[Editorial] Science Vs Pseudo-Science – The Truth and The Lies
By on July 5th, 2011

It’s the most comforting feeling in the world to know that you’re the object of the greatest affection, the benefactor of all creation terrestrial and beyond and the focal point of a grand plan, one that spans the entire length and breadth of the entire cosmos. How wonderful it is that mumbling a few thoughts with clasped hands may give us what we want! Is it not great that faraway Saturn influences us through its faint light, or that a particular congregation of stars   – a constellation provides a blueprint of one’s future? It’s secondary that Saturn’s influence might be negative; primary to the source of transcendental joy is the fact that a celestial body, far enough so as to appear as little more than a dot on the sky, can bother itself enough to influence our lives. It’s a wonderful feeling or would be, if it were true.

‘Offensive’, yet effective

The lure of the glitter of ego-centric importance is too much to resist too much, it seems, even in the face of multiple and repeated failures of the pseudo-scientific methods. Science is unnerving. Central to it is the pursuit of truth, no matter what that turns out to be. Right now, it seems that the truth doesn’t favor the centrality of humans in the grand scheme of things. There seems to exist no grand scheme of things. In this relentless search, science has rid itself of cherished notions, primary amongst these being the supremacy of man. Yes, science hits people where it hurts the most their ingrained belief of being a part of a grand plan. What more, it snatches away the right to be offended at this if you’re wrong, you’re wrong’ is just too rude!

Yet, science is the only thing known to deliver. If you have cholera, you can pray your heart out or get administered 250 mg of tetracycline three times a day. (Historically, this is the claim to fame of tetracycline a magic drug against cholera mortality). If you wanted to know the occurrence of the next solar eclipse accurate to within a minute, you might request an astrologer to consult his charts or ask a scientist. If you wanted to know how we developed and why there are dinosaur fossils, you may read the Genesis literally, or study Darwinism. It’s proven time and time again that only the latter methods work.

It’s been far too long…

We have seen too much evidence to the contrary to deny this; too many tragedies have unfolded before the eyes of History. Many sick children have died, because their parents chose to pray instead of administering them anti-biotics. (There is still a religion Christian Science which prefers prayers to drugs!) Too long has the social stigma of witchcraft claimed the lives of innocent old women. Far too long have actions been dominated by myths of holy books and morals of the long by-gone stone-age for humans to call themselves civilised. And it has been a really long time for which science has suffered the branding of being heartless and immoral, while a far more corrupt and demented sense of morality –   the one that allows the stoning of disobedient children and cheating wives and hacking to death of apostates has dominated. By increasing longevity, the sure shot index of happiness (afterall, happiness is the monopolistic pleasure of the living), and improving the quality of life, science has done more for morality than anything else. Without better farming methods or HYV seeds, I would like to see how moral people would be, given the Ten Commandments or any holy book of their choice.

Take your pick: Voodoo doll and HYV seeds. (Hint: Correct answer doesn't have needles jabbed all over it!)

Still, science is tough. It often speaks of abstract objects and then connects them to reality. There really is no royal road’ (as Euclid, once, famously told his king) to understanding how a complex (not complicated; complex’ is used in the mathematical sense of complex numbers) quantum-mechanical wave-function reveals truths about our world, which seems too real to ignore. It seems utterly unimaginable that a disease, which is externally manifest in all-too-visible symptoms, may require treatment involving tiny shreds of DNA hidden away in the heart of cells. How rude that science challenges age-old myths and proclaims them wrong!

Even practitioners of pseudo-science know this. They often garb their speech with elaborate scientific terms (you want an example? Hear Deepak Chopra speak, but not for long for your own good!). It’s a sure-shot method. The public knows that science works and now an apparent stamp of science is proof’. It allows one to be merrily deluded in, what they believe to be, science’, unfettered by the rigors of the game of scientific evidence. Wondrous notions like alien abduction, the City of Atlantis, telepathy, ESP all sound so scientific. Can they be wrong? Aren’t they too good to be wrong? Well, no! Nothing’s too good to be wrong.

Arrogant? Really?

That’s how it is. Science has long lived with the ignominy of being called arrogant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Scientists not only collect data from experiments and observations, but they spend day-after-day establishing error bars, which are a measure of how confident they are of their own results. Years are spent trying to justify hypotheses and building theories. It’s the utmost test of humility. Theories are accepted on the basis of how many times they have been proved correct, not how long they have existed. In fact, the older a scientific theory is, the greater its chances of undergoing a revision. Tradition means nothing. Modern science is more correct than science a few decades old. Try this: Take out the pioneering papers of any science subject. You should see, first hand, how much things have changed since the 1930‘s or 1950‘s (if you’re into physics) or 1859 (if you’re into biology). Self-correction is such an integral part of science that the two might be considered synonyms.

Popcorn and the Pope: One can hold popcorn for love-struck couples at a movie theatre and the other, well...

Compare this with our belief systems. No religion has liked persistent questioning, preferring instead to force a veil of respect along with numerous attempts at gagging free speech. No religious leader has ever stressed the incompleteness of his (and it’s never her’) beliefs (As Dawkins once put it, Has a clergy ever said from the pulpit We are waiting for more evidence’?). How many times have you heard the word authority’ in the religious context? How many times have you been told to kneel in reverence of the person in the elaborate white garb? Is the garb a standard of proof? Apart from the necessary attire the lab coat for protection, the space-suit for survival or the mere shirt-trouser combination for covering oneself up science has never required any practitioner to dress abnormally.

Signing off…

Carl Sagan once wrote, Not explaining science seems to be preserve. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world. Science is too wonderful not to fall in love with, but, for many, too high-maintenance to stay in love. However, attractiveness of charlatans like Uri Gellar or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or transcendental meditation fame) or the garden variety astrologer or religious teacher pale in comparison with the wonder of a truthful explanation of a natural phenomenon, even though it might be partial.

Curiosity is integral to everyone’s mental toolkit. Being curious about Atlantis, Near Death Experiences or psychic powers is, thus, natural. But there is much more out there than you can dream up in your philosophy. Carl Sagan, always wise, puts it beautifully, There are wonders enough out there without inventing any.

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Author: Debjyoti Bardhan Google Profile for Debjyoti Bardhan
Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

Debjyoti Bardhan has written and can be contacted at debjyoti@techie-buzz.com.
  • http://2buntu.com rolandixor

    Will you stop posting this kind of stuff on a blog that is supposed to be about technology? It’s killing your blog man.

    If you want to call Christians idiots, then you have many other places to do it. Just don’t it here.

    And btw, as you probably have realized, I’m a Christian, and I’m no idiot.

    • Debjyoti Bardhan

      I appreciate your concern but TB is expanding. We do have a science section and I’ve covered a lot of pure science. An editorial on the role of science in our society doesn’t seem out of place.
      Also I don’t mean to call anyone an idiot. Here I was merely speaking out against pseudo sciences. That’s it.

  • http://saygeek.blogspot.com Darrin Jenkins

    It never ceases to amaze me how scientists ignore their own science. The universe is prone to chaos yet, some scientists want to believe that because of time and various states of cosmic soup that the universe eventually evolved such complex systems. This seems ludicrous to me. I believe that there can be peace between science and Christianity. The problem is you have closed minded folks on both sides of the issue. I agree unnecessary life has been lost at the hands of religious zealots however, I believe a lot of damage has been done to the souls of people at the hands of close minded scientists.

    • http://2buntu.com rolandixor

      Well said :).

      If only people would face the reality. Just because some bad things were supposedly done in “God’s Name”, doesn’t mean that the nuts who did the things represented God Himself.

      It is sad to me also, that in our current day, a field that bases “laws” on what is “generally accepted by the majority” is drives a large part of our society. It is even worse to me that “science” has become the basis for attacking Christians (especially) and relegating us to the realm of “ignorance”. To me, that is not science. It is hard headed refusal to accept a reality that those persons simply wish not to be true.

  • http://2buntu.com rolandixor

    Wanna talk about pseudo-science? Then why not talk about evolution eh? Evolution/Darwinism is a pseudo-science (and before you ask, I did once believe in that crap).

    • Debjyoti Bardhan

      Please do talk about evolution and how that is pseudo science. I’ve had discussions with creationists and they simply don’t know science or even how it works. Just because you once ‘believed’ in evolution and not now doesn’t make it pseudo science. It just means that you’re wrong.
      Not one scientific paper exists supporting the rival theories like Intelligent Design or any other form of Creationism. Thousands of papers provide support to evolution. Darwin, 150 years ago, stacked huge amounts of evidence in support of evolution. He even showed the possible loopholes. These have been plugged through research.
      Another important point: Pointing out problems in one theory doesn’t falsify it, if the problem is not critical to the theory. Also it doesn’t automatically mean a score for a rival hypothesis. Creationism is not even a hypothesis. (And this is not me – this is the Discovery Institute admitting this.) Sorry, in science you must have peer-review before anything enters the classroom.

      • Lbrewer42

        WOW! Where to start? How about Miller’s experiment where he produced a few amino acids and it was heralded as proof that these could occur naturally?

        First he used a CLOSED environment, with a specific DESIGN, of his own that never could have occurred in nature. He had to use hundreds of years of technology such as glass making/blowing (and then to make the apparatus laboratory-capable such as Kymex), generation of electricity, ability to make desired objects from metal (wires/electrodes), knowledge of which metals to use, etc., etc., etc.

        We could go on and on oin any one of the mentioed areas of tech needed to make his experiemnt possible – and all of them required design/experimentation/proper manipulation by intelligent beings.

        So he throws all of this together – a product of untold man-years-eons-decades of design and intelligent guidance in technological areas (as considerd at the time of their own invention); he designs a special trap in his apparatus so he can PROTECT the newly created amino acids from the surroundings which immediately – he knows will obliterate their existence the moment after they are made by his very technically designed/built/planned apparatus that supposedly emulates primordial earth conditions (of which no one was there to see if these were indeed, the conditions – hence it is only THEORY by the definition of pure science – hence pseudo science); and then fails to make the minimum number needed to constitute all of the necessary ones to make even the simplest for of life.

        Summary – let’s use INTELLIGENCE to DESIGN and MANUFACTURE a highly TECHNICAL device to emulate what we WANT to believe (but have no proof – its theory) that will produce what we have DESIGNED it to “prove”, but have to DESIGN a safety mechanism into it b/c we actually DO know the product will be destroyed by the very environment we DESIGN it to be made in.

        Then lets call this proof that DNA can be made by natural processes on the early earth.

        Sorry – and not meaning to be sarcastic, but this is laughable. The very thing evolutionists desire to get rid of – intelligent design – is what the have to rely upon to “prove” their pseudo science.

        I can go on and on in many areas where the innate desire to see man as the ultimate (evolution places man as the highest intelligence and not accountable to anything but himself and his own imaginations to produce a moral code or acceptable actions) has produced the pseudo science called evolution. Is it not ironic that those who choose to have FAITH in a man-made pseudo-science end up criticizing those who do not share their pseudo-scientific opinions with the very thing they are guilty of.

        However, this is to be expected. The old adage of when I point one finger I have 3 more pointing back at myself has been an old saying for a reason.

        Want more? Just ask.

        • LBrewer42

          BTW note in the previous entry I did not have to use God, the Bible, prayer, or any other term which the author probably will consider to be “religious.” So when answering, I ask you please refrain from doing the same.

          True science can stand on its own 2 feet. However, you will find true science will never contradict what the Bible teaches.

  • Gus Pehur

    I agree with you 100%.

 
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