Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Science of Science!

Author: Terry Connors

What is Science! ?

First of all, Science! is not the same as science. Science! is the study and knowledge of all things scientific, quasiscientific, or pseudoscientific. Anything that is obscure, incoherent, or improbable is made clear by the purveyor of Science! (also known as the Scientist! ). The Scientist! has access to knowledge that even scientists do not have access to. They are truly the masters of all that is True and Scientific!

There are 3 characteristics of the practitioner of Science!

They always work alone . Scientists usually have teams of other scientists and technicians working with them. The Scientist! , on the other hand, works alone, in their own, small, often home-built, laboratory. The laboratory will be filled with various whirring, clicking, blinking, or bubbling pieces of lab equipment which appear to have no purpose since the Scientist! never touches them.

They work fast . In real science, scientists develop theories, test their theories, and then modify or abandon the theories as the evidence evolves. The process often takes years, if not a lifetime. In Science! the Scientist! gets his or her answer in a matter of days (or hours, or weeks, or minutes, depending on what timeframe is most dramatic). Usually, the Scientist! gets a bright idea, runs to the lab to test the theory, and then comes back with an unexpected, but clearly genius, answer to the mystery/problem/question in record time.

They are always right. Everyone else is always wrong . In real science, peer review is a critical part of the scientific process. In Science! peer review is not only unessecary, but is detrimental. Mainstream scientists never accept what the Scientist! has to say until events prove them to be soundly (and often, fatally) wrong.

Television, movies, and literature are full of practitioners of Science! One of the best example is the Professor in the TV Series ""Gilligan's Isle."" Does anyone know what he was a professor of? That's right! He was a Professor of Science! The professor understood everything from primative cultures, to weather phenomena, to electromechanics, to astronomy. A master of Science! , he could do almost anything (except patch a hole in a boat).

Science! has evolved over time. In the 50's and 60's, the Scientist! was a non-specialist (and usually male). Science! gave him mastery over every possible field of study (much like the professor in ""Gilligan's Isle""). In modern times, the Scientist! is more likely to be a specialist, to acknowledge that, in the real world, most scientists are specialists. What they get wrong, however, undermines the one thing they tried to get right. For example, in the TV show Stargate SG-1 . The character of Sam Carter is a Scientist! specializing in physics, while Daniel Jackson is a Scientist! specializing in archaeology. They both (especially Sam) have the attributes of the Scientist! , however. 1) They work alone, 2) they solve the mysteries of the universe in a few hours or days, and 3) most of the other scientists (when they show up with a theory) are wrong.

Another example of a modern Scientist! is the protagonist, Robert Langdon, in The DaVinci Code . Although Langdon deviates slightly from the typical Scientist! (the typical Scientist! is alone in his beliefs, but Langdon actually has the support of many of his peers), in other ways he is the same. He manages to solve the great mystery in the course of an evening, and there is never, at any time, a question that he may actually be WRONG in his beliefs.

And so, this is Science! . It is a product of movies, television, and literature, and it is real, in the sense that perception is reality. People think that all real science is done by lone geniuses who try to buck the system that keeps them down. If you ask most people, they will probably say that we would have flying cars and robots by now if it weren't for the scientific community hobbling the handful of geniuses in their midst. It is this mindset that has led to the proliferation of pseudoscience, and theories such as Intelligent Design. The best defense against the growing misconception of what science is and what scientists do, is education. We need to teach our children, and our adults, that Hollywood is Hollywood, and that a Hollywood Scientist! has as much basis in reality as a Hollywood action hero.

About the author: Terry Connors is a Gen-X family guy with 2 step-kids and a loving wife. He frequently blogs about current events, especially if there is a scientific angle to the news items. You can read more of his writings at: Another Stupid News Blog - http://news.virtualdominion.net.

All work is copyright, Terry Connors 2005


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