Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Interesting!

I'm currently reading "The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, And What We Can Do About It by Shawn Laurence Otto. It traces the beginnings of the anti-intellectualism that pervades modern politics. He examines the origins of the current situation where science is under attack by well-funded, but disingenuous political forces. Science is no longer an examination and discovery of the natural world, but a political tool to advance certain agendas. What is happening is that more attention is being paid to science deniers than actual scientists. 


This can be seen in the debasement of the scientific theory. The common misunderstanding is that a scientific theory is something unproven, whereas a scientific theory is a culmonation of careful examinations and experiments reflecting what we can determine as facts now. Scientific theory changes as new discoveries are made and added to, or expanding, the existing facts. Treating scientific theory as something unproven causes a false equivalence with non-scientific ideas and beliefs. 

That is why there is a movement to treat "intelligent design" or ceationism as an alternative "theory" to evolution. "Intelligent design" is based on the holy book of a religious minority for whom that book is the absolute truth inspired by a divinity. Unfortunately, the followers of this book fail to consider that when the book was compiled, it reflected the attempt to understand how natural phenomena occurred. Without an understanding of plate tectonics, earthquakes were seen as punishments for sins against the deity, or as the deity responding to a plea for assistance in vanquishing an enemy. With our current knowledge of plate tectonics, we know that the crust is not a uniform structure, but a series of floating plates that move over and under ajoining plates. If the plates shift quicker that normal, earth tremors happen in varying degress of severity. 

What today's followers fail to understand is that this book upon which they base many anti-scientific arguments has been translated and retranslated into several different languages before being translated into English. It has been edited by many who deliberately, or unconciously, changed the wording to reflect their own ideas or prejudices or decided certain passages had no relevance. There is no logical progression, several "books" contradict other "books" or contain what can only be exaggerations. 

Science has proven the age of the earth as far as we currently know how. Our existing instruments measure the half-life of radipactive elements with a known rate of decay. The Earth is nearly 4 billion years old. The "faithful" have determined the earth to be around 6000 years old. This figure is arrived at by the unscientific method of adding up the ages of persons mentioned in the books. Unfortunately, this method proves nothing. 

In an age where people died young, anyone who was alive when their grandfather was alive could be considered to have lived an extremely long time. There is actually no way to tell at what ages these patriarchs actually died. 90 could have been mistranslated as 900. There may be unknown gaps in the record. In fact, the translators could very well have created an unbroken lineage to smooth the record. But the believers want this accounting to be given equal biling with the scientific fact of the Earth's age. 

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