The Scientific Method

One of the things that pushed me away from the religion I grew up with was the intrusion into the scientific realms. My religion tried to explain the dinosaurs, genetic diversity, the planets, geology, etc. But, when I encountered the scientific reasoning for the theories and the evidence my religion couldn’t hold up. Faith couldn’t trump evidence for these things. I’m not saying that science has all the answers at this point, and they may not ever have all the answers. There may always be a need for spirituality or religion, but more and more people are going to turn away from churches if they spend their time and energy trying to contradict science.

Anyway, I’ve occasionally heard that my feelings about science are really just “faith” in science instead of faith in god. This is a misunderstanding of what the scientific method is. I don’t read an article about evolution and have faith in the author, it is that I trust that the scientific method is the best way that we’ve come up with to understand the natural world. The scientific method has natural checks and balances that push towards truth. There are plenty of dead-ends and misunderstandings, but the general direction of scientific inquiry is towards truth.

The same can’t be said of religion where new information is not analyzed critically, instead it is suspect. Tradition and a few ancient texts are said to be the final word on truth. New understandings of the world are rejected and considered an enemy to the divine truth. When new scientific discoveries are made this is often portrayed as proof that science doesn’t know what it is doing, or that it can’t be true because things keep changing.

It isn’t the natural world that is really changing, it is our understanding of it. Take, for example, the 1977 issue of Time Magazine that discusses “Global Cooling”. This issue is often shown as “proof” that climate change is some sort of a conspiracy. Why would we call it global cooling one decade, global warming the next, and then climate change after that? Isn’t that proof that there is a secret cabal of communist scientists who want to hijack the world and establish a Marxist utopia all under the guise of saving the planet?

Well, no.

The global cooling, global warming, and climate change labels are an example of the strengths of scientific inquiry. It is science’s ability to change as new information and research becomes available. This isn’t flip-flopping, it is learning.

Now, maybe someday soon, scientific research will see that the climate change we are experiencing is a weird natural cycle that has nothing to do with humans. Or maybe research will show that it is partly to do with humans. I really don’t know, it isn’t my area of expertise (though, I tend to think it is likely that humans are having an impact on our environment). One thing science doesn’t really do is tell us what the best policy positions are to alter our environment or if we should do that even if we have the capability.

Anyway, I love science. I love that our understanding of the world changes with new information. I love that nothing is really off limits for science, at least in an ideal world. Scientists are humans and many of them are resistant to new paradigms that would overturn their life’s work. The Scientific Method is generally able to push past human desires, it eventually evolves new theories and hypothesis to explain the world, even if individual humans resist. Religion can’t do that, and it should really stop trying to push it’s method for discovering truth into the world dominated by science.

Advertisements

Random Thoughts (Creation, Networking, Small Towns, Mind/Body, MDMA, and Evolution)

I couldn’t really get focused this morning for some reason. So, here are some of the things that popped into my head while I was trying to write. I didn’t get any sparks for a complete blog post at this time on any of these subjects but maybe I will in the future.

I sometimes get very frustrated with myself and the missed opportunities in my life. On multiple occasions I’ve had an idea for an invention, company, or whatever, but instead of pursuing it I decided to just play video games or nap. Then, I turn on Shark Tank and somebody is on the show getting a million dollars for the same basic concept.

Networking has made a greater impact on my life than my degree ever has. Every, single job I got post-college was because of my network. My degree may have been a necessary pre-requisite, but that didn’t get me the job.

I don’t quite understand how some of the towns we come across still exist. Many of them are old rail towns, but the trains left decades ago. There are no stores, no businesses, and no educational opportunities. I can’t imagine young people growing up in these towns stay for long. I’m just confused about how there are still 100 or so people in them and how those people support themselves.

There seems to be a mind/body connection for me. On days when I get up, meditate, and write are also the days when I pay more attention to the food I eat and remember to exercise. I guess getting the day started on a healthy, productive path is important.

This last week I found out that the Agora Marketplace is down indefinitely. For those that don’t know, Agora is one of the “darknet” websites where you can order things with Bitcoin on the black market. Most people use it for illegal drugs, I used it to order MDMA which I use medicinally for my mental health, as a relationship tool to build bonds between myself, my partner, and friends, and as a recreational drug. Now that it is offline if I want to receive my medicine I will need to seek out a street dealer. This poses three main drawbacks. First, it makes me more vulnerable to violence. I will need to conduct illegal activity with a stranger who may be violent or intent on robbing me. Second, the product will be of unknown quality and could contain dangerous chemicals. I will test my drugs (like I always do), which means if things turn out bad I will be out money instead of harming my body. Third, I am much, much more likely to face the most dangerous aspect of using drugs… the police. Nothing in the United States ruins more lives than the police getting involved in peaceful drug users and sellers lives. Luckily, I don’t think I will need any MDMA soon, I only buy enough at a time to use during a particular session so that I’m never carrying contraband, but it is unfortunate that a safe and easy way to get my medicine is off the table. I know there are other marketplaces out there besides Agora but now I need to go through the lengthy process of finding them and getting set up. Blargh

I don’t think a lot of people understand evolution or natural selection. I am certainly no expert, but my “education” in it before college was basically two weeks of one science class in high school. At that point in my life my church and parent’s had drilled into me that evolution was wrong (and possibly evil). Of course, what I was taught by my parents was not what evolution or natural selection actually was. They were ignorant straw man arguments. I think one of the most frustrating things nowadays are people that argue for some life choice based on evolution. People will claim that because we evolved to do something we should return to that. That isn’t how evolution works, evolution isn’t a straight line to provide happy and healthy creatures, it is simply a process where certain genetic mutations allow those genes to reproduce more effectively than competing genes. Just because we evolved around certain foods or certain environments does not mean returning to those will provide happy and healthy humans. If tomorrow someone was born with a genetic mutation that made them irresistible to their mates and they always had triplets, but their hearts exploded on their 35th birthday, that genetic code would likely spread quickly and soon take over the entire species. That doesn’t mean it is creating a healthy or happy person, evolution is indifferent to that. Well, I guess a certain level of health is necessary but it isn’t the primary goal.

We’ve Come A Long Way

tumblr_mc773qGfmv1rhjmkho1_400

Last week I read this article about a male teenager who received a love letter from another male in his school. The recipient of the letter acted perfectly, he stated that he was straight and still wanted to be friends. Basically, he acted the same way he would if a female he wasn’t interested in gave him the letter. Thanks to Dan Savage and the many positive gay friends I’ve had in my life during the last decade or so I recognize how to behave in this type of situation. In fact, I had something similar to me happen not that long ago and I occasional find myself in gay bars where I get hit on occasionally. I think it is important for an ally to know how to handle these situations appropriately.

Unfortunately, if I had been in high school and received a love letter from a man my response would not be the same as it would have been today. I certainly wouldn’t have responded with anger or violence but I would have been disgusted to a degree that would have been impossible to hide. The closest thing to this that happened to me was a peer, who was openly gay, asked if I thought gay marriage should be legalized. I visibly shuddered and told him “no, marriage is between a man and a woman”, but like most conservatives of my age I had no reason or logic to back up that argument beyond Biblical references.

I can’t remember anything in my Christian upbringing that particularly focused on homosexuality but somewhere along the line I picked up that it was a special kind of sin, despite the constant “hate the sin, love the sinner” that was preached from the pulpit. Maybe it was the focus it received when I rarely (if ever) heard mention of thieves, liars, murderers, rapists, or other “sinners” mentioned on stage. I don’t know really… trying to reflect on the causation of prejudices is complex and it is impossible to be objective when looking at ones own life.

I am happy to say that things are getting better though. As my views have changed so have many other people. The youth of today are not willing to fight the culture war over gay marriage and sexual preferences and acts are becoming the private decisions of individuals as they should be. I find many phrases within the sex positive world to be clumsy and overwhelming (I still don’t know what “queer” means or even if an objective definition exists), and I look forward to the day when we abandon them completely and just accept that if two or more people love each other that is great, regardless of the identity we place on them. Some day, soon I hope, love will be love and we won’t need categories to identify what genitalia is present in each party.