Here we go again – Of politics and science

I should know better by now, but today, a politician’s answer when asked a science question about a fundamental, well-understood matter made my blood boil. The question was simple enough; it was about how old our own good earth was. As I read it, he danced around the question, at the end saying that the age of the earth was “…one of the great mysteries.”

Well, no. It is not a Mystery. It is well-established; again, no mystery there, nothing to see here, move along.

Look it up. I won’t even tell you the answer.

I kept thinking and thinking about it and I could not decide what was worse among the following possibilities, that Senator Rubio:

**Did not remember his high-school science education.
**Do actually remembers his science, but chose not to say what he thinks lest he antagonizes potential voters.
**He really never heard about it and he does not care about the evidence

… And many other possible reasons, none of them good.

To add the proverbial insult to injury, according to his website:

http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/committee-assignments

Senator Rubio serves on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation! One of the subcommittees is the Subcommittee on Science And Space. This subcommittee, according to the same website has the following responsibilities:

“The Subcommittee has responsibility for science, engineering, and technology research and development and policy; calibration and measurement standards; and civilian aeronautical and space science and policy. The Subcommittee conducts oversight on the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.”

As Darth Vader said when he was told that Padme died:

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

A simple question, my dear readers: If you get a toothache, would you go to a botanist, a zoologist, a dermatologist (feel free to think about all the “-ists” you can think of), etc?

I will go to a dentist, thank you very much.

Why on earth (pun absolutely intended) will a person that by his own admission does not know any science agrees to serve in such a comittee? Worse, how was he allowed to serve there? I know, I know, not the first case, and will not be the last one. The history of the last national election gave us many “wonderful” examples of this kind of thing, and even worse, since all the women’s issues comments (which were almost invariably said by men) affect real lives.

Let’s be honest, you can live all your life believing in a flat earth for example, and you could live a perfectly normal life however wrong your geology may be. With other issues, like the ones above, well, not so much.

That said, Mr. Rubio is in an ostensibly hard-science committee, that among other things, deals with space sciences…

For those reasons and many more. I am soooooooooooooooooooo afraid for my science!!!!

If you want to know what I mean and want to understand my frame of mind please take a look at these posts of mine here, and here.

Now, the anticipated answers to the three main objections to my comments that come to mind:

***Baldscientst said that about Senator Rubio because Mr. Rubio is a Republican Senator.

Nope! I will get equally pi**ed if it were a Democrat, and Independent or a &%^&^%#^ Martian!

**Baldscientst said that about Senator Rubio because Senator Rubio is Latino.

Wrong again! I am latino too, and very much pround of it! (:-)

**Baldscientst is anti-religion.

Strrrrrike three and you are OUT! I am a regular churchgoer, who actually gets in church and listens to what they say. By the way, about church:

Do I have doubts? Yes (and so do you; I don’t care what you say).
Do I have hope? Yes (and again, so do you; I do not care what you say).

Just don’t tell Richard Dawkins, he’ll be mean to me…

My two (maybe a little more) cents.

(:-)

If you want, you may check my About page, follow my blog and “Like” Baldscientist on facebook!

 Photo credit: NASA.  Yes, because they know science.

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17 Comments

  1. I will return to my own blog and leave you to yours. I thought science was discussed here, but now I see that science is agreed to here, not discussed. Feel free to post on my blog if you want–I actually welcome dissent and questioning.

    1. @Reality: Uh, what is this about? I do not dictate what anyone comment here and I certainly welcome discussion. Ironically, I was thrilled of the series of posts that my friend pcawdron and you exchanged. I am truly puzzled, since your Last comment specifically said “… I see that science is agreed to here, not discussed” and yet because you do not agree with what he said, well…

      Also, respectfully, I do not think you can judge what my blog is about because of the comment thread of only one post. I know you love science as much as we do (otherwise you would not blog or even read about it)… We have that in common. I will certainly check your blog out; I encourage you to check out mine (and pcawdron’s for that matter) and if you still feel the same way, it is entirely your right…Cheers!

      1. I have read more than one entry on your blog and the comments associated with them. This is not based on one blog entry.
        If pcawdron is interested in why I disagree, there would be a point to this. However, each comment just says I should believe because science is right. Or explains why the earth cannot be just 6000 years old, a number I do not subscribe to nor did I say that I did. I do not share an undying belief in the veracity and accuracy of science. There are many contradictory beliefs out there and some ideas are presumed to be self-evident when they are not. The age of the earth is one of those things. If you can tell me how a number that changes over and over and over is a hard and fast fact and not just the best theory of the moment, that would be very helpful. It might help me understand why some of science can be so insistent that it is absolutely factual. If the same technology that powers my printers that massively failed today, my TV that goes out in a storm and my mobile phone that drop signals is the basis for the age of the earth, it seems my reluctance to believe may have some basis. If you can tell me why over 4.5 billion years everything except the physical laws needed to calculate the earth’s age all changed, that would help. Why are physical laws immutable? Why, in 4.5 billion years did nothing happen that alter space/time around the earth? How do we know it did not pass through a worm hole where physics is different? All of these questions matter and have a bearing on my belief in the accuracy of science.

    2. I am sorry, but I am not taking the bait. I have been nothing but respectful and upfront in my comments. I will not reply in kind with derisive comments, not even within the safety of my own blog no less, as I have no chip on my shoulder that needs knocked down.

      BTW, this may be of use to you; I updated it based on recent comments in my blog:

      https://baldscientist.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/of-theories-and-theories/

      Oh! you may also be interested to read this one:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-h-bailey/what-on-earth-do-they-thi_b_2162651.html?utm_hp_ref=science

      1. “Take the bait?” What bait? I asked questions. Questions are now bait? Questions are derisive? You balked when I said disagreement was not tolerated so I asked my questions. There’s no winning–If I ask questions, I am derisive. If I don’t ask questions, I am vague. I have no idea what you consider acceptable. Don’t ask, do ask? It makes not sense. At least I will answer any questions I am asked.

  2. As a scientist, I not only can pick and chose, looking at the validity of the study and decide if the rules of science were adhered to, I am obligated to do so. Blind acceptance of science is faith. Science is about questioning everything and always looking for a clearer answer. It is interesting that real scientists always ask for others to verify their results in discoveries and make those discoveries when they ask “is there a better way”. Saying “this is how it is and you better not question it” is not science. It just is not.

  3. I will choose potential answer #2 for $1000.

    You did make that plausable reason #2 intentionally, right?

    And you *should* be afraid, very afraid for your science for more reasons than this, you do know Americans go to the International Space Station ontop a *Russian* rocket because our wise leaders chose to scrub the space shuttle without the foresight to plan-design-build a replacement.

  4. **Baldscientst said that about Senator Rubio because Baldscientist takes facts at face value after logically reasoning through the evidence whereas Senator Rubio is interested only in spin

    @X you are absolutely right.

    1. I was not aware science had advanced to the point we could know one’s motives for certain. While Rubio is a senator and that increases the probability of him advocating spin, I do not believe we can know the age of the earth, but I can tell you wind energy is a bad investment, if you spend more than you earn, it’s a bad idea, I can do calculus, chemistry, etc. Not believing we can KNOW the age of the earth does not mean one does not understand science. It just means I acknowledge the limitations of it.

  5. @List of X: that may well be.
    @Reality: point taken, but let me rephrase a little differently. There is a higher probability of success if you got to a dentist for a toothache than if you go to an invertebrate zoologist. I am a little confused about your remark about PhDs. A PhD is not qualified to treat patients. You’ll need a medical degree. Also, I do not know if I agree with your thinking about historical,science. No type of science can be “proved” historical,or not… Anyway, this is an interesting topic… Let’s see whatbhappens…

    1. Sorry I wasn’t clear on the PhD. That would be psychologists who treat patients. This applies to when a medical illness is misdiagnosed and a person is sent to a psychologist, thinking the problem is psychological.
      I understand that no type of science can be “proved”, but historical science (that which occurred before written language) is destined by a theory forever. It cannot be tested, it can only adapt to new findings.

  6. “A simple question, my dear readers: If you get a toothache, would you go to a botanist, a zoologist, a dermatologist (feel free to think about all the “-ists” you can think of), etc?”
    The answer may be “dentist”, but that does not guarantee that the dentist is actually qualified or skilled enough for your needs. In my life, I have had MD’s and PhD’s make serious errors in science and treatment that caused me extreme harm. I have watched my parents listen to experts and end up nearly dying because the expert/specialist was wrong. I do believe in science but I also believe that human beings make mistakes and science can and does make claims that are very wrong or very exaggerated. Scientists are human.
    Also, historical science is always a theory–it cannot be proven. Claims that it can lead to people having incorrect perceptions of science. There’s a lot of that going around.
    You did cover the subject and I agree that people who are not open to science should stay off science committees, though doubting the age of the earth does not automatically disqualify someone. The actual age of the earth makes no real difference in anyone’s life, does it? If the Senator can assess the impact of shutting down the shuttle program, missions to Mars and so forth, that is the important thing.

    1. @Reality, appreciating the actual age of the earth does make a real difference in people’s lives. Rather than living their lives based on the unfounded conjecture and speculation of others, people can have confidence in the transparency and honesty of science to arrive at an answer that is impartial to opinion & tradition. That is liberating.

      As for “incorrect perceptions of science” I believe that’s the point of BaldScientist’s post. For an elected official to confuse an irrefutable fact like this makes him the source of incorrect perceptions.

      The best evidence against the 6000 year old sun/Earth (4004BC) is that fusion occurs within the heart of the sun where gravity overwhelms the magnetic repulsion of protons (remember +ve and +ve always repels). The gravitational density is so great hydrogen protons fuse to form helium and, wham, lots of energy is produced as a by-product (ie, the sun shines). Now, here’s the clincher. That same density that produced helium from hydrogen and released all that nuclear energy inhibits that same energy from moving outward. It takes roughly 40,000 years for the nuclear energy at the heart of the sun to make its way to the surface. Therefore, if the sun was made in 4004BC on the 4th day, we’d still be in darkness!

      http://www.badastronomy.com/bitesize/solar_system/sun.html

      How remarkable, that the light that bathes us today was originally produced thousands of years before modern civilization began.

      Evidence-based reason is the only way to live. Anything else is stabbing in the dark.

      1. You are saying if I do not believe the age of the earth is an “irrefutable fact” I am not a scientist? Or just if I think the 6000 year number is wrong, thus showing religious zealots are wrong (which seems to be the ONLY possible reason why I would not believe the FACTS of science, right?). I expect to be demeaned and insulted on climate change sights, but it appears that is going to be the case anywhere I dare to question any “absolute, positive, we are never wrong” ideas in science. Which is not science.

        1. @Reality Check as Forbes points out, neither you nor I can cherry pick from science, accepting those ideas we like while rejecting those we don’t. Modern society is built upon the scientific principles that lead us to an understanding that the Earth is billions of years old.

          The same scientific principles that make your TV, computer and mobile phone possible tell us with certainty that the Earth is billions of years old. You can fight against the tide if you want, but you’re only going to end up with wet feet 🙂

          http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/11/19/why-marco-rubio-needs-to-know-that-the-earth-is-billions-of-years-old/

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