How Scientific Is Science?

I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to a young scientist the other day, hi Hugh, and it was a pleasure as although I’m not a scientist I do love science. It’s not just because of the mind bending trips you can go on within the realms of science. No, no, no. It’s because science is empirical, which then quite obviously must exclude psychiatry and physiology…but that is a whole different conversation. It’s empirical. There are numbers which means measurements and comparisons and formulas and patterns and possibilities and variables and vibrations and on and on. Fantastic. It removes the “I think” and “I feel” from discussion…Anyway, I shared this with the young scientist who agreed wholeheartedly, except the psychiatry and psychology bit; that was more of a begrudging acceptance and I think I only got that as he had already agreed with the empirical point. I knew this was going to be an interesting conversation. So I also shared with him my disappointment with science. How so, he inquired. Well, I answered slowly, it’s a shame that science it so un-scientific. Now I really had his attention as well as a very confident “How can you say that?” reply. Well, I answered, avoiding the literal response to a badly formulated question, It’s a shame it’s so selective I replied. What?, no it’s not. how do you mean? was shot back. Well, I gently explained, if the science does not fit the story it does not get included in the story, it gets left out. And the confident although empathetic reply due to the condition I must have; No it doesn’t. Name an example where this has happened. Now, I have been doing some revision of my documentaries recently and the perfect example gently came to the for; Prof. Cynthia Irwin-Williams, an archeologist…ever heard of her? No? I thought so. As I said; it gets left out.
In the 60’s Dr. Cynthia Irwin-WIlliams decided to do a dig in Mexico where she perceived there had been some early habitation. It resulted in all the disciplines of archaeology participating in the dig making it the most documented dig of all time. Dr. Cynthia realised she was correct when they started finding artefacts. The deeper they dug the more they found. This was looking at being a huge discovery but as the dig became deeper and therefore older her concern started to grow. She knew that if the artefacts were less than 18 or 20,000 years old she would be alright. The accepted story is that the Clovis Peoples arrived in North America approx 10-11,000 years ago, give or take. 18,000 years old would mean a great find that would be a rocky road but navigable nonetheless. After all she was using the best Carbon 14 dater around, someone she had worked with before and someone who the Smithsonian uses frequently. Waiting for the call must have been horrible but it came. When Mr Carbon 14 opened with “you may not like the results” her concern seemed justified. Oh no, they are 20-22,000 year old right? No, he said, actually they are 200,000 – 250,000 years old. Now, I would be thinking that this would make the dig one of the most famous and well known but no. Dr. Cynthia Irwin-Williams never worked again. Her find was too far from the story. Too many people make a living selling the other story. Whole curricular are based on the accepted story. People would have to admit they were wrong. The area of the dig was deemed as archaeologically off-limits.
Yes, it’s a shame that science can be so un-scientific.

There was a great documentary on youtube but you wouldn’t believe it…it’s gone.

This link will get you to an evening of reading


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