NASA ILLUSIONARY – HOW SCIENCE WORKS

Photo by Hyeenus

“Something that deceives the senses or mind, e.g. by appearing to exist when it does not or appearing to be one thing when it is in fact another.”

This is the definition of “illusion.” After you’ve read this post, maybe you’ll see why I used the adjective form of the word in the title above.

How are important scientific discoveries communicated to the public?

An “authority,” like NASA, publishes a press release over a latest discovery.

In some cases, like the recent one concerning the NASA Astrobiology Institute, details are given for an upcoming briefing where astounding new findings will be uncovered.

The public waits for the mammoth announcement.

A few days later a declaration is made.  The story hits the mainstream news stations, newspapers, and internet.

Before the advent of the internet, the T.V. or print news story would generally be heard ONE TIME by the masses.

A follow-up story is rare, unless it is a REALLY BIG story.

Thus, the average “Joe” is usually left asking himself what really happened.  Some folks, of course, accept the words of the “authority” and have their minds molded by an occasional blip in the mainstream.

It’s just my opinion but: THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY HAS DONE A HORRIBLE JOB OF COMMUNICATING REALITY TO THE PUBLIC.

Mono Lake, California/Photo by Satosphere

This being stated, how do scientific discoveries become accepted within scientific circles?

Discoveries are supposed to be peer reviewed. This means that the scientists’ peers are supposed to study any “new” finding. This is how things work inside of the scientific community.

Peer review (1) does the same thing for science that the “inspected by #7” sticker does for your t-shirt: provides assurance that someone who knows what they’re doing has double-checked it. In science, peer review typically works something like this:

  1. A scientist or group of scientists completes a study and writes it up in the form of an article. They submit it to a journal for publication.
  2. The journal’s editors send the article to several other scientists who work in the same field (i.e., the “peers” of peer review).
  3. Those reviewers provide feedback on the article and tell the editor whether or not they think the study is of high enough quality to be published.
  4. The author or authors may then revise their article and resubmit it for consideration.
  5. Only articles that meet good scientific standards (e.g., acknowledge and build upon other work in the field, rely on logical reasoning and well-designed studies, back up claims with evidence, etc.) are accepted for publication.

Photo by paurian

You can imagine the length of time and effort it takes to get published in a peer-reviewed journal.  A very small percentage of articles submitted ever get published.

That’s how it is supposed to work.  I am only familiar with this process because years ago I read how one of one of my favorite scientists waded through the process successfully.

Just like most other things in our world today, I think this process has been politicized.

I will define what I mean by “politicized.”  I mean:

“the use of tactics and strategy to gain power in a group or organization.”

I could use many examples to explain this opinion.  The most obvious, however, is the recent NASA fiasco.

NASA made a recent announcement that it said would “impact the search for extraterrestrial life.” (Scroll down a few posts to see the story.)

A comment like that will get immediate attention.  I won’t speculate on why NASA wants the attention.

Now there are questions about NASAs methods – scientific and otherwise.

Other scientists are questioning the research behind the NASA findings.

“I was outraged at how bad the science was,” University of British Columbia microbiology professor Rosie Redfield said in  a scathing critique of the report on her blog.

I clicked on the “scathing critique” underlined just above and read parts of Professor Redfield’s observations and the comments that followed.  They are quite surprising.

“This paper should not have been published,” said University of Colorado molecular biology professor Shelley Copley.

You can read an entire article, including the professional quotes I have shared, below (2).  It seems NASA is having “holes poked in its arsenic-eating microbe discovery.”

AND NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION:

How many folks heard in some mainstream source that NASA has found evidence of extraterrestrials…and never heard the rest of the story?

I heard the rest of the story thanks to an internet blog that I often check (3). The information made it clear that the NASA’s Astrobiology Institute has to answer some serious questions.

Did NASA Astrobiologists have to endure the rigorous peer-review process that others do?  Evidently not.

Momo Lake/Photo by gangakinarewala

I’m left with two questions. I’ll take a shot at the first one.

Why is this subject important?

It is important because the truth is important.  After all, isn’t it truth that philosophers and scientists are after?

I think we are all philosophers to some degree.  Everyone “seeks to understand and explain the principles of existence and reality.”

That’s philosophy.

Most people have made a decision about the cause of their existence whether they took 60 minutes or 60 years to do so.

In the past 150 years, “science” has played a major part in many philosophical decisions.  I have no argument with that.

Science is supposed to be, after all, “the study of the physical and natural world and phenomena, especially by using systematic observation and experiment.”

The definition of science doesn’t contradict the definition of philosophy when it comes to seeking the truth.  We observe things and we make conclusions based on what we’ve seen.

My philosophy is built on something that claims to be “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

This is a self-description of the Word of God.  It claims to be the truth.

I have studied the major religions and philosophies.  I have found Christianity to be vastly unique compared to anything else.

Just because the philosophy of Christianity is based, in the end, on faith doesn’t mean that it will contradict the study of the physical and natural world and phenomena (science).

Blue Adonis/Photo by Tom Hickmore

In fact, I think the more we learn, the more God’s word will be recognized as truth, historically and scientifically.

We are living in a time when many churches aren’t teaching simple Bible truths and when many scientists aren’t holding to basic principles of their discipline.

This brings me to my second and much more difficult question:

“What’s the public to believe?”

Chris Reimers

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(1) http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/howscienceworks_16

(2) http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20101208/sc_yblog_thelookout/scientists-poking-holes-in-nasas-arsenic-eating-microbe-discover

(3) “Suze Blog” and “Notes From a Retired Preacher can be found in my blogroll at the upper right side of this page.

2 Responses to NASA ILLUSIONARY – HOW SCIENCE WORKS

  1. sueliz1 says:

    Great article, Chris!

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