Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

The SciSchmooze Wants To Know

from the desk of Herb Masters

Hello Fans of Data and Evidence, aka Science and Reason,

Just to remind you and make sure that new readers know…   I am not a trained or certified (whatever that means) scientist.  I grew up in a time when science was the ultimate arbiter of truth for most people I knew and is for the people I know now.  Nor am I a historian or philosopher.  I’m just someone who is trying to make sense out of how we know and celebrate what we know about this amazing universe.  The philosophy of science keeps many of us grounded in understanding many things.

I have been a fan of how James Burke told the story of Connections since it first came out.  Throughout human history, as I think we know it, there have been beliefs that were based solely on the lack of facts or data.  They were based on how things appear and the confirmation biases of the day.   Sometimes they persist today even in spite of data and evidence.  Consider if you will Galileo Galilei.  I suggest that he may be responsible for one of the biggest upsets in our perception of how things work in history.  Even now it just seems that heavy things should and do fall faster.  Until his visit (possibly) to the Tower of Pisa this was a law of nature.  Many arguments/disagreements about everything have gone on for centuries.  However when real evidence and data support a different interpretation because knowledge has improved we adjust what we accept, believe, or know.  We have known there are other galaxies for less than 100 years yet we still have people who say they believe the earth is flat!

So please, consider the science and evidence that covid 19 is real and our elections are secure.  The evidence is overwhelming.  You can deny only so much.  The science and evidence are overwhelming. We understand many things better than we did a short time ago.

We have much to learn.  Here are a few opportunities just this coming week.  The fall and rise of the mass on a spring – Livestream Mon @ 2:30,  Behind the Scenes: The National Trachoma Service  Wed @ noon,  After Dark Online: Sustenance – Contemplating Creativity  Thu @ 7:00

We’ve been struggling against our own self-interests for 3 seasons now.  If everyone would act with an abundance of caution and restraint I think many of our lives, many small businesses, and many cultural institutions would be much better off.  Many people think that a guideline or rule is good for everyone else but its ok to personally disregard it.  Your favorite restaurant of gym is probably suffering.  If we all had done what was pretty obvious from the beginning we’d probably be looking forward to holidays with family and friends.  I hope you can convince others that don’t agree to act with an abundante cautela.

So what history should we save?  We need to remember and memorialize our triumphs and failures.  The old adage of about what happens when we fail to learn from history is a very solid concept.  Failing to learn often leads to more painful lessons. 

Science often helps us appreciate many things as well.  Here’s some lighter links to check out…  Les Grands Fantômes celebrates Kepler, Galileo, and Foucault all at once!  How we perceive is often destined by what our own frame of reference is.  The next time you see something in the air and wonder how it moves consider the owl.

Be well, keep well, and don’t trust a lack of evidence.  The earth is round, we need vaccines, and homeopathy won’t save you.

herb masters

“History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory. It might almost be said to be no science at all, if memory and faith in memory were not what science necessarily rest on. In order to sift evidence we must rely on some witness, and we must trust experience before we proceed to expand it. The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumour; and when to this hearsay within the mind we add the falsified echoes that reach us from others, we have but a shifting and unseizable basis to build upon. The picture we frame of the past changes continually and grows every day less similar to the original experience which it purports to describe.”  The Life of Reason, by George Santayana

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