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article imageOp-Ed: The 'science' of impossibility — A disease at the soul of science

By Paul Wallis     Mar 24, 2011 in Science
Science is getting as bad as Creationism in one way. It’s refusing to even consider its own principles. “Thou shalt have no other equation” could easily be applied to E=mc2, and whole new concepts are routinely relegated to heresy/science fiction.
Being a pompous idiot isn’t entirely unknown in the sciences. Fearlessly agreeing with established theory and forming self admiring groups is roughly the equivalent of “Duh… Yeah, boss”. For a genre of human thought and practices supposedly based on objective peer review, infantile peer pressure is pretty common… and profitable.
The negativist type of science starts with the basic concept that something is impossible, or at least very improbable. If you know anything about the history of science and its various blunders and mistakes, you’ll appreciate the irony. Newton got his law of gravity, upon which E=mc2 is based, wrong. Others got the mass acceleration part of kinetic energy wrong, and “discovered” that human beings couldn’t survive travel at more than 25mph, apparently to prove that steam trains were a bad idea. Whole generations of academics, nevertheless, solemnly educated whole generations of students in these entirely incorrect methodologies.
As a matter of fact, a large part of the basic principles of modern science had to fight to even be heard when they were discovered. The current version of this staggering level of stupidity is the “new” negativism, which is the spitting (euphemism) image of the original.
As usual, everything is impossible according to negativist scientists or anyone claiming to have scientific views, and following the best Sophist traditions, proof of the contrary is stridently demanded. Some of these people call themselves skeptics, but it’s interesting to note that their “skepticism” invariably falls within conventional forms which date pretty much from the Victorian era. They’d dispute evolution, given an audience, but not with biologists, botanists, zoologists or anyone able to make a strong argument.
As a matter of fact, they usually conform strictly to basic conservative views. Ideas are rejected on principle, not on merit. Browbeating in groups and insistence on safe ground for discussion are the notable characteristics. The negativists are hardly innovators. Most Sophists are harmless enough of themselves, barely able to hold a conversation on their own.
The problem is that their qualifications make them plausible to others. They can parrot their ways through their degrees and get publicity for their theories of the impossible. Despite being serial non-contributors of anything of any value to anyone or anything, they’re considered experts, and roam mass media like bad smells.
These are typical negativist impossibilities in the media:
1. Interstellar travel
2. Space travel capabilities in general
3. Life on other worlds
4. Clean energy
5. Alternative energy
6. Cures for diseases
7. Any biological technology which can be considered publicity-worthy
8. Anything which contradicts existing knowledge
9. Anything involving new ideas
It’s a long list, but you get the idea. These are, by the way, all conservative principles in some form. It was once mentioned that UFOs couldn’t exist because it would make the Bible look a bit silly. Alternative energy, the anathema of fossil fuels, lobbyists and corrupt politicians, is another bugbear for conservatives. Curing diseases would cut into pharmaceutical products. A disease based on controlling growth hormones, for example, could be cured in seconds with the right growth inhibitors, (proven back in the 1980s) but it’s a trillion dollar industry, so there’s not much danger of that happening. New ideas are forbidden, because they require thought, might prove someone wrong about something, etc, etc.
Denial, the variant on describing things as impossible, is also a great option for people having nothing to say of any value. I actually had someone tell me on a forum that a medical condition called pellagra, a Vitamin B3 deficiency which causes death and insanity, didn’t exist. It does, but why let facts get in the way?
What would be the motive for describing things as impossible? Why find so many excuses to describe interstellar travel, (which is the alternative to spending a few billion years on Earth playing accountant and watching crappy media before the sun goes nova), as impossible?
Perhaps more to the point, why give publicity to negatives? Would someone who didn’t discover a cure for cancer get publicity? No. Do people whose mission in life seems to be to denigrate even the possibility of new discoveries get publicity? Yes, and a lot of it.
The only people with the slightest interest in declaring things impossible are those with a reason for them to be considered impossible. The only people who can be convinced that there’s an atom of fact in negativism are those with something to gain out of it. So an industry of negativism is born. Like third rate psychologists, convinced that their every word is a gem of priceless value to the ignorant, the negativists drone on. Whole classes of science are effectively abused.
It’s more effective than it looks. Real scientists may not be exactly impressed, and nor are people who are scientifically literate, but there are, after all, other people involved, and they’re decision makers. There’s also money involved. If you’re going for a grant or project funding, and Dr. Ima Verboseprat gets up and says your entire field of science is a joke, unworthy of receiving a donation of urine while oxidizing, where does the money go? To something with the stamp of approval of a clique of self-appointed experts, perhaps?
Sleazy, isn’t it? It’s about as ideological as Wall Street. Impossibility is a actually a reliable working methodology for spin. Those most prone to believing spin are:
1. Politicians
2. Policy makers
3. Public Relations
4. People terrified of negative publicity
5. Management scientists
6. Conformists of all persuasions
7. Other invertebrate idiots
In short, the entire ecology of high level science administration. Like crime, where there’s money involved, you find gravy train riders.
If you’re looking for elegance, scientific principles and real thinkers, you’re quite safe from all of them in this environment. Not a single thought will ever darken these craniums. These are people who know how to audit their dandruff, but couldn’t start or finish a sentence related to a conscious action without a lawyer.
The joke is that the negativists, pathetic as they are as alleged human beings, are good psychologists, at least to this extent. They couldn’t win a raffle in a contest with competent people, so they target people who are incompetent by definition. What does a politician know about physics? What does a PR person know about hormonal therapy? What does a publicist or management scientist know about facts? Very safe ground for any sophist to carve out a career.
And they get paid, well, for it. Ever see a scientific non-thinker out of a job, or out of funding? It’ll never happen. A lot of money goes into keeping the smug, useless “science of impossibility” alive and thriving.
The solution for real scientists is bypass the idiots. You need to talk on your own level to people who know how to do business on that level. Guard your intellectual property rights and try to grow a few extra sets of eyes to watch your back.
Just one other thought-
Science is about survival. It’s not about what we know, it’s about what we don’t know. To say anything is impossible is to admit defeat.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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