on July 7, 2000
Many readers are shocked to learn that there exists an orthodoxy within the scientific community that viciously attacks theories outside the mainstream, as well as those scientists daring to research "heretical" ideas. The objectivity inherent in the scientific method cannot control human biases and machinations, however. Science has its share of fanatical, dogmatic defenders of "accepted truth" whose inquisitorial skills are neatly disguised through technical jargon and reductionist logic. Richard Milton succinctly exposes this world and deflates the popular myth that all science is conducted objectively.
This excellent book reveals how theories once summarily (and often cruelly) dismissed by the scientific establishment were later definitively proven through experimentation, demonstration, and replication (i.e., the scientific method). The author also presents many currently heretical theories that, despite repeated experimental validation, remain condemned by the scientific orthodoxy. Lovers of open-minded investigations will appreciate this book's reminder to search for ulterior motives when evaluating criticisms of someone's research. Fairness and objectivity, the author suggests, are essential in evaluating any theories. Be alert, though, when subjectivity taints the scientific ideal.
on March 21, 2001
A dangerous myth has grown up over the last hundred years or so that only scientists have *real* intelligence and knowledge - because the rest of us are just too thick to understand anything more complicated than a TV remote control.
Dangerous, because *some* scientists have used this myth to support a second myth - that they should be allowed to do just about anything they like: Because they are scientists, and the rest of us are too ignorant and stupid to understand how essential this right is.
Dangerous, also, because it is used to divert all criticism on the grounds that no-one else is smart enough or sufficiently unbiased to offer valid criticism of anything that "scientists" do.
Like the review from earlier this year, where Milton is accused of being a "stealth creationist" (what, he's big, and virtually invisible to radar?) because he dares to look at evidence that conflicts with traditional evolutionist dogma.
Well, Milton isn't *any* kind of creationist. He's a qualified electrical engineer and a science writer of over 20 years standing. And I mean a *mainstream* scienctific journalist.
Part of what he is doing in this book is bring us back to the simple recognition that science is a useful *part* of modern life - but not the be all and end all.
To this end he presents us with numerous examples of situations where the "establishment", far from pushing the boundaries of science, has fought tooth and nail to repress anything that threatens the status quo.
Like the Johns Hopkins professor who produced mathematics which proved, beyond doubt, that man-powered flight was impossible - just a week or two before the Wright brothers conducted their first flight.
Like the English scientist who described Edison's attempts to produce a light bulb as a waste of time.
Etc., etc., etc.
But what probably annoys the "scientists" most is Milton's suggestion that it is seldom if ever the scientific establishment which produces new discoveries. On the contrary, Milton indicates, the mainstream scientists, professors, etc. are far too busy hanging on to their positions and power to ever risk rocking the boat.
Thus it was Darwin, a strictly amateur naturalist, who produced the evolutionary hypothesis; it was the Odone's who, against all the medical "knowledge" of the time, produced "Lorenzo's Oil" for the relief of their son's adrenoleukodystrophy (ADD); and so on and so on.
The overwhelming message I got from this book had nothing to do with belittling science. On the contrary, I thought it was an encouragement to see scientists as human beings, with human strengths - as well as human weaknesses.
On one side this may be interpreted as a warning to beware of scientists' very human shortcomings.
I prefer to see it as a collection of examples of how progress has occurred, despite all odds - an encouragement to every maverick to push even harder at the boundaries of 'conventional' wisdom.
How sad it will be if we ever come to a time when we feel that we do not have the right to ask certain questions just because *some* scientists don't like them.
Science is such a lovely thing. Dedicated men and women in starched white lab coats larboring over hot test tubes to make the World Of Tomorrow a virtual paradise for you and me. They labor at rational experimentation, following a strict guideline for research called The Scientific Method. These brave, industrious souls are the latest warriors in a long line who fight the battle against ignorance, superstition, religious nonsense, and Nature Herself in order to win the day for us common folk.
That is more or less the Disney-esque fairy tale as it has been force fed to school children since World War II, if not earlier. The trouble is, this is a load of propaganda that bears very little resemblance to reality or historical fact. Science is a human endeavor, and as such, it is heir to all the foibles of any human endeavor; ego, power mongering, economic scheming, and so on. It has its noble patriots, but also its ignominious villians, and it is often difficult to tell the difference without a program. In the cold fusion witch hunt, MIT researchers falsified data and presented it to the world as factual. The U.S. Patent Office still uses this faked data to deny cold fusion patents despite its having been proven to be fraudulent. So much for our heroes in white lab coats.
The greatest threat to science and scientific progress is not religion, ignorance, or superstition, it is the mistaking of a model or paradigm for Reality, or "laws of Nature." It is the creation of a type of religious fundamentalism around a paradigm - a kind of black and white, authoritarian absolutism about the model. This was a problem in the Wright Brothers' time, and it has actually gotten worse in our day. (There is an Asian saying - the finger pointing at the Moon is not the Moon. Or, more current - the menu is not the meal.)
Milton's book is a very accessible, well done, up-to-date analysis of this situation in science. Like Kuhn, Feyerabend, and others, he looks at scientific intolerance and bureaucratic corruption, specifically through examples of suppressed, ignored, and dismissed research. He discusses historical cases such as the Wright Brothers, Edison's electric light, meteors, and many others to establish the pattern of dismissal and intolerance, then brings us into more comtemporary times for a look at cold fusion, alternative medicine, psychic phenomena and more. He shows how even wanting to investigate such areas will bring down incredible wrath and personal attacks from a supposedly rational scientific establishment. Stories of supposedly rational, intelligent people using their power to intimidate others and suppress research are so common now that they hardly bear mentioning among those in the know. They are a given.
This book is a quite thorough overview of the current state of scientific endeavor. It is well researched and cited, with chapter notes and bibliography at the end. The book is well organized and the information is presented in a clear, intelligent manner. This is NOT an anti-scientific book. It is very much pro-science, but good science, not fundamentalist bureaucratic puffery.
Science is not the ultimate arbiter of Reality, nor is it the seeking of "Truth." Honest science is an attempt to construct, through rational, repeatable experiments, a model of how the universe behaves in order that we may use it to our advantage. Our models can never exceed the level of our current knowledge, and must always change to reflect progress in that knowledge. Science is but one tool for understanding our world, and in order to use a tool properly, one must understand its limitations. This book is an excellent introduction to that understanding.
Another relevant Asian (Chinese, I believe) saying - One who says something is impossible should not interrupt one who is busy doing it. Something naysayers in the scientific establishment have not been been able to learn even after 100 years of hard evidence.
UPDATE February 2010:
As an early Christmas present last November, we were given a perfect example of what is being discussed in this book, and a good look at just how deeply corrupt the scientific community/process has become. This is not some easily-dismissed fringe crackpot, off in some dusty corner of the scientific community. This is the very highest international level of the scientific community, the media, and the policy and financial organizations which control them both.
Even though NASA has been busted numerous (4 or 5 at last count) times for "cooking" their climate data (literally), the recent leak of documents from East Anglia's CRU clearly prove, beyond ANY possible doubt, that the entire global warming scam is an intentional and ongoing fraud of massive proportions at the highest levels of the scientific and international community. The documents detail, in the conspirator's own words, the destruction and corruption of data, blatantly lying to the public, covering the tracks of the conspiracy, and ruining the careers of anyone who might dissent.
As we have watched the last few months, the warming alarmists have tried desperately to spin these revelations into some kind of positive thing for them, just as they have tried to convince people that cooling is really warming that we illiterate public just don't understand (you know the drill: less is more, war is peace, etc.). Of course, the media have downplayed the situation, even though it is a scientific crisis of gargantuan proportions. No surprise there, considering the corruption of the press.
Scientists are constantly crying and whining these days that the public doesn't understand science or trust them enough. I think the public sees corruption like this and knows NOT to trust these clowns at all. Listen, if you REFUSE to keep your colleagues honest, then don't complain that you get tarred with the same brush, because you deserve it every bit as much (aiding and abetting in legal terms). If you allow lies and corrupt data on this scale, don't expect people to accept science as an honest pursuit, because (guess what) it isn't.
The alarmist's behavior is monstrously immoral, unethical, and pathetically antisocial, in addition to being in direct opposition to the stated ideals of science, democracy, and a free society. It is certainly criminal as well, given the large dollars involved in carbon trading scams, and the increased number of people (some say 3 to 4 million or more) who have starved to death because of the diversion of food crops to biodiesel.
The whole global warming community should be investigated for ethical and criminal transgressions of the highest order (and indeed some are, but nothing will come of it because there is too much money behind them). They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and with the same fervor with which they attack those who dissent from their lying and criminal activities. This also goes for the news media who blindly parrot the lies without recourse to proper investigation and balance in the public interest.
I won't even get into the investigations over the latest swine flu swindle. More of the same.
Yeah, we should trust scientists blindly. Right. Now, where was that bridge you wanted to sell me......
on December 18, 2002
"Alternative Science" by Richard Milton is a fantastic book that every scientist should read. I read the book thinking it would discuss some of the bias of social sciences; however, it mostly dealt with the "hard" sciences, to my surprise. For example, it is very taboo to question Darwinism in biology.
The book discusses bias of science that may be surprising. It may be expected that the bias would be research that excluded women as participants, and therefore a gender bias, as is the politically correct bias in science to expose. Yet, this is not where this book leads. The bias of science includes topical bias, such as ridiculing parapsychology experiments and the widespread avoidance of the topic. There is compelling evidence in support of parapsychology, yet this are ignored by scientists and they generally discourage the further investigation of the topic.
Furthermore, the book discusses how scientists are not always so scientific. They name-call and deride what they so not know, all the while wearing the pompous cloak of Authority. Keeping in mind, these are some of the most well know scientists in their fields, not a few on the fringe.
If you are truly a critical thinker, this book is for you. It will make you think again about how our knowledge base arrived at where it is and how it will truly progress in the future.