This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward
Let’s be honest, science is fun, a lot of fun. The funnest part about science is understanding it, participating in it and being able to provide intelligent input to a discussing involving it. Chemistry Professor John Webber told me, “Knowledge is fun, but learning is hard.” That statement is more true than many understand, getting knowledgeable in a scientific field takes a lot of time and a tremendous amount of effort. Unfortunately we willingly take up causes by those who hold advanced degrees regardless of the actual science involved in the claim.
If there is anything you should take from this article it’s this; science is a process of labor and review over many, many years, not the people who perform it. No scientist has been infallible, many who achieve great things have also slung their fair share of nonsense over the years. One example that is poignant is that of Dr. Linus Pauling, a chemist who won two Nobel Prizes: the first one in chemistry for describing the nature of chemical bonds and one in peace for his work against nuclear weapons testing.
Overall Pauling was a pretty awesome guy who was recently ranked as the 16th most important scientist in history. However, he had an affinity for trumpeting the cause of megadose vitamin C as a treatment for everything from polio to cancer. In fact he wrote several books on the subject which was willingly scooped up by those who put their trust in scientists and not science. His practices and ideas have been tested and shown to be undeniably false, even though it still has followers to this day.
Another would be someone who’s one-time accomplishment I admire more than just about anyone else’s. James Watson was one of the trio of Watson, Crick and Franklin who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA laying the foundation for modern genetics and biology. What makes Watson a good example of being a bad example are his views of eugenics, which is, first a belief that the “dumbest” 10 percent of people are diseased and should be “cured” and second, those from Africa are inherently less intelligent than “white” people.
I hear you thinking, “Well that’s what people said 50 years ago.” That last statement was in 2007, ugh. Watson’s incomparable knowledge of human genetics as a father of the field holds no credence over scientific fact. Belief is irrelevant to science which is why it’s sometimes hard to discern between what’s correct and what’s horse manure.
It’s why politicians cite irrelevant studies done in the 1970’s and fail to mention or read the peer reviews and why heart-diseased, baseball cap wearing youtube stars make videos of themselves riding in cars and yelling at why evolution is evil. I can’t get upset, like Dr. Webber said, “Learning is hard.”
A couple of quotes I have saved on my iPad may help give us a glimpse into what science actually is. Dr. Steve Novella wrote, “There is nothing magic about science. It’s simply a systematic way of carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results.” I’ll finish with what the modern scion of science, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, said, “Science works on the frontier between knowledge and ignorance. We aren’t afraid to admit what we don’t know. There is no shame in that. The only shame is to pretend we have all the answers.” Science is a process, not a person.