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Truth is an Illusion

I love science.

I really do, and I don’t think that anyone who pays attention to me can doubt that when I say it. What I’m about to say may come across as exactly the opposite–as someone who doesn’t love science–yet it’s because of my respect for the scientific method that I write this in the first place.

Jokingly, I wrote on Facebook yesterday:

The only time anyone is absolutely wrong is when they assert something as absolutely true.

It’s funny because it’s true.

Now, there is one caveat to a statement like that, and it deals with perception. Yes, I’m talking about perception again. Anything that is dependent upon perception is contingent upon perception, and can only true if the perceptions involved are true. Let’s take Einstein’s General Relativity as an example. As a theory, it can only be true if my perceptions about the universe are correct–if there really is a moon orbiting an Earth orbiting a sun, and all the other things. Whether my perceptions are correct, however, can never be determined.

That’s not enough, though, and it’s not really what I’m discussing today. It’s interesting from a philosophical standpoint, but of no practical use.

A lot of people make fun of the Amish for their almost random decision to stop progressing technology around 1864, as though that level of technology was not too much and not too little. It seems silly to us, and, I would say, it is silly, but we do exactly the same thing with our science.

Every single scientific theory that we hold true today exists because it turned a previous scientific theory that we believed was true on its head. There are no exceptions to this, and probably the most glaring example is the Bohr Atomic Model, which people in chemistry classes throughout the nation still learn about (in fact, my college Chemistry classes taught us the Bohr Model), which presents the image of a nucleus, which consists of protons and neutrons, being orbited by electrons on several different layers. We now know, of course, that this is not true. “Electron cloud” is a more accurate description of what electrons do than “electron layers,” and there’s no such thing as a proton or a neutron–both are combinations of quarks. It’s similar to how we once, thousands of years ago, concluded that all rocks are made of compressed sand, only to learn much later that the sand itself is made of other things and that there’s no such thing as a “sand particle.”

This is not a new thing. Even Einstein observed it, and used the analogy that science is like walking around the path of a mountain, slowly ascending. When you look around at the terrain nearby, your conclusions are limited by what you see. But as you continue to climb, you see that the terrain you saw when you were lower on the mountain is actually less of “what there is” than you thought. We have a long history of believing that the horizon we currently see is the true edge of the world. We have the same problem when it comes to science, believing that whatever we happen to think at a given moment is the truth.

There is a reason that science as a field designates its highest certainty as the theory rather than the fact, and this is exactly why: a theory is only true if all the gathered evidence that went into producing that theory is actually the way it is perceived. Einstein’s General Relativity does a fantastic job of explaining what we’ve observed, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct or true–in fact, we could very easily find out one day that gravity exists because subatomic gremlins hold things together. That’s not likely, granted, but a theory is simply an explanation. There is no way of knowing if it is the correct explanation.

Take, for example, the statement “2 becomes 20.”

How did I get from 2 to twenty? One hypothesis would be that I multiplied 2 by 10. This makes a prediction: if I have 3, then, according to this hypothesis, my end result will be 30.

Suppose, though, that I give 3 = 15.

Uh-oh. You have more evidence and information now than you did when I said 2 = 20 and decided that I’m multiplying by 10. What is your explanation now? What will I do to 4? Would you guess “10”? Would you guess “40”? Would you guess some other number? What hypothesis would you suggest to explain how I got from 2 to 20, and from 3 to 15?

Suppose I give you 4 = 40. Things are starting to become clearer, aren’t they? And then I give you 5 = 25. Now you have enough to actually piece it together. I’m multiplying even numbers by 10, and multiplying odd numbers by 5.

But for a brief period during that, your hypothesis was that I’m multiplying by ten–and you undoubtedly would have believed that hypothesis to be true. Yet it was wrong. Further information revealed that the hypothesis wasn’t correct. This is why “theory” is the highest tier of certainty. Any hypothesis is 100% dependent on the amount of information available.

A scientific theory is not “the truth” or “a fact.” It’s a reasonable explanation that happens to fit the evidence that we have available. Even if that evidence we have is all-inclusive (which it isn’t, never has been, and probably never will be), this doesn’t imply or suggest that the explanation we have proposed is correct–it’s simply an explanation. It is an explanation that fits the evidence, but this in no way suggests that it is true. We have confused “could be true, based on the evidence” with “Yes, that’s absolutely true.”

My fear is that we seem to be moving toward a second Dark Age, one that is being brought about because of faith in “science.” Because people have mistaken “This could be true, based on the evidence” with “This is absolutely true,” they become no different from the dark age priests who asserted absolute truth and condemned as heretics any who dared oppose them. Right now, that innocuous post on Facebook, I’ve defended from two people already, one of whom continues to insist that “truth” can be obtained, despite how that flies directly in the face of the scientific method.

It seems to be leftist reactionism, in fact–a retaliation against the “anti-science” bent on the right. The further the right goes into “science isn’t credible,” the further the left goes into “Our religion is law, heretic, and our religion is science.” I’ve seen people post about GMOs, vaccines, and climate change in regard to the scientific predictions of today’s solar eclipse, as though “science” is as certain in regard to these prior things as it is with the latter. This… isn’t the case at all, firstly–solar eclipses are predicted mathematically. Thus far, the mathematical predictions regarding climate change have been… Well, let’s say “not correct.” Remember how the polar ice caps were supposed to have melted by like 2010 or something?

The most alarming thing, I think, are the tons of people who praise science and the assertion that “Vaccines are perfectly safe.” I’m neither pro nor anti-vaccine. I don’t have children. Vaccines don’t seem to have caused me any problems, so I really don’t give a shit. I’ve not researched it extensively because I don’t really give a shit.

However, I do know–because I have a scientific mind–that anyone who asserts that “vaccines are absolutely safe” is full of shit. It’s impossible to prove a positive claim. It’s impossible in both theory and in practice. These modern day adherents to the religion of science are professing absolute truth, are professing to know something that their very own religion confirms is impossible to know. It doesn’t particularly matter to me whether vaccines do or don’t have negative side effects. However, the statement “Vaccines do no harm” is pseudo-science. It’s magical woo. It’s bullshit.

And let us not forget that, for decades, “high fructose corn syrup” was “perfectly safe.” Oops. We turned the nation into obese diabetics. Moreover, “anti-biotics” were “perfectly safe.” Oops. We caused the evolution of viruses that have the Promiscuous Gene, which, because it’s promiscuous, is causing an alarming and terrifying spread of antibiotic-resistant viruses and bacteria. “Oops” indeed. Our “perfectly safe” antibiotics probably will have killed us all, in the end. Once upon a time, even smoking cigarettes was “perfectly safe.” Aspartame is now considered “perfectly safe,” though it was, 60 years ago, considered a poison. Fluoride in the water is considered “perfectly safe,” even though it’s the same crap dentists tell you “Don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes” after they put it in your mouth. So I think the phrase “perfectly safe” is not something that anyone should use if they wish to be taken seriously.

What is my point?

I don’t really have one, except to say that…

Nothing is known, because nothing can be known, except those very few things that transcend perception. Everything else can only be a possible explanation for what is observed, and will be entirely dependent upon “what is observed.” Since “what is observed” is never the totality of what can be observed, it’s inevitable that the explanation will be changed to fit observations made further down the road. And even then, even if we could gather all evidence, it would still be contingent upon the perceptions of the person observing the evidence, which cannot be demonstrated as valid.

And that’s among the truest statements that “science” could possibly say.

Absolute certainty doesn’t exist. Reasonable certainty is all there is.

Bill Nye is Anti-Science

When I first noticed that people were using the descriptor “intelligent” not to denote people who seemed to have higher-than-average levels of intelligence, but to mark allies in political agreement, I posted that something was wrong and that it was going to get worse:

Intelligence has become the new deity.

“If you believe what I believe, then you are smart. If you are smart, then you will believe what I believe.”

An outward thing from which a person derives their own net worth–the problem is that the “outward thing” is actually an inward thing. In true Dunning-Kruger fashion, people judge their own intelligence by their own ideas, and since they always believe their own ideas to be correct, they always judge themselves to be intelligent.

I’m sure we’ve all run into this. At some point, someone has surely said something to you that was similar to, “You seem really smart… You should read this” or “… You should watch this video.” It carries with it the most dangerous of subtleties: “If you are actually smart, then you’d agree with me. Maybe you don’t have the information that I have. Here’s that information. If you still don’t agree, then I was wrong about you being smart.”

In fact, I’ve been called an “idiot” probably more than anyone I’ve ever met, and this insult has never been thrown at me in any context other than political disagreement. No one could ever possibly mistake me for an idiot. Whether I’m correct or incorrect is unrelated to that. In reality, if I say something and someone thinks I’m an idiot for it, then the much more likely answer is that they simply didn’t understand what I said in the first place.

Intelligence isn’t a prerequisite of being right, and neither is being right an indicator of intelligence. Some of the greatest minds in human history were wrong about any number of things. Being correct is a factor of knowledge and nothing else. Even someone with an IQ of 250 will be wrong about any number of things, simply because we lack a lot of information, and their unnaturally high IQ will do nothing to prevent them from being wrong.

Once more, it’s all about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is one of the most breathtaking psychological breakthroughs in human history. A person judges their own understanding of who is and isn’t intelligent relative to their own intelligence. I pointed out yesterday that we judge value systems relative to our own value systems–all of this is obvious, and the ties to Nietzsche’s philosophy and Austrian economics are equally obvious. We judge the value systems of other cultures by our own value system, and compare them relative to our own; ours are our own, so we like ours, and the more different the other systems are to ours, the more we dislike them. It’s impossible to escape from this, because my love for liberty-oriented value systems forms the basis that I use to assess the value of other systems. It’s also the case with intelligence: my only gauge for assessing other people’s intelligence is my own intelligence.

Several “celebrated scientists” have been exhibiting exactly the behavior that Murray Rothbard and others wrote about. They have become pimps of their scientific credibility in the employ of the state and the status quo. In fact, they have sacrificed their right to call themselves scientists and are about as anti-science as any group of people could be.

These guys.

Modern priests

What is this illustrious word “science?” What does it mean? What does it entail? If it is to be anything more than just a cheap and gaudy rubberstamp that we apply to whatever ideology we happen to believe, then it must have an actual meaning–which, ironically, is a statement that any scientist would agree with. Definitions are important, because they form the basis of the words that we use to understand and communicate the world. A simple Google search gives us:

the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

I can’t help but wonder if that definition makes Stephen Hawking, Bill Nye, and Neili deGrasse Tyson blush and feel ashamed. It should.

Of course, my argument against them is part of the problem, isn’t it? I have no problem recognizing that. In the vein of any actual scientist, I see my own bias and absolutely insane demands of these human beings, that they must apply the scientific method in all areas of their lives, and that they aren’t allowed to deviate from it. In fact, it is I who is accusing them of heresy, isn’t it? They have violated my religion of Science by disgracing its methods, much like a Christian violating Christianity by disgracing the teachings of Christ.

My problem with them is that they should apply the Scientific Method and don’t.

This combines with the masses’ misunderstanding that they do apply the Scientific Method.

In effect, I’m demanding of them what the masses of people think they are already doing. “Surely we can trust Neil Tyson’s statements about art and science funding! He’s a scientist!” Of course, it was not terribly long ago that Neil Tyson asked his many, many Twitter followers if they truly wanted to live in a world without art, framing all of reality as a false dichotomy built on the idea that if the government doesn’t do something, then it can’t be done. The obvious problems with this stupidity don’t need to be pointed out–didn’t I just buy tickets to see a musical concert? The government didn’t buy those tickets.

Bill Nye went on CNN and made the statement that the Constitution authorizes Congress to fund the sciences, and made mention of Article I, Section 8. It’s true that this is the section that enumerates Congressional power, but nothing else that Nye said is remotely true, as the passage that Nye quotes leaves off highly significant data. What do we call a “scientist” who discards a large part of the data because it isn’t convenient to his hypothesis?

“Formerly employed,” perhaps.

“Not a scientist.” Yes, that’s another option.

In fact, the section of the Constitution to which Bill Nye refers explicitly enumerates Congressional power without ambiguity, and the full passage asserts that Congress may promote the arts and sciences by securing patents for the respective authors and inventors. It is authorization to issue patents, not authorization to issue money. There’s no way that Nye could have accidentally read the first part of the sentence and not the second part. This was, we must conclude, an intentional ploy to convince the people who take him at his word as a reliable source that the Constitution authorizes Congress to fund scientific research. In the interest of scientific integrity, I will provide the evidence to support my contention:

Congress shall have the power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

So this is two “celebrated scientists” who have been thoroughly disloyal to the precepts of science–the Scientific Method, the Bible of Science. Since so few people are calling them out on their heresy, allow me to do so:

Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, you have betrayed your church, and you should both repent and make restitution. This restitution should come in the form of public apologies on no less than six occasions throughout the next six weeks–two in written, two in aural, and two in video form. That shall be your penance.

I may sound like I’m joking, and I am, to a degree. I don’t expect Nye and Tyson to ever back down from their arrogant betrayal of the scientific method and wanton displays of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, much less to ever issue a single apology for the stupid shit they have said. However, I’m serious about my loyalty to the scientific method, to reason, and to evidence, and I’m serious that clearly these three men cannot say the same.

What of Hawking? Well, Hawking has repeatedly waxed at length about the evils of capitalism and how only world government can save us from its oppressive destruction. Never mind that anyone who has taken even a single introductory college-level economics course can attest to the scientific fact that we do not have capitalism anywhere on planet Earth. So I’m calling out Hawking on clearly never studying economics, yet routinely attempting to talk about economics as though he has any idea what in the hell he’s talking about. Clearly, he doesn’t, and any first-year college student could confirm that.

So to these three heretical priests, I say:

Repent! The end is Nye.

What we’re seeing is a more of an revival than a renaissance, as the precepts of science have been tossed in the trash with reckless abandon. What else can we conclude, when “celebrated scientists” make claims that they either know to be false, trusting that the masses will believe them, or are simply too ignorant on the subject to know whether their claim is false at all?

Yet this hasn’t stopped the masses–the precise characteristics which makes them “the masses,” after all, is that they aren’t interested in independently discovering truth and will blindly follow whatever ideology is handed down to them from “trusted authorities”–from swallowing all of it, with Tyson’s demonstrably false, fallacious, and erroneous spiel seeing tens of thousands of retweets by people who have no desire to think the matter through for themselves.

Trust has been placed in these three people, by the masses of people, who, again, are defined “as the masses” precisely by their lack of interest in pursuing these matters intellectually, and these three people have utterly betrayed that trust. Yet the masses don’t know it, do they? No, because the masses aren’t interested in scrutinizing the words of their favorite priests. For the masses, these poisoned, fallacious ideas enter the mind unchallenged, and there they embed themselves; the masses never stop to ponder the false dichotomy that Tyson has proposed, or what credentials Stephen Hawking might have to discuss economics rather than cosmology.

And I’m as qualified to call myself a scientist as Bill Nye.

I haven’t researched this recently, and seem to recall Nye having a Master’s, but maybe not.

In fact, if a “scientist” is someone who liberally applies the scientific method to questions, then I’m infinitely more qualified. Bill Nye has the advantage in that this actor and performer managed to get a kids’ show where he cheaply purchased credibility among the masses and became a trusted authority figure. Indeed, I find myself wondering whether Bill Nye was purposely planted there when we were kids precisely for this purpose–precisely for using him to peddle statism and the status quo once we became adults. It wouldn’t be the most extravagantly dangerous thing the state ever did. After all, they took control of the entire education apparatus and have been using it to manipulate the masses for 60 years. Now those people raised by the state education are adults and in charge, and the idea of dismantling that apparatus is met with knee-jerk angry reactions; the idea is rejected without consideration.

Give me their minds through their formative years, and by the time they’re adults I can have them convinced of anything. I can have them saying it’s okay to kill people who disagree with them, that people of one race deserve to be annihilated or enslaved, that it’s okay to steal things if they want those things… The mind of a child is not critical. By the time they are able to think critically, the ideas I plant will already be firmly in their minds, forming the very lens through which they view the world.

We have rarely been in more danger of a religious sentiment overtaking reason, and Nye, Tyson, Kaku, and Hawking are leading the charge. “Science” isn’t a set of beliefs that one must adhere to or be a heretic. I’ve seen “pro-science” people do the metaphorical equivalent of burning people at the stake for dare challenging one of the items in their set of beliefs, and I’m sure you’ve seen the same. “Science” is a methodology. Anyone who demands that you acquiesce to a set of beliefs and ideas that they have put forward is peddling religion, not science.

If they can’t present evidence, if they can’t present a reasonable argument, and if they can’t prove their position, based on all available evidence, is sound, then they are unworthy of trust. If they ignore huge amounts of information simply because it’s inconvenient to their hypothesis, then they are engaging in cherry-picking, another hallmark of religion, rather than science.