A writer is someone who writes, right? A piano player is someone who plays the piano, a painter someone who paints. And so on. So, a scientist is someone who, well, sciences. More precisely, a scientist is someone who tries to understand the material world by applying (roughly) a Baconian approach: all theories are generated by rigorous logic with constant and inescapable reference to observations made in the real world; all theories are tested against objective reality and rejected if they fail to conform; where appropriate, structured experiments are used to tease out needed observations; no effort is spared to escape confirmation bias. Something like that.
Science used to be a little like Christianity, in the sense that ‘by their fruits you shall know them’ – Ben Franklin and Michael Faraday, to take two well-know examples, were great scientists because of their fruitful application of scientific principles. That neither had any formal training, let alone formal certification, in science was and is irrelevant.
Of course, if you want to be a nuclear physicist or a genetic engineer or any number of other highly technical fields, you will almost certainly need to get into a university program, at least to get any access to the equipment used. It’s not so much the formal education, even less the formal certification, that matters – it’s the access to the experts and the tools they use. An Einstein or a Feynman or any true creative expert are self-taught by all accounts – BUT also had extensive opportunities to rub elbows with other geniuses, with whom they could talk and to whom they could show their work. Insofar as formal education provides for these things, it is not at all to be denigrated. I am here only urging one not to mistake the container for the contents.
In the above senses, I am a very slight (and truly humble, even if it may not come off that way) scientist. I confine myself almost exclusively to checking whether the basic rules of science and logic have been followed, most specifically the rules against overstating what the evidence will support and ignoring confirmation bias. Whatever slight technical skills I have are confined to model building and data analysis.
So, it turns out, I am the enemy. Because I don’t reflexively submit to the teachings of the formally certified ‘scientists’, I’m promoting “unorthodox science online.” Here’s a link to William Brigg’s write up on an MIT study by *certified* ‘science’ critters attesting to the badthink of us troublemakers. Also, reader Billy Jack sent me this study last week, when it first came out.
The horror that somebody *not certified by the Academy* would independently apply the rules of science and thus dispute the *consensus* of said Academy is something up with which these folks will not put!
The truly chilling part: that this ‘study’ has not been roundly condemned and laughed off the stage by the real scientists at MIT – which, at least historically, has been home to plenty of them. But, follow the money – where does MIT’s funding come from?
Lysenkoism: not just a bad idea, it’s the LAW.