Wednesday, June 11, 2014


for science or just about anything.

Watched the last episode of the new Cosmos last night. Well, actually two nights ago, but what the hey. Tyson ended with the five, actually six rules of science. Actually, they’re good rules to follow just about anywhere.

One: Question authority. That goes for the Bible, philosophers like Aristotle, or your professors or even Neil deGrasse Tyson. Authority means power and nobody is going to give that up without a fight. Late nineties, early two thousands there was a huge forest fire in the Siskiyous in Oregon. The Biscuit fire.

Accepted practice is to go in and “salvage” the useable timber before it rots so the forest can “come back.” There were lawsuits to block the logging. This gave a certain grad student in the forestry department time to finish gathering data that showed that forests recovered just about as fast if we left them alone as they did if they were ‘salvaged.” That’s where authority stepped in. He marshaled his evidence, wrote his paper and submitted it for publication. His own school tried to block publication. Let me repeat this. His own school tried to block publication. The whole idea behind peer review is that outsiders to read your work, check out the evidence and either agree or suggest strongly that you really need to go back to the drawing board.
What kills me is that it ought to be freakin’ obvious that nature knows what to do with a forest that’s been burned. It’s been doing it for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s the last century or so of so called management that suppressed the little fires that cleaned out the underbrush and helped keep fires from being so catastrophic that have made the problem worse.

Two: Think for yourself. Don’t believe something just because someone says it’s so, Including me. Google the Biscuit Fire. Read a theologian or two. The more radical the better. Look up Climate Change and compare what the researcher say is going on.

Three: Question yourself. Why am I hanging on to certain ideas? What’s in it for me? Why won’t I at least listen to competing points of view? Have I tied my identity to certain beliefs so tightly that I’m afraid I’ll unravel if I change my mind? Am I in a position of authority that will be threatened? Scary isn’t it. I forget who said that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living but it’s so true.

Four: Test your ideas through observation and experiment. Most of us don’t have access to laboratories but we can think and read and question. Especially question.

Five: Follow the evidence wherever it leads. Wherever it leads. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you in the end to give up those cherished, hoary beliefs.

And finally number six. Always remember that YOU COULD BE WRONG. Can happen in the best of families and to the brightest scientists.

No wonder the fundies heads have been exploding since the series started airing. Follow these simple rules and you can cut the power right out from under them .

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