Monday, January 23, 2006

The Science Section


I walked down to a Barnes & Noble yesterday - it was on the way to other errands. I decided to cruise through and find something fun to read. Now, because I am an exceptionally geeky person, "fun to read" usually implies things like "1000 opening baduk problems" or "chaos theory made easy". So, I went over to their science sections ("chemisty", "physics", "general science").

Dismay! Hate! A full half of their titles in the "general science" section were nonscientific and even antiscientific pieces of propaganda, such as books on ghosts and "living better". Stuck in-between texts on string theory and introductory game theory were books on... ghosts and new age religion.

Okay, now, I'm all for challenging the mainstream. Scientific theories need to be attacked, because that is what makes them stronger or replaces them with a stronger successor. But these things are not attacking: they are undermining. They are replacing true logical thought with something straight out of the fourteenth century!

Science arises from logic, and logic is not "belief". Logic never has been "belief". Logic is "disbelief". If you demand more evidence, if you disbelieve propaganda, you are being logical. Your priest tells you the world was created by an invisible man in seven days? He's full of shit until he can prove it. Your trailer-trash daddy told you blacks were inferior? He's full of shit, too.

And if a book tells you that you and a pack of friends meditating can change the crime rate of New York, guess what? The author's fucking full of shit. His "results" and "reports"? Made up. You know why? Because he's full of shit.

Listening to this sort of thing without any kind of critical thought means that you, too, become full of shit. It's the transitive shit-for-brains theorum. I could write a book about it. And put it in the "general science" section.

The result of believing whatever someone tells you may be benign this time. After all, there's nothing inherently sinister about believing ghost stories. But that same lack of critical thinking leads straight to Xenu.

There needs to be a new section. A section called something other than "general science". A section for titles that are obviously not science.

Nonscientific and even antiscientific books are not bad - so long as they are clearly represented as such. Look, "Live Long Enough to Live Forever" sounds like an interesting book, so does "Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape". But why are they in "general science"? It boggles the mind.
Well, it boggles the mind which is being used. Obviously, it doesn't boggle the "minds" of people who don't know science from an invisible man in the sky.

If this post was too bitter, I apologize. I'm just a huge fan of, you know, using your brain. I find it to be the most rewarding thing in existence. So, do me a teeny favor, and the next time someone says something kind of unlikely, think: "I bet he's full of shit."


Patrick Dugan said...

I'm a fairly rational guy, though I'm often full of shit, slightly less so after making a bowel movement.

The thing is logic is infrequently consistent and never complete, and there is a certain irrationality to the universe itself, though I can't "prove" that last clause as a theorem because it postulates something which is, by definition, a fuzzy quality.

Speaking of meditating to lower NYC's crime rate (which I don't really believe in, though those sorts of mental excercises do produce positive effects in individuals) David Lynch, the maker of Blue Velvet and Mullholland Dr., has gotten on a crazy transcendental mediation kick. Whats interesting about that is that his films express a certain twisted, strange loop-y sort of logic to them. Coincidence, or no?

Sometimes its good to not take your own thoughts and words so seriously.

Craig Perko said...

There are very few things I take seriously. Willful idiocy is one of them.