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Common Misconceptions about Science
    by Marek Roland-Mieszkowski, M.Sc., Ph.D., Digital Recordings

    Copyright 1998-2014, Digital Recordings. All Rights Reserved.

    Last updated December 4, 1999

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Common Misconceptions about Science

o Scientific laws are absolute.

The laws of science (all fields) are built on axioms, which are basic assumptions or ¬foundation stones║. These are not explained and do not necessarily reflect reality. Science deals with models and approximations of reality only.

o Scientific results are precise.

Errors and estimations are inherent to any scientific model. It has to be this way since we usually neglect the influence of the objects away from our experiment. Higher accuracy of the model leads to higher complexity. One has to balance accuracy versus complexity.

o Science can make accurate predictions.

We can make predictions for simple systems more easily than for complex systems. It is very difficult to predict the evolution of a complex system far into the future. An example of this is the accurate prediction of weather. In order to update their models, meteorologists must constantly monitor and update parameters such as temperature, pressure, humidity, wind, solar radiation, etc.

o Science is objective and well-scrutinized.

Some scientists are forming cliques and lobbies which do not allow certain views and theories to see the daylight. Even if the theories are correct, these ¬scientists║ discredit them and their originators and prevent them from being published in scientific journals. Is this in any way different from the Holy Inquisition? One does not have to burn a person in order to kill his or her spirit.

o Science can sooner or later solve all of our problems.

Scientific discoveries, when not properly used can lead to destruction of the Planet and Life. Unfortunately in many cases this is done. Examples are: explosives, atomic energy, combustion engine, fossil fuels, many chemical compounds , many drugs , some fishing nets, cellular phones etc.

These discoveries and innovations multiply our destructive and polluting powers by many orders of magnitude and turn us into "super predators" with powers far exceeding Tyrannosaurs Rex. For example a 300 HP car, having 1000 times the power of an average person (0.3 HP) will produce 1000 times as much CO2 contributing to green house effect. A big bulldozer operated by one man can easily cut as many trees as 1000 men. Single nuclear explosion can destroy in a fraction of a second the results of the work of hundreds of thousands of men over the period of hundreds of years.

There is considerable asymmetry in the destructive and restoring power of science and technology. Imagine an attempt to restore a clear cut forest to its previous condition, resurrect extinct species of plants or animals, or rebuild a destroyed city. We do not have the tools, resources and knowledge to do this.

Our current path is a path of destruction. We are not guardians of Earth and Life but the most savage and ruthless species who ever lived (example - Every year, "people" kill more than 100,000,000 sharks worldwide. Every year, sharks kill about.......25 people worldwide.). We have enough brains to develop technology. However, we do not have enough brains to use it properly and to protect environment and ecosystem.

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Common Misconceptions about Scientists
o Scientists are well educated.

Some are but many are not. Education means a good back-ground in a particular discipline, broad understanding of other disciplines, independent thinking, high levels of integrity and ethical standards.

Many educational institutions have gone for quantity rather than quality. Their approach to education is producing many well-schooled human robots, which are good at just that - schooling.. Scientific discoveries and vision require a combination of broad background, creativity and integrity which one can seldom find these days.

o We can trust their findings.

Morality and integrity are not a part of the curriculum at most universities. Academia is often ridden by politics, jealousy, gossip, back- stabbing, sabotage, blackmail and plagiarism. Students are exposed to this to a smaller or larger extent. They continue what they have learned.

Grant money often has links attached. Research findings often reflect interests of the funding company rather than scientific truth (examples - tobacco, cell phone and food industries).

o Scientists will warn us about dangers and educate us.

Some do. Many do not. Very often people are "silenced" about various issues. For example: dangers associated with smoking, sounds above 85 dB, danger and side-effects of many drugs and medical "treatments", danger of cellular phones and other wireless technologies - Canada's and USA standard is 1mW/cm2 while many "silenced" scientists advocate 1nW/cm2 which is 1,000,000 times smaller limit, danger of margarine, shortening and other hydrogenated fats. This list is long and shows that the integrity of our governments and scientists working at universities and government agencies leaves a lot to be desired. The situation in private industry is not much better since it is driven mostly by profit-at-all-costs (example - Microsoft).

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Quacks and Pseudo-Scientists

There is also a group of pseudo-scientists and quacks who exploit the fact that many people distrust "scientists" and government. Many of them have no formal education, have phony degrees and titles and often use science jargon to impress the less-educated part of our population. They are in it for profit and personal gain and are as dangerous as some "main stream" scientists and educators. Both groups are very good at brain-washing the populous. One would hope that government would be the "watchdog" and enforce scientific standards and basic moral and integrity values. However, this is also not the case.

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Fringe Scientists

This is a very small group of scientists often with formal backgrounds who work independently, outside of universities, government agencies and large industry. Some of them despite no funding and no "free" taxpayers' money are responsible for very good science and research. They are often the first to tell us about dangers of new technologies and environmental issues.

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Press and Science

Unfortunately the role of the press is frequently negative. The mass media are often a mouth-pieces of the government, lobby groups, large industry, etc. Journalists are looking for headlines and their coverage is often shallow. Many reporters lack the scientific background and depth of knowledge to depict holistic view of science and the world around us.

The mass media is largely responsible for confusion and de- sensitization of the general population about what is right and what is wrong. This, in turn, leads to misinformation and confusion.

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Government and Science

We have the impression that government is the watchdog and protector of our safety. In Canada the government collects over 50% in taxes, so one would expect good service and protection. Unfortunately the government represents the interests of the ruling clique and large industry more than the interests of the public. It is a mixture of corruption and stupidity. The final effect is lack of proper planning, monitoring and protection of the public and the environment.

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Science-Fiction

Science-fiction books and movies generate believes among people that science is omnipotent and can accomplish any task. This is a far-fetched interpolation from past experience that some science- fiction fantasies became reality due to advances in science and technology. Most did not.

The general population does not realize that time-travel, long-range cosmic trips, tele-porting etc. probably never will be possible. People do not realize that the Earth, the Sun and other conditions which allowed life to develop here and in this particular form can be unmatched by any other solar system. Therefore, if we do not take care of our spaceship called Earth we will become extinct and our "omnipotent" science and arrogant "scientists" will not help us at all! This is only getting us closer and closer to this catastrophe.

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Technology and Science

Science and Technology made major strides in the 20th Century. Many developments quickly become new technologies: cars, aircraft, boats, audio and video equipment, computers, cell phones, GPS, firearms, sonars, bio- and genetic technologies, chemistry, medicine, etc.

The problem often is that we mass produce many of the new technologies without asking questions first about what impact they will have on our lives and environment. As a result, many of them backfire on us and the environment and are a drain on our ecological resources.

The quality of life should not be measured by the "North American Standard" "more = better". Often "less = better" quality of life. Why not measure quality of life with our health, clean water, clean air, healthy food, beautiful nature, creative working environment, good art and culture, love, good friends and strong family ? Why do so many of us play into the hands of greedy and stupid people with no moral standards ?

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War and Science

Unfortunately science and technology has always been used to improve weapons. However, things got much worse when weapons allowed destruction of the enemy from a distance where soldiers no longer could see the enemie's faces, inflicted pain and blood. Killing the "enemy" became psychologically-easy.

Modern weapons which allow mass destruction or extinction of the entire ecosystem are even more dangerous, bringing us closer to the Apocalypse. Many computerized weapons are similar to arcade and computer games and strip from soldiers the feeling of compassion and responsibility.

Here we talk about greed and stupidity on a grand scale. Many scientists unfortunately "prostitute" themselves working for this system. Also, technologies are often used without permission.

Our accomplishments ? A less stable world and a large and expensive military machine with a huge negative environmental impact even during peace periods.

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Futurists and Science

Futurists were predicting a bright future in which robots and machines will do the work and people will have an easy life and lots of free time. They did not foresee, however, that greed will turn increased technological efficiencies into more consumption (leading also to more environmental destruction and pollution) rather than to more leisure time.

Many people became hard-working "robots" of the 20th century with plenty of material goods and little time and happiness. Distribution of wealth and work load became very uneven and often unjust and immoral leading to further frustration and unhappiness. This unhealthy situation has to change.

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Environment and Science

Unfortunately, science and technology have negative impacts on the Environment: deforestation, erosion of soil, destruction of land due to mining, manufacturing, highways and housing, extinction of many species, overpopulation, chemical, genetic, nuclear, EM and acoustical pollution, "greenhouse effect", climatic changes, waste products and dumps, etc.

This way of interacting with the environment is not sustainable and already lowers the quality of life for the majority of people. We are already using 30% more resources than is sustainable. I highly recommend a book: "Our Ecological Footprint" by Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees (can be ordered from: www.newsociety.com ).

We need more morality in our actions not more "narrow-minded science" and "scientists". We need a holistic approach in order to survive. This is not only our selfish reason but our moral duty as the "most advanced" species which we claim to be !

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God and Science

Many people say that science contradicts the existence of God. Another group holds the opposite view, that science supports the notion of God. Since science is only a model of reality (or a "fish bowl" look at reality), one cannot expect to get any conclusive answer one way or the other. Unless God would give us this opportunity. So far it looks as though God (if He exists) wants us to have a free will to choose one way or the other. Besides we should be moral one way or the other if we wanted to be called humans.

Another aspect is that people expect God (if He exists) to intervene in cases of crisis. What if God does not exist ? What if God gives us a choice to create Heaven or Hell on Earth ? And what if He will not move even one finger to change things ? Should we not be more responsible in either case ?

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Final Advice

Be aware ! Question and analyze things around you ! Use your own judgement or somebody whom you trust and respect to evaluate things on the basis of merit. Protect yourself and the environment. Oppose greed and stupidity ! Let's build a better World ! Only mutual love and respect can save us ......

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