Rather than post one of my rather long winded diatribes on a specific topic, I thought I’d mention a few things I’ve seen and found interesting on other blogs, in the news or elsewhere. So, without further adieu…
NASA has announced plans to send a probe to the Sun in 2018. The probe will be protected by a carbon-composite heat shield that will be able to withstand radiation and heat up to 2,550 degrees, and will be able to approach the Sun at a distance of 4 million miles, which seems like a large distance, but in galactic and scientific terms is quite close. They are looking to answer at least two questions unanswerable to date – “why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?”
I was wondering if they could perhaps have the probe manned, but the link says no. Too bad, because Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck would be ideal candidates for a trip to the Sun.
I saw this video over at The Friendly Atheist and thought it was such a good rant/response to Pat Condell (who I usually enjoy, but find he’s getting a bit strident about Islam, perhaps because of his particularly British experience with it) on the New York Mosque question, that it should be further disseminated around the blogosphere.
Even if it wasn’t a response to Condell, it’s a well stated opinion in its own right. Maybe with a little luck it’ll go viral. It should.
The justifiably-hated, execrable Westboro Baptist Church has won another Free Speech case in Federal Court, proving once again that the old adage “I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll fight for your right to say it” is still applicable in this country, despite constant onslaughts against the First Amendment. As a child of the Vietnam War/1960s era, I don’t really react adversely to anyone mutilating a flag (such as using it for a bedspread), because, after all, it’s just a piece of cloth, despite its intrinsic symbolism. I found the Phelps family protesting at funerals itself far more repugnant than their flag desecration, but if they want to trample a flag to make a point, the First Amendment allows it, and the Nebraska legislature has no business trying to outlaw it.
In the Please-Don’t-Think-I’m-Pandering-To-Gideon department, I wanted to point out an instance where science polices itself. A Harvard researcher has been suspended, and may even lose his job, over what appears to be fabricated data in a paper published in 2002. It’s not really clear from the article exactly what happened, but his superiors suspect that the conclusions reached in the paper were based on contrived evidence from an experiment, a test of whether monkeys could distinguish algebraic rules. It appears that control portions of the experiment were not performed. If true, the consequences are serious.
Some forms of scientific error, like poor record keeping or even mistaken results, are forgivable, but fabrication of data, if such a charge were to be proved against Dr. Hauser, is usually followed by expulsion from the scientific community.
This is what science does, and why it is different than religion. Religion decrees truth based on some unprovable and unreproducible revelation, a truth which can never be subsequently revised or replaced. Science, on the other hand, constantly performs error checking, to see if what is now considered true continues to hold true. If it doesn’t, it is jettisoned. Only a process like this can be trusted to give us an accurate representation of reality.
Can you imagine the Pope saying “Oh, wait! I’ve been praying about it, and God now tells me that child buggery is a sin and a crime. My bad.” (OK. That’s not a great example, but you get my drift.)
But the really sad quote in the article is this one, which refers to the fact that the researcher was the only one doing research in his specialized field.
“It’s always a problem in science when we have to depend on one person.”
If we didn’t have so many people being home schooled to avoid science, matriculating at fundeological religious institutions, or attending seminaries to become preachers, some of them might actually be able to become scientists, and use their education to actually help improve the world, rather than suck it dry with superstitious, delusional nonsense.
We need more scientists and less preachers.