Tweeting the Meeting: Week of November 1, 2021
Tweeting the Meeting: Week of November 8, 2021

The Far Side and the Spoofing of Science

A scientist pours one liquid after another upon a duck placed on the table. His companion carefully calibrates the results on a chalkboard. Beneath the heading “Like” is “Milk off a duck’s back,” followed by “water off a duck’s back,” followed by “orange juice off a duck’s back.” Next on the list is “acid off a duck’s back,” but this is crossed out. Afterward, there is “syrup off a duck’s back.” More ingredients on the table remain to be tested. The caption: “It’s all rather scientific. Then we publish our results.”

I think I did not reflect until now on how Far Side consistently spoofs “science.” This fits in so well with reality today, when any yo-yo says anything and calls it “the science.”

”Scientific studies” have come to be a standing joke. If a study doesn’t go your way, just hold out for the next one that may.

It is as though a parlor trick vastly over applied. Very effective if confined to a narrow field of focus. But ridiculous when relied upon to evaluate all of life. 

An underreported experiment several years back, to me reveals it all. Volunteers were asked to remember a certain number, then they walked down a corridor to another room in which another researcher awaited to take down that number. 

On the way down, each was met by a woman who thanked them for taking part in the study. To show the researcher’s gratitude, she offered each participant a choice of two snacks—a fruit salad or a slice of chocolate cake.

Now, unbeknownst to each participant, some had been given 2-digit numbers to remember, and others 7-digit numbers. When results were tallied, those who had been given 2-digit numbers were twice as likely to choose the fruit salad as those who have been given 7-digits. What could possibly account for that?

The conclusion researchers drew was that if our minds are not heavily taxed, we choose fruit. We make the rational assessment that it is healthier for us. But if our minds are taxed, rationality goes right out the window! We say, “Yummy! Cake!” and grab for the chocolate. Read it here.

The fatal flaw in relying upon “science” is us. Unless things are very very simple, emotion immediately trumps “critical thinking.” This weakness sabotages most of what passes for science. It make reliance on science the most foolhardy of endeavors. It’s okay as a supplemental tool. But no more than that. It must always be in subjection to superior methods.

To the extent possible, science seeks to address human bias. But the extent possible is often not sufficiently much. In an ideal experiment of discovery, you line up two groups with identical attributes barring just one. Then, by tinkering through repeatable experiments with the one variable attribute, you make your discoveries as to its significance. Trouble is, very few things can be reduced to such simplicity. Humans, life, and reality itself is far too complex. You can applaud the efforts of science as you draw tentative conclusions. But you should never lose sight of how easily those conclusions can be overturned. 

Those who rely upon science as the be-all and end-all generally do just that. Upon reaching a conclusion, they circle the wagons and decry new or contrarian evidence as ‘fake news.’ 

Humans don’t have the integrity to handle science. It is not a moral failing, but it is built into how we are, as the cake-fruit experiment shows. To be sure, moral failings can and do exacerbate the problem, and ours is an age of much moral flexibility. The staunchest proponents of science never seem to notice when money trumps their science. 

There was once a more modest time when medicine was called the ‘healing arts.’ Today it is called ‘evidence-based science.’ The first is a recognition that life is far too complex to imagine its individual components can be isolated and played against one another. The first allows for all laudable human attributes to come into play, not just deduction, but also intuition, empathy, even (or perhaps particularly) love. The second eliminates all these things for cold thought. Nothing wrong with cold thought in itself, but to elevate it over all else creates vulnerability and allows for the baser qualities of humans to rise.

Is it not a bi-product of the evolutionary “science” that is abiogenesis, the idea that life could arise on its own? If you realize life could not do that, you maintain a certain awe of it. If you think it can, you say, “Well, how hard can it be? If blind chance can bring about life, culled only by natural selection, just think what can be done if focused powers of deliberate engineering are brought to bear!”

Thus, scientists are unafraid to tinker with what any godly person would have the common sense to stay far away from. ‘Gain-of-function’ research becomes a nifty tool of of scientific endeavor. Then when it unleashes an unnatural pandemic—that is when such human inventions escape the lab, they do what morally depraved people have done since the beginning of time. They muddy the waters to hide what they’ve done. We are all undone by the modern “worship” of science.

***Yikes! all you who merrily reproduce Far Side cartoons. Look what I’ve just spotted on Wikipedia:

“Since 1999, Larson has objected to his work being displayed on the internet, and has been sending takedown notices to owners of fan websites and users posting his cartoons.[25] In a personal letter included with the requests, Larson claimed that his work is too personal and important to him to have others "take control of it".[26][25] In 2007, he also published an open letter on the web to the same effect.[27] Larson has been criticized for not providing a legitimate online source for the Far Side series and negatively compared to cartoonists who have embraced the internet.[28]”

He wishes you wouldn’t.

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