Independent Investigations
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ROADBLOCKS TO DISCOVERY


There are times in my life where I think back to the years I spent teaching high school science and wonder about the type of things that I would be presenting to my classes had I remained in the profession.  The choice to leave the teaching profession had nothing to do with a loss of faith in the profession or a lack of enthusiasm for presenting scientific discovery and theory to young people about to make their mark on their world.  Sadly, the decision was made for largely economic reasons. 

The collection of scientific data and the application of scientific inquiry has been a fascination of mine since I can remember.  I have always been attracted to the mental processes involved in critical thinking and scientific discovery.  The courses I took that led up to my degree in Biology were not work for me.  Teaching high school science was not work for me.  Both were a place of fascination and discovery.  The fascination with these things has obviously been passed down to both of my children, one with degrees in Chemical and Mechanical Engineering and working towards a doctorate, another with a degree in Psychology, one semester away from a Biology degree and  on her way to med school.  Earnest inquiry is obviously an important part of life for members of this family.

With that being said, of late I have been taking a hard look at climate science and the effects  our lifestyles have on the environment we are supposed to be preserving for future generations.  I can remember teaching long ago about what was called the “greenhouse effect”.  At that time the scientific theory supporting this phenomena was basically in its’ infancy.  Since that time, years of scientific data and inquiry have brought about a greater understanding of causes and effects brought about by the waste products of our lifestyles.  As with any scientific data and theory generated within the scientific community, what we know today is different from what we knew a year ago.

This should not come as any surprise to any taking the time to read this information.  Sometimes it takes a great deal of time for those who think a certain way to change their way of thinking.  Sometimes what we know at a certain time is absolutely inaccurate.  What we know today, will be replaced by new discoveries.  If science is about any particular thing, it is about collecting data and seeing where that data leads. Scientific inquiry and theory must be challenged. Over time, the process of challenging “truth” results in new understanding.  It has always been so.   Let me give you a few examples.

Galileo believed that the earth moves around the sun, a fact that is now well-established.  However, the Roman Catholic Church waited 359 years to admit that Galileo was correct.  For the life of me, I don’t understand how belief in Galileo’s theory in any way challenged the beliefs of the church.  Yet the Vatican condemned Galileo, the man Albert Einstein called the father of modern science. It wasn’t until 1992 that the Vatican officially withdrew its’ condemnation. 

There was a time when people thought it was absolutely suicidal to get on a ship and sail the ocean blue.  Fears of falling of the edge of the earth were very real.  It took a while but eventually it was proven that Earth indeed was round and that there was no place to fall off!

A more recent example is related to my experiences teaching about the condition now known as AIDS during the 1980’s.  I can remember the first time I gave information to my Anatomy and Physiology classes about a condition that was affecting homosexual males in the San Francisco area.  There was intense interest in the topic, and questions about the disease came at me at a rapid-fire pace from my high school juniors and seniors in my classes.  Since the knowledge of the causes and effects were largely unknown at first, I could only present information that was “known”.  At that time, female students had no fears about contracting the disease.  At that time, males in my classroom who were heterosexual had no fear.  All I could tell them with any degree of accuracy was at that time only a small population of male homosexuals had contracted the disease.  Anyone who was not a homosexual male living in San Francisco had no fear of contracting the disease.  What we knew at that time was limited.  As the months and years passed my teachings on the subject changed dramatically.  As discoveries were made, the “truth” about AIDS changed.  Such is the nature of scientific and medical discovery.  At that time I can remember telling my classes that the worlds body of medical knowledge would double every five years. The ever-changing nature of science is fascinating to me.  After a while, I learned to preface my comments with the following statement: “The data indicates that this is the truth, future data may force us to make changes in what we believe”. 

Pure scientific inquiry is not impacted by ideology, political pressure, or potential for financial gain or loss.  Pure scientific inquiry is accomplished without any forces that affect the ability of the inquirer to make discoveries, interpret data, and continue to challenge accepted “truth”.  The Catholic Church’s condemnation of Galileo was brought about by “spiritual ideology”.  Basically, the Vatican’s believed that the theory being espoused by one of the great minds of that century contradicted their set of beliefs.  That which contradicted their belief was a threat to their existence, and as such, must have been generated by forces contradictory to their way of thinking.  Galileo was put on trial and forced to recant his theory under the penalty of death.  He then lived under house arrest for the remainder of his days.  Ideology, whether spiritually based, or politically based, impedes discovery.  It also tends to restrict legitimate scientific inquiry.

Sadly, political pressure also impacts and impedes discovery.  When the processes of science are impeded by political pressure, the process of discovery is stifled and the inhabitants of the planet suffer.  I will be addressing the topic of the impacts of political pressure throughout my writings in the future. 

There have always been financial restrictions on the processes of scientific inquiry.  In a nutshell, if a scientific discovery impacts the financial future of a corporation or individuals, there will be incredible amounts of money spent to restrict any loss of income by those whose financial gain will be affected. If you don’t believe this, try to discover how much money was spent by the tobacco industry to stifle research and cloud the truth regarding the health effects of smoking.  The amount of money is staggering.

Getting back to my initial question about what I would be presenting to my science classes had I remained in the teaching profession, I think I would spend more time teaching about the importance of the process of inquiry and discovery and do my best to warn my students about forces in place that restrict their expression.

Any roadblock to inquiry and discovery impedes progress and endangers the inhabitants of our planet.  For those who doubt this, take a look at the history of the research funds made available during the Reagan Administration and how this restriction impeded discoveries that would have saved lives.  Funding was restricted and people died because of a lack of understanding caused by a lack of discovery.  Don’t believe this because I brought it up.  Do your own research on it.  You will discover what many already know, that the AIDS research was significantly restricted by a lack of funding.  Political, ideological, and financial roadblocks worked together to keep us in the dark about a disease that killed thousands. 

In 2011, these same roadblocks exist in ways that restrict scientific inquiry.  The costs of these roadblocks are incredibly high.  As a resident of the country and the planet, you can’t afford to be in the dark about these things.  My goal is to get individuals to recognize and question ideological, political, and financial pressure and view the results of scientific inquiry for what they are in their pure state without the noise that influences opinion and increases ignorance. 

In my next post I will present specific information about past efforts to stifle scientific inquiry and expression and why these efforts were so effective and costly to all of us.

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2 Responses to “ROADBLOCKS TO DISCOVERY”

  1. Good piece. Galileo, by the way, was in trouble because the Church believed that the bible taught that a heliocentric galaxy was a falsehood. They took this from the phrase in the Joshua story that “the sun stood still”, meaning that the sun stopped moving across the sky. If the earth rotated around the sun, that particular phrase could not be taken literally. Of course, if the Holy Spirit had inspired Joshua to write,”the earth stopped rotating around the sun” no one would’ve had a clue what that meant for about 3000 years. The absolutely validity of the church’s interpretation of the bible was key to the church maintaining power.

    Secondly, it’s sad that environmental issues have become political (not that they haven’t always been). It’s crazy for a Christian to stop caring about the environment because it’s supposedly a ‘left-wing’ thing to care about. At Creation, humans were blessed with peace (shalom) with God, nature, and each other. At the Fall, all 3 areas of peace were shattered. Note that the very first thing that happened was they noticed their nakedness, then hid from God, then blamed each other for the deed (broken relationship with God and each other). As a result, nature itself was under a curse. In Jesus’ own words, he came to “restore all things”. It’s no coincidence that when he arose, he was in a garden and the women mistook him for a gardener. The symbolism was intentional. The restoration of all things was at hand. John Wesley said that “true Christianity is God, in Christ, restoring men to the condition they had prior to the Fall.” Conversion brings about an Edenic condition. One therefore cannot be a born-again Christ follower and ignore the environment. It’s all part of God’s plan of redemption.

  2. Wow Mr. Hodges. Being a Christian I completely agree with you. Of course I had quite a battle having to break away from the spitirual paradigms I had been taught. People of all different types are so deeply committed to their ideas that it seems they’re willing to sacrifice rationality for safety.

    I agree with Kevin too. I still don’t understand why Conservatives are always so anti-greenpeace or have no care in the world regarding our planet.

    For me reading a Christian Philospher was what helped me break away from the gridlock I had been raised in. The fear of standing alone like Galileo was overwhelming. Once the critical thinking began, I never looked back.

    Can’t wait to read more.

    Thanks!


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