educators’ methods of teaching science wanting. I mean how often does anyone check out the original sources, or ask whether there might be “other” original sources reporting different results but getting less publicity?

Given the runaway success of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, it seems that I’m hardly alone in questioning the “establishment’s” stance on what they define as science in the first place. Or could this be the raison d’ĂȘtre why the Mythbusters even attempt to evaluate – from time to time – “alternative technologies” like alleged perpetual motion machines, zero-point energy generators, and anti-gravity devices among other things. Sometimes I wonder if the Mythbusters Adam and Jamie are just doing this as a form of public service every time they try to debunk or redeem these “alternative technologies” on basic cable.

Recently, some scientists with more accredited accolades – compared to the number of vinyl LP s that I have - expressed dire warnings with regards to the September 10, 2008 experiments at CERN. About how the Large Hadron Collider could inadvertently create a black hole of sufficient strength to suck our entire planet into oblivion. Given that experiments like these had been performed even when there was a “Manhattan Project” to examine atomic structure. Every scientist – even those that don’t belong in the lofty domain of theoretical physics – should at least have a basic inkling that a mere “atom smasher” could destroy the Earth. Our Penning Trap technology is so primitive, we can – at present – only store a few atoms at a time of anti-matter for particle accelerator use. The resulting total energy output is only a bit greater than that produced by striking alight a match. Though within a few barns of the target’s cross section, temperatures similar to that found several thousandths of a second after the Big Bang is produced. Were still not even close to Captain Kirk era Star Trek technology were they can store several milligrams of anti-matter that is equivalent to a 600 megaton H-bomb for weapons use. Thus proving that tenured scientists are not immune from science myths and misconceptions currently permeating in the mainstream media.

Multi-billion dollar scientific experiments like these had always been a subject of scrutiny by conspiracy theorists, not only of the accusations of fleecing public funds, but also because of the difficulty of their reproducibility. Thus making it quite easy to question the resulting data of the experiments and cry foul due to the impossibility of a truly independent peer review. The growing popularity of the “Moon Landing Hoax” that accuses NASA of faking their manned trips to the Moon because it’s only the United States that could afford such multi-billion dollar scientific endeavors.