Science Is Not The Enemy, Ignorance Is

Take a quick look at the following YouTube video. You don’t have to watch it all – or watch it at all – to get the gist of it because I’ll tell you what the gist of it is. The gist of it is that a mother in some suburban town in America is so afraid of contrails from airplanes, and so ignorant of basic principles of science (physics and chemistry), that she goes out of her house and uses a simple spray bottle to spray vinegar “at” the contrails.

Let me tell you what happened again, because even I have a hard time understanding this without writing it again. A woman is so afraid of contrails from planes that she uses a household spray bottle to spray vinegar in the air out on her backyard in hopes – and belief – that the vinegar will clear the contrails. I’ve written that twice and seen the video, and I still can’t believe that this is happening in the 21st centruy in the United States of America. I really wished it was a joke. Unfortunately, the lack of science knowledge in the US is very prevalent. There is no fake science or fake medical remedy that people won’t buy. All you need to do is stay up late one night and see the infomercials to see what is going on.

There are metal bracelets that promise you better athletic performance.

There are remedies to help your male genitalia get “bigger” or perform “better”.

And what can I say about homeopathy?

It is because the consumer is not aware of the science – or lack thereof – behind these products that these products sell. And they must sell well if they’re solvent enough to produce infomercials. A quick way to know that there is no evidence of the products’ function is in the advertisements themselves. Skeptics call this the “Quack Miranda Warning“:

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevenet any disease.”

But let’s get back to contrail – or “chemtrail” – lady. What science is she missing? First, she is missing basic physics. Physics prescribes that the vinegar she is spraying from a spray bottle behind her house will not spread far enough or high enough to have any effect on the contrails thousands of feet above her. Could you imagine if it did?

Second, she is missing basic chemistry. Contrails are made from condensed moisture. Adding vinegar to that condensed moisture doesn’t cause any kind of chemical reaction to do away with the contrail. (She alleges that she succeeded in erasing the “chemtrails” when the contrails disappear on their own.)

Third, she is missing basic research and critical thinking skills. Many people who believe in this conspiracy do so because they read about it on some blog – ehem! – or online somewhere. However, that ability to do “their own research” doesn’t seem to extend to the truth, or to truthful sources, or to sources that question her beliefs. It’s not a bad thing to have one or two of the basic tennets in your life questioned every once in a while. It’ really isn’t. I’ve had it happen to me all my professional life, and it has led to some really good discussion.

Sadly, as you can see in the video, she is dragging her child into this. How is that child supposed to interact in a high school chemistry class if they should ever touch on the subject of condensation, chemtrails, or even vinegar for acid-base reactions? What kind of laughter will this video on the net trigger in his peers? What kind of future is expected for him with a mother like this? I won’t speculate – much – on that, but I will tell you that it will not be an easy adolescence.

There are other examples of the lack of science education – and/or critical thinking – in the world around us. People who discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity are ignorant of basic principles of evolution and genetics. If they did, they would know that our external differences are just the cause of generations’ worth of adaptations to the climate where our forefathers lived. If there was too much sun, our ancestors adapted by having more melanin in their skin for protection from the sunlight. If it was very cold, then our ancestors adapted by having more fat tissue around the face – which needed to be uncovered for seeing and interacting with each other. That’s it. There is no difference in the intellectual capability between people, only differences in learning styles or knowledge because of different social, political, or economic situations. In essence, we’re the same, it’s the stuff around us that’s different.

I was going to write about 300 or 400 words on the anti-vaccine crowd, but that’s been done on this blog. So I’ll just write that they’re really, really lacking on the science, and it’s a dangerous thing because those vaccine-preventable diseases that we almost had defeated are making a comeback. All because they don’t know – or refuse to know – about immunology and biology, and a little bit of chemistry.

Global warming? Well, that’s a whole chunk of people who never did a science fair project where they took a box, painted it black on the inside, covered it with plastic, and left it out in the sun. The plastic works just like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It lets sunlight in, but then traps the heat, warming the earth. The process in the real world is gradual, but the principle is the same. Yet, somehow, this principle is beyond any comprehension by some people – people who should know better, nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the heroes of today have little to nothing to do with science, for the most part. Movie stars who overdose every other week, athletes who shoot themselves in the leg, or singers who have pretty voices do nothing to stimulate young minds into wanting to learn more about science. Sure, there will be the few children who’ll dig deeper into the science of movie-making, throwing the perfect spiral, or getting the best acoustics. But the rest of the audience will just sit back and enjoy the show.

Even more unfortunate, we’ve ended the Space Shuttle program. There are no more impressive take-offs from Cape Canaveral. No more drama of docking to the International Space Station. While NASA is still recruiting astronauts, being one is not at the top of the list for today’s children. They’re prefectly happy – our children, not the astronauts – flipping burgers and buying “kicks”. Science be damned.

If I were the President’s science advisor, I would call on him to create a “Manhattan Project” of sorts to solve some of our most pressing problems, issuing a challenge to the country and the world to help in figuring out things like alternative fuels (because oil WILL run out and the climate can’t take much more of this), disappearing forests (we all need their oxygen), species going extinct, or diseases emerging and reemerging. Instead of spending billions of dollars on bailing out companies that are too big to fail, I’d suggest those companies be acquired and rebuilt to solve our problems. Imagine General Motors being compelled to make environmentally-friendly and gas-efficient vehicles as a condition of their bailout. Imagine building factories all over the country, employing thousands of people, to build better and more efficient solar panels for home water heating. Think of a government that continues to fund space exploration and experimentation to continue to give us technologies that will make our lives better.

And don’t tell me about solar panels and how inefficient they are. I remember a time when satellite dishes were several yards in diameter and only affordable to the very rich. Now we have small units sitting atop almost every dwelling in our cities. I also remember a time when video cassette recorders were twenty pounds heavy and took up lots of space. Now we have phones that play better videos and store thousands of video cassettes’ worth of data. Technology gets better and more affordable if we work at it, not if we are afraid of it and pass legislature to scare people away from it.

But we’re not there quite yet. We still have people spreading diseases because they were told that vaccines are ultimate evil. We have people sparying vinegar at the sky. And we have influential politicians denying that carbon dioxide is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, what’s it has been known to do for a very long time. Furthermore, we are still arguing about race and ethnicity, or who speaks what language and why. People are still shooting other people for money or property or relationships gone bad. In the huge universe of things – and perhaps because not all of us have looked through both a telescope and a microscope – we are launching wars against each other for really nothing… Nothing at all.

Yeah, totally worth spilling blood over instead of trying to make it better so we can start to get off it.

3 thoughts on “Science Is Not The Enemy, Ignorance Is

  1. Very nice write-up. We definitely need to reinvigorate science and critical thinking education in this country. It would be nice if the politicians that need to read this would.

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