on 6/24/2003 10:18:00 PM
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[Edited on 11/07/03: Don't take this post to be an establishment of facts, but rather as a springboard to new ways of thinking. Stuff in this post seems to be only half true, but I wanted to sound smart as this young college first-year and give a general viewpoint on something that was arching my mind. I still agree with the premise of this post: Always always always question facts and how they facts were formed]
What Is a Fact ?
(Inspired by my History of Randomness (Science As Cultural Practice)
class and Writing 001)
What counts as a scientific fact and why and how ?
I define scientific facts as "things known to a large amount of people in the same way." They should be about what happened and the context of what happened. Knowing [exactly] what happened and its context is what the law profession has been based upon. And that's where it should stay.
Facts as a concept has been legitimized by the law profession and now everyone in the science field tries to act like they know what happens. But they are omitting the part of facts about what actually happens and its context. They are merely taking the results of what happened and its context. People are not looking at the process of how a fact is formed, and therefore not getting the whole story. And not getting the whole story is what will keep us running in circles for cures to society's ailments physical and social forever.
For example, people in science thought DDT was the answer to prevent crops from being eaten by insects. DDT did kill insects as hoped, except that people didn't look at what DDT actually did. It was a neurotoxin; it fucked up the nervous system. Worst of all, it was hard to remove from the human body. As a result, DDT is now a banned pesticide. This is all an example of how looking at "scientific facts" as answers rather than as concoctions by humans can kick us in the ass. They need to look at the whole picture, not just results. By looking at the whole picture, they'd be more open and receptive to a more diverse amount of opinions. With more opinions, they'd be more likely to bump into a discovery than the wasteful crap they do now.
What scientists often fail to do is know things in context. A physics major named Josh revealed the mystery that they didn't need to understand the history of physics to actually do it. It was kind of funny how we then observed with God's lightning aura-ful awe his physics book as a strange alien artifact rather than as more bullshit work, the way he probably saw it. It seems like he's on pace to understand the science's standards well, but probably accomplish nothing earth-shattering. [And this is where anthropologists come in]
Scientists seem to get lost in their "practice" as they succumb to the laws and standards of their field. For example, they probably won't try some chemicals on AIDS or SARS based on history that it could cause other diseases. This kind of specialization to the standards could possibly prevent them from discovering new things. What if it a possible cure in exploration would cause disease in those of Mexican descent, but not Columbian descent ?
It's specialization with only a certain population in mind (most likely white America) that bars them from doing anything.
When you really look at it, discoveries in science have been made through chance, and then gradually improved and tinkered with. The first car engine in the world was 7 feet tall. So was the computer. Experiments are only as useful depending on how realistic their conditions are. People didn't make them because they needed something like it; stuff was developed because the inventors were trying to find a use for it. The scientists in question from the medical field on the other hand are basically making things to do something in trying to find answers to these specific questions. And when scientists formulate things to specifically combat other things, they eliminate other avenues by which to combat other things.
It's a trip that we can't find answers when we need them most, but when they're unneeded, they're all over the place, and we develop a dependence on them. In other words, do we really need to know how big J.Lo's ass is ? How ironic that the least innovation is developed in medicine, arguably the most important field of science. Those humble scientists will tell you we don't know shiet. And often when we don't know anything, we'll stick to what we interpret as facts.
And science and its facts has this dominating domino effect on the social world. We're taking comfort in these "facts." "Facts" that could hold us back because we don't know it's whole effect. Facts like DDT once being an effective pesticide. We've got to get the whole picture, and so when I graduate from either UCSC or UCLA, call me up, and I'll ring you in on histories and science and stuff like that.
Labels: Challenge the Experts