Most of what is considered to be true is evidenced by results from scientific research. We all like to think of science as being factual, objective, and resulting from systematic examination of all possibilities. Problems do arise when some ‘scientific facts’ contradict others, and, when common sense or practical experience tells us the supposed facts cannot be true. This essay examines what factors can distort our usual assumption that science and research always tell us the truth; 3 different sources of falsity are noted.
Intermediates commonly cause problems by falsifying the issues!
Most people do not read research reports by scientists, and so they look at articles and videos composed by non-scientists. Problems regarding scientific research are frequently caused because the actual data and clear conclusions are interpreted by the non-scientist presenter; that often results in changes and additions or subtractions from what scientists actually give out. Accurate and faithful presentation of research findings demands careful attention to details, what is not included, and what is simplified in the report; some of these presentations are good, but others are misleading or even draw unwarranted conclusions.
The public cannot readily determine whether a science report is good or bad, and does not have access to the scientists authoring the new research findings. Hence, supposed ‘new facts from science’ are either blindly accepted or not believed on the basis of non-science factors (e.g., what person or program is giving the description). What is needed to solve this type of problem with unintended falsification is for one of the scientists conducting the research to critically review the presentation before it is given out to the public.
When the results of industrial research are being presented in public media, a different kind of problem commonly arises. Industrial research and development usually is targeted at some commercial product or activity; negative features or contradictory findings often are eliminated or minimized, thereby giving a one-sided view. This can even go so far that a ‘science report’ really is an advertisement or a sales pitch that throws objectivity out the window in favor of growing sales and profits. The best solution for this type of situation unfortunately is farfetched and unrealistic: everyone in the public is educated to have a much better understanding about scientific research, so that they can evaluate the announced claims by themselves. Most people at present cannot do that since they received a limited education about science in schools, and are completely estranged from science and research as adults; this situation is very widespread in today’s world.
Research scientists often are used as actors in public disputes!
Science is about finding what is the truth and asking questions about anything and everything. Disagreements between researchers about new research findings and their meaning are a healthy part of science. With more time and additional experimental data, disputes between scientists often are resolved. Any remaining controversy about what is true mostly is due to the involvement of governments, politicians, regulators, and administrators. They typically inject non-science agendas into the arguments and simply are using scientists to win their political battles; (see: “What Happens when Scientists Disagree? Part V: Lessons to be Learned About Arguments Between Scientists” ).
A good example of how scientists are used in public disputes is found in the prolonged current controversy about “global warming” and its subordinate issue about “humans cause climate change” (see: “What Happens when Scientists Disagree? Part II: Why is There Such a Long Controversy About Global Warming and Climate Change?” ). Both sides claim to have scientific evidence and renowned experts supporting their position. In fact, scientists have rather few disagreements about actual research results in this area; the ongoing arguments actually concern economics and politics! Politicians, administrators, lawyers, and officials continue to hotly dispute and legislate what should be done (if anything!). This type of public controversy often remains disputed for a long time and could even go on forever!
Some supposed factual accounts could be a gross deception!
Most people agree that not everything heard or seen can be believed. Nevertheless, it is especially difficult to decide what is true or false when something is presented as an official announcement by a government or an expert panel. I will give one example here which is so extremely shocking that almost all adults do accept the ‘presented facts’ as being absolutely true. To look at this critically, put aside your feelings of loyalty, patriotism, and pride just for a moment, so you can think critically about the possibility that U.S. astronauts never set foot on the Moon.
The best way to handle this question about the most widely known claim by the U.S. for its excellence in science and technology is to use the number one question asked by all scientists in their experimental research: what is the evidence? Firstly, there are direct queries. (1) Were samples brought back from the lunar surface, and what did these show? Yes, samples of moon rocks were brought back, and, these were both similar and different from natural materials found here on Earth. (2) Did video cameras show NASA astronauts on the surface of the Moon? Yes, videos showing astronauts walking on some strange landscape were taken and made available for public viewing, but these also could have been recorded somewhere on Earth. (3) Have any of the numerous NASA technicians claimed this is a big fake? I am not aware of any such statements.
Secondly, there are quite a few indirect questions. (1) Why has the Russian space program not duplicated the Moon visit? The Russians claim to have measurements showing that the intensity of cosmic radiation somewhere between Earth and Moon is so very high that no human could survive such an exposure. (2) Why have further Moon visits not been conducted by NASA? The usual answer given is the huge funds necessary to do that were used for other projects with a higher priority. (3) Why did one of the main Moon astronauts refuse to give any interviews for the remainder of his life? This is explained as his personal choice (e.g., modesty); alternatively, the silent astronaut was so embarrassed by his role in this deception that he refused to ever talk about his experiences.
In this example there are alternative possible answers for all the above questions. The available evidence is unable to prove either truthfulness or falsity, and hence is inconclusive. It is painful for me to describe this, but I am presenting it only as a prominent example showing that it is necessary to question even what high officials proclaim as being the truth.
Although finding the truth is done by expert scientists conducting research investigations, this only reaches the public through a fog of opinionated distortions, selective omissions, and outright deceit. Advertising and agenda-driven presentations often are commonly accepted as being true because the other side is not revealed. Solving this situation requires that people need to be much more educated about scientific research, so they are better able to decide for themselves what is true and what is false.
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