Through a process of making newer, better models we can come to a better understanding of nature and the rules by which it progresses. This process only works without dogma—flexibility is the key. Sure, scientists are human and can be very dogmatic, but gradually the evidence will come to convince scientists of the truth. This was the case when the theory of Plate Tectonics was applied to the evidence that South America and Africa look like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Many scientists refused to listen because they believed in an unchanging Earth.
Dogma is antithetical to Science. Maybe a couple of examples will help me explain.
First example: Charles Darwin’s theory is not that evolution happens but rather explains the vast amounts of data seen by Darwin which prove that evolution has occurred in the past—and still is occurring. Darwin’s theory is that Natural Selection is the driving force behind evolution. The fossils that Darwin observed in Patagonia, and the wildlife of the Galapagos, showed him that living things had changed their form in the past. And observations about domesticated plants and animals—along with the efforts to continue their evolution into evermore useful plants and animals (artificial selection)—showed that living things were continuing to change form. Darwin took the observed data and formed a theory that random mutations in plants and animals were "chosen" by how well they allowed the plants and animals to survive in their environment. It took a long time—and many experiments—for most scientists to agree that this is the way life works. And, still, many people choose to believe their dogma rather than open their eyes to the evidence.
Second example: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was an agronomist in the early Soviet Union. He believed in the ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamark about evolution. Lamark thought that the evolution of life forms was caused by adaptive selection or the passing on of acquired characteristics from one generation to the next. (If a giraffe has to stretch its neck to reach food its offspring would have longer necks). Lysenko was Stalin’s golden boy. As a peasant with no formal training in science Lysenko was an example of Stalin’s belief in the "barefoot scientist". Stalin said that practice was more powerful than theory—and what Stalin believed everyone else had better believe too. Lysenko was put in charge of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences of the Soviet Union and persecuted anyone, including real scientists, who tried to dispute his theories. This dogma caused the Soviet Union to fall behind in many areas of science and contributed to wide spread starvation in the Soviet Union which lasted many years.
These examples illustrate how dogma is harmful not just to Science, but to humankind as well. The Bush/Cheney (Cheney/Bush?) administration has been interfering with science, and the public perception of science, to the detriment of the American people (and probably the entire Earth). Bush appointed George C. Deutsch, a 24 year old Bush campaign worker from Texas to the public affairs office at NASA. Deutsch was involved in pressuring James E. Hansen, a scientist who works on computer modeling Earth’s climate, to not speak publicly about global warming. Deutsch also told the programmers of the NASA web sites to always refer to the Big Bang as only "a theory". It is a theory, but so are the theories that enable scientists to design cell phones and to orbit communications satellites. Deutsch later resigned after it was publicly revealed that he did not graduate with a B.A. as he said on his resume. By clouding the picture the bushies not only stopped America’s acceptance of the Kyoto Protocol, they also stopped many people from ever listening to what science is telling them about our future and the future of our planet.
Like your cell phones? Like your internet? Like healthy, long lived children?
Hug a scientist.
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