Codependent Scientists discusses how our dependence on science and how scientists' dependency on each other may be a codependent relationship.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”
It was the arrogance more than the ideas of the article, “The New Ghostbusters”, that irritated me. That article, by James Motavalli, in the 13 June 1996, edition of the Hartford Advocate, was a clearly a demonstration of a closed mind. Although Motavalli claimed to be writing as a skeptic, it was clear that his views exceeded the bounds of the normal questioning of a skeptic. The underlying theme of that article claimed that any belief that couldn’t be verified by science was inaccurate, unscientific, and false. It was not that these beliefs were merely open to question, but that they were false.
There is no question that science and the scientific method are wonderful tools for solving many problems. The process of science has produced wonderful medical, technological, and practical breakthroughs.
Unfortunately, this success has come with a price, a new arrogance where many scientists say, “If I can’t see it must not be true .” “Truth is only what I can see, touch, hold, or sense.” This arrogance is self-defeating and limiting not only to science, but to the rest of us. The cynical scientist treats the Scientific method as a religion, and often intimidates those with other views.
The Scientific method and its accompanying skepticism are only tools. Tools are meant to be used, not deified. Using the wrong tool for the wrong purpose can produce unintended results. Would you use a hammer to adjust car valves? Would a surgeon use a butcher knife on the human brain? Would a theologian use the Scientific method to prove the existence of God? Can the Scientific method see, touch, or hear creativity?
According to Michael Crichton in his book, Travels, there are several problems facing the arrogant who fail to recognize the limitations of science and the limitations of skepticism (395-398). These problems are “superstition,” “false data,” “authoritarianism,” “dogmatism,” and “inconsistency.”
At first glance, superstition and science seem polar opposites. The scientist proudly claims that science is based on hard data and research. Yet a closer look reveals this as a myth. There are many examples that Crichton offers. "People with heart problems get a bypass; people with adenoid problems get them taken out; people with breast cancer get a mastectomy."
Although case studies and anecdotal records may validate these procedures, according to Crichton, “there is no scientific evidence or hard data that they produce any tangible benefits.” Yet we “spend billions on superstitious medicine.” If we eliminate this superstitious behavior we can lower health care costs and save big dollars. Isn’t it inconsistent to claim on one hand to be hardheaded and data based, and yet use superstitious procedures that aren’t scientifically verified?
Although it seems hard to believe, scientists often lie about their research data. Crichton claims the following: Isaac Newton was one. He wasn’t alone. Gregor Mendel was another. Sir Cyril Burt took it a step further; “he not only invented his data, but like God, created his research assistants.”
Lazzarini verified the wrong value of Pi for over 50 years. Long and Darsee of Harvard lied. So did Slutsky of the UCSD Medical School, Summerlin of Sloan-Kettering, Borer of Cornell, and a research team at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. (Crichton, 396)
False research gives the outward appearance of objectivity because it is rigid, technical and uses numbers. This is called the “fallacy of misplaced precision” or as some prefer, “the illusion of numeric objectivity.”
Scientists and skeptics often think that they are the source of truth. Cuvier claimed in 1812, “There is little hope of discovering new species of large quadrupeds.” Crichton also states that shortly thereafter, the Kodiak bear, the mountain gorilla, the okapi, the Komodo dragon, Grants gazelle, Grevy’s zebra, and the giant panda all made their appearance. (Crichton, 396)
Charles Durell, director for the U.S. Patent Office in 1899 stated, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Grover Cleveland said in 1905, “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.”
Robert Millikan, Nobel prizewinner in Physics stated in 1923, “There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.”
Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society said, “Heavier-than-air-flying-machines are impossible.”
The King of Prussia said about railroads, “No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse for free.”
The lowly bumblebee exclaimed, “Hey! I’m not supposed to be flying! They told me I don’t have the aerodynamics for it!”
Sometimes this attitude leads to sadness for those who buy into it. Philip Ries, a German inventor in 1861, gave up on a device that could transmit music and voice because experts told him that there was no need for such an instrument, as “the telegraph is good enough.” Fifteen years later, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
Clearly, the opinion of skeptics regarding suggestions that there may possibly be other unseen realities such as religions, life after death, and so on is, “that the system works fine just the way it is, thank you.” Any suggestions otherwise are threatening.
Scientists have refused to recognize legitimate discoveries when they were made. J.J. Thomson, the discoverer of the mass and charge of the electron in 1899 was accused of fraud. Bohr and Rutherford ridiculed Carl Anderson’s discovery of the positron in 1932. Harold Jefferys and Maurice Ewing blocked the theory of continental drift for over 40 years (Crichton, 397).
Inconsistent data is research concluding results that are refuted a few weeks later, an example of which is the recent oat bran study claiming, the consumption of oat bran reduces cholesterol. This was refuted a few months later. What is one to believe?
American research shows that aspirin reduces male heart attacks. British research shows no such effect. What is one to believe?
Two seminal studies by prominent researchers described in the August 15, 1994, edition of U.S. News and World Report reported on the question of gun ownership. The concurrent studies reached sharply opposite conclusions. What is one to believe?
On September 4, 1994, the Hartford Courant carried a story that told of the latest study that refuted a December, 1993 study which declared that cellular phones were safe. The original researcher refuted it as well as Dr. George Carlo, chair of the Scientific Advisory Group on Cellular Telephone Research. “This is a scientific process and yes, you find some errors,” said Dr. Carlo.
In light of inconsistent results, what is one to believe? Research and scientific data do not have the final word on truth.
It seems clear, then, that to depend only on research and hard data is to walk down a primrose path of self-delusion. This is scientific codependency; the scientist cannot make decisions or draw conclusions without the presence of hard data. There is a fear of losing credibility with peers, a dependency on peer approval, of a loss of self-confidence—a form of dysfunctional behavior, if you will.
Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Research, studies, and science have a history of codependency.
Marcello Truzzi, the former editor journal of The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal, The Skeptical Inquirer, stated, “Scientists are not the paragons of rationality, objectivity, open-mindedness and humility that many of them would like others to believe.”
Ludwig Boltzman, a physicist at the University of Vienna, was a victim of the codependency affliction. Boltzman discovered the relationship between heat theory, randomness, and disorder. It was he who introduced the concept of entropy.
Entropy is the change that occurs in a system when it breaks down. For example, an egg when scrambled changes from a highly ordered structure consisting of the white, the yolk, and the shell into a disordered and random combination of all the elements mixed, except for possibly the shell.
Many other examples are the running down of the universe, rusting automobiles, and the aging of our bodies.
Entropy occurs in all systems. There is no escape unless some form of energy from outside the system restores the system. It takes energy to wash and wax a car to inhibit rust. It takes energy to maintain our homes, lawns, and bodies.
Boltzman developed the formula, S = k log W, which describes entropy. “S” is proportional to the logarithm of “W” which is the number of possible states into which a system can change. The constant of proportionality, “k,” is named as Boltzman’s constant, and the formula is engraved on his tombstone.
Unfortunately for Boltzman, his theory depended on the concept of atoms following the laws of Newton. This Boltzman atomistic theory was developed at the turn of the century, before Rutherford and Niels Bohr developed quantum theory.
Boltzman’s theory was rejected by leading scientists of the day including Ernst Mach and Wilhelm Ostwald. These gentlemen favored a theory of heat that depended on the concept of energy rather than matter.
Boltzman, whose eyesight was failing and who was viciously attacked by the scientific community, committed suicide in Italy in 1906. Almost immediately afterward, Rutherford and Thomson developed work that would completely vindicate Boltzman.
Thus, we have a classic example of scientific codependency, a codependency that delayed the acceptance of a major contribution to an understanding of how our world works.
Far from being open-minded scientists that skeptics claim to be, the evidence shows rather a narrow-mindedness and stubbornness that does not serve anyone well.