A fellow blogger and I have been debating lately about the scientific method, reliability in theories, especially conspiracy theories, academic standards, ways of explaining the paranormal and the "uncanny".
My blog friend is in graduate school studying psychology; he is very bright but also very entrenched in academia and "proper" research methods to find conclusions for his hypotheses.
He seems to be adamant about following the rules as he has learned them. This I understand very well. When I studied counseling, they drove into us the importance of using evidence based methods, the perils of falling outside the laws of ethics, and the price you pay for stepping outside academia. If he wants to do well in the eyes of the school, he is on the right road. I only asked him to consider other options but was not very successful, I think.
At my graduate school they tried to cultivate critical thinking--to an extent. However, challenging was not part of the curriculum; most teachers don't like to be questioned and they especially don't like to lose a debate to a student. I knew what was expected of me from the beginning of my studies and "kept my place", making excellent grades and building a good reputation. (I learned many hard lessons from my previous work experience dealing with clinicians and other employees in a mental health center.) I played the game quite well.
So when my friend began to argue for the scientific method as the only reasonable method for finding truth, I began to push back. I was surprised but not shocked at his resistance to finding any validity in my arguments.
He was well conditioned by his academic indoctrination. He was also very passionate about his approach to his thesis. When I asked about his strong reaction to my challenges, he could not fully identify what emotions he was feeling and why they were triggered.
This experience reminded me of a great quote found in an article by Wal Thornhill. In this piece, he discusses the relationship between astronomy and philosophy, addressing a few points in my argument.
How can science be so far ‘off the rails’ when it is supposed to be self-correcting? The mistake comes from believing that science is a perfectly rational human pursuit, unlike any other. The polymath psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky was perhaps uniquely qualified to declare in an interview, “Man is irrational in everything he does.” To restore rationality we must first understand ourselves.
In an extraordinary multidisciplinary forensic investigation, which Velikovsky published in his 1950 best seller, Worlds in Collision, he uncovered mankind’s forgotten experience of doomsday — the end of the world — and our (understandable) irrational response to the trauma. “Man is a wounded animal. His survival is astonishing. But his inability to heal his wounds is tragic,” wrote Dr. Roger Wescott.
Since Velikovsky’s discovery was a prehistoric cosmic drama involving the Earth and other planets, some of our craziest collective behavior surrounds astronomy and its antecedent astral religions.
He wrote, “I was greatly surprised to find that astronomy, the queen of sciences, lives still in the pre-Faraday age, not even in the time of kerosene lamps, but of candles and oil.” This referred to Faraday’s study of electricity and the fact that the cosmic thunderbolt was memorialized in all ancient cultures as the primary ‘weapon’ during planetary encounters. Therefore electricity must play a role in the cosmos, particularly at times of orbital chaos. But our high-priests of astronomy deny it.
Meanwhile, spacecraft and radio telescopes routinely reveal magnetic fields in space, which are the signature of electric ‘dark currents’ flowing in the thin plasma. This was my point of departure into the Electric Universe paradigm.
The consequences of the false beliefs of the ‘blinkered’ herd are immense due to the widespread impact, not only on science, but on human culture too. There should be no need to list examples of mankind’s irrational behaviour. It is plainly evident in our wars, religions, politics, business, economics, etc.
War is a surrogate for doomsday, which we have a dreadful impulse to repeat under the aegis of our various gods. When faced with cataclysm, our response can be to misinterpret or to deny it. Our religions misinterpret it by anthropomorphising the behaviour of the capricious astral gods and assuming the catastrophic references are metaphors. Our sciences deny it by clinging to a Newtonian ‘clockwork’ planetary system, undisturbed for aeons, despite the clear evidence of devastated landscapes on rocky planets and moons, the Earth included.
Meanwhile, we behave like ‘Chicken Little’ at the appearance of a comet and subconsciously find fleeting catharsis in a glut of disaster, war, and mayhem on TV and in movies.
The Electric Universe paradigm is a natural philosophy based on forensic human evidence spanning millennia. Understanding our past is the way to the future. There is no future for us if we cannot learn this lesson. ~ Wal Thornhill
Velikovsky worked hard to break through contemporary mind-sets about astronomy. History has proved him right. If you say that this kind of narrow mindedness in academia and the sciences does not happen anymore these days, you would be wrong.
Apart from rigorous education, it seems most of humankind needs more age and experience--not only of life but of other academic disciplines--to expand our mind to the possibilities of solutions, beyond the constraints of current academia. And, unfortunately, even those prerequisites are not enough in some cases.