An Explanation about Science

Science is an empirical enterprise and thus it works through the examination of the material universe and all that exists within it. Through detailed observation, experimentation, debate, and tentativeness, science advances one step at a time through producing more and more detailed and accurate portrayals of what exists in the universe. And it is precisely because of the principles of peer review and the willingness to reconsider long accepted ideas that errors made in science can be corrected and new findings revealed and confirmed that overthrow long accepted theories.

The problem arises when certain people, adhering to extremist dogmas whether of religion or political ideology, find the findings of modern science in conflict with their beliefs. They could do the seemingly obvious thing of abandoning or modifying their beliefs to fit the evidence that all can see. Sadly, some do not. Instead, they make claims that oppose the scientific consensus, and then to explain why most in the scientific community do not accept these claims, they make additional claims of a conspiracy theory that seems to involve a great many people, which is itself unlikely in the extreme.

There is nothing wrong with proposing alternative hypotheses to explain phenomenon in the universe, and we must encourage this as much as possible for science to advance. But what must not be allowed is the assertion as dogma of anything that claims to be scientific but has never been tested through the long and slow process of peer review and subsequent examination by independent observers.

The arrogance of those who would deny the value of scientific processes, often by those who themselves have little understanding of how science works, just illustrates the incredible power of the Dunning–Kruger effect, as described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect  We must understand that such is the danger of these attitudes that they should not be tolerated for long once they are fully exposed for what they really are.

Examples of a such unscientific and pseudo-scientific dogmas are Creationism, Global Warming Denialism, AIDS Denialism, and anti-Vaccinationism. Often, these stem from legitimate problems with a procedure, such as faulty vaccinations discovered to occationally cause problems in children, and are exaggerated far beyond rational bounds and turned into an absolute (“Vaccinations should no longer be given to children at all because a few became autistic a few months after their injections!”).  We must remember that the ONLY way for anything to advance in science is by the accumulation of empirical data, and repeated testing through peer review. Nothing else will ever suffice, because no other method has ever been consistently shown to work at revealing facts.

Is this really a science journal, or a Creationist front?

http://www.virologyj.com/

One has to wonder that after seeing this nonsense published within it:

http://www.virologyj.com/content/7/1/169

Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time

Kam LE Hon email, Pak C Ng email and Ting F Leung email

Department of Paediatrics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR, China

Virology Journal 2010, 7:169doi:10.1186/1743-422X-7-169

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.virologyj.com/content/7/1/169

Received: 16 June 2010
Accepted: 21 July 2010
Published: 21 July 2010

© 2010 Hon et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

The Bible describes the case of a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ. Based on the information provided by the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, the diagnosis and the possible etiology of the febrile illness is discussed. Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. If the postulation is indeed correct, the woman with fever in the Bible is among one of the very early description of human influenza disease.

Infectious diseases continue to be a threat to humanity, and influenza has been with us since the dawn of human history. We analysed a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time and discussed possible etiologies.

Case

The Bible descrbies the case of a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ. According to Mark 1:29 to 33 and Matthew 8:14-15, the mother-in-law of Simon Peter “lay sick” with a febrile illness [1]. When Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up, the fever immediately left. The lady began to serve the household and probably prepared a meal. The case is also described in the gospel by Luke (Luke 4:38-39), who was a physician in his days and he specifically mentioned that the fever was high [1].

The title alone is stupid, and reminds me of that classic line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To be or not to be…”

How the hell can you investigate scientifically something that happened 2000 years ago, when the ONLY evidence that it ever really happened was a written account that could have been made up?

It’s like those astronomers who waste their time arguing over what the star was that led the Magi to Bethlehem to see Jesus as an infant. Aside from the account in the Gospel of Matthew, there is no independent affirmation of such a star in secular literature.

And the authors give away their blatant lack of objectivity when they refer to “our Lord Jesus Christ”. They repeat one sentence in the Abstract and Case sections for no reason, and even misspell the word describes. Such sloppy editing is bad enough, but then they do not give ANY experimental or direct observational data whatsoever.

Others have already taken note of this absurd event:

http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2010/08/biblical_fever_influenza_youre.php

http://scientopia.org/blogs/thisscientificlife/2010/08/10/the-virology-of-christ/

I made this comment at the first one:

People need to stop looking at accounts of miracles in the Bible and trying to find rational, naturalistic explanations for them. That in itself reveals a lack of faith. That goes not only for the writers of that totally rediculous paper, but for all those “scientific” Creationists out there. I too would blacklist that journal for accepting that nonsense.

UPDATE: The paper was retracted as promised by the editor of the journal, Robert Garry.

http://www.virologyj.com/content/1743-422X-7-190

A fake expert vs real ones on global warming

A global warming denialist known as Judy Cross has been storming the web community Care2 for over a year, posting propaganda on her beliefs. Here’s an example of her rantings:

http://www.care2.com/news/member/185088952/752943

“This is a lucid, logical, well-researched 32-page doc, compiled by long time IPCC expert reviewer, Dr Vincent Gray, explaining why the current claims of man-made global warming are a “global scam”. “

http://nzclimatescience.net/images/PDFs/warmingscam1505.pdf

Oh, really? Well, I proceeded to dismantle the credibility of that paper.

Continue reading

Natural selection and the scientific peer review process

Natural selection describes the process by which variations in a population of organisms are edited over time to enhance the ability of the individual organisms to survive and reproduce in an environment. Even if over 90% of all mutations, being random, are harmful to the next generation, natural selection can still eliminate those and keep those others that are beneficial, thus countering the destructive effects of mutations in general.

It is the same with the scientific peer review process. Because science has made so much progress over the past few centuries, most people have the impression that scientists are unusually brilliant, nearly infallible, and totally objective in their views and methods. But in fact, that is simply not the case for most of them, at least as individuals. Scientists can be just as mistaken, corrupt, dogmatic, and failing in their efforts and assumptions as the rest of humanity. A few of them can even be downright stupid!

If that is true, how can science be trusted to produce reliable facts and theories? Because the scientists use peer review as their means to test any new ideas put on the table by one of their number. No scientist’s word need be taken at face value. In order for his idea to be accepted as anything beyond a speculation, he must show observational or experimental data, clearly defined, that supports it. Thus, it should always be possible for other scientists to duplicate the results of the first scientist making the claim. If attempts to duplicate the observations or experiments do not produce the same result, the idea is rejected.

Sometimes the peer review process goes too far in its skepticism, and a valid idea, such as continental drift, is rejected and even ridiculed by scientists even though it explains all the data collected and is contradicted by none of it. But that’s why repeated testing of that idea is required, as long as it is not outright falsified. Continental drift WAS accepted in the 1960s once an overwhelming amount of evidence was found to support it and those geologists who had been bigoted against it in the 1920s had died or retired, and a new generation had arisen that was more open-minded. Those who supported the continental drift theory were able to come up with a mechanism, plate tectonics, that explained it, and once they did opposition to it faded away rapidly.

Individual scientists may fall so deeply in love with their own ideas that they refuse to accept the peer review process when it rejects their ideas. Then they become cranks who no longer do science, but instead put out propaganda to appeal to the scientifically illiterate. This is especially true of Creationists and global warming denialists who happen to have science degrees. They even go so far as to attack the peer review process itself! But it must be noted that they can never produce anything that would produce superior results in terms of seeking objective data in the universe and explaining it.

Scientists who refuse to recognize that an idea of theirs is wrong are like a population of organisms that are too specialized in their lifestyle to adapt to any sudden change in their environment, resulting in their extinction. Fortunately, the progress of science continues even in spite of such incidents, just as life on Earth has continued despite the mass extinctions that have wiped out most species that evolved on Earth before.