Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The True Definition of Backward Science

Nowhere in the industrialized world is science more misunderstood or resented than in the United States. The prevalence of Fundamentalists and other groups have created an environment where scientific theory is presented as on a level with--in both veracity and import--the emotional and irrational biases of untrained citizens.

Some have even taken to classifying science as a 'religion,' as much as reliance on emperical evidence above pure wishes costitutes a religion. There are too many inaccuracies involved in that comparison to ennumerate them all, but for one, when a scientific theory meets contradictory evidence (which is subsequently repeated and reviewed), the theory changes. The corollary to that premise is that conclusions cannot be formed first, and empirical evidence collected later.

Don't tell that to Republicans in the Alaska state legislature, though.

The state Legislature is looking to hire a few good polar bear scientists. The conclusions have already been agreed upon -- researchers just have to fill in the science part.

As far as I can tell, the author wrote this absurdity without a trace of irony or skepticism. Whatever conclusions the lawmakers might want reached (here, the ability to drill for oil devoid of environmental inhibitions), handing over pre-determined conclusions for scientists to sign their name to is antithetical to every standard of scientific integrity.

Science, by its nature, is reliant upon a strict set of standards and procedures, the abandonment of which would invalidate the entire enterprise. Just because some legislators think that facts and empirical evidence are equally valid with pre-ordained conclusions based solely on their whims and ambitions doesn't mean taxpayers should be forced to finance their endeavor.

One need not be a fervent environmentalist to see the problem here. At stake is not this single issue of Alaskan polar bears, but rather the entire premise that scientific theory founded on conclusions first and manufactured evidence second is equally valid as investigation done with the proper relationship.

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