Someone comes along with a new theory regarding something scientific. It's really more like a hypothesis, but with a proposed way to test it. However, it's not one of those constructive ones that once resolved we can gain further knowledge. In that sense it's sort of only anti. But again, there is a test.
Now, suppose the discipline is a natural science. Take chemistry. The central science. Here is a rather large collection of laws and facts that all fit together nicely, for the most part. They still do research in chemistry. Yeah, I know. We'd rather be doing something else, so kudos to those who serve us. Anyhow...
If confirmed, this hypothesis would disprove a rather important tenet of chemistry, and would significantly alter how people think chemistry works. But it would not offer a path to further knowledge. Not shine a light. Just a brick wall.
What do the chemists say to the arrival of this new hypothesis? Do they dismiss it on the grounds that it will not provide any new insights beyond disproving something? Additionally, do they look at the reasoning behind the posing of the hypothesis? Assume there is some political motive. It might be that the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia happens to dislike redox reactions, just because their ideological leader learned about it from one of his rivals. Or whatever.
No to the first, and no to the second. A hypothesis that can be tested stands on its own. Chemists won't care what can be learned, only that something can be learned. It also completely doesn't matter how it came along. Why would it? "Pfft, the Khmer Rouge has an anti-chemistry agenda, so whatever they say we can't really take seriously." No, we could. It the idea has any merit, it will be taken seriously, no matter what lies ahead and how it came along.
Now suppose that the Khmer Rouge wanted to introduce the hypothesis into chemistry classes. In high school. Could they? Well, hold on a moment. That sort of thing requires some more validity. If chemists everywhere were able to confirm the hypothesis, then eventually the idea would make it into chemistry textbooks. But that's the only proper way. The Khmer Rouge, doing all they can to promote their political cause, should not be able to change what we know about chemistry in any other way than doing chemistry. Lobbying the government, or suing the publisher, or some such would never work. Shouldn't. The Khmer Rouge are free to attempt to fund chemists to apply the idea in the lab, and if these Red Khemists get any results, they can write it up and send it to the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation where it be reviewed by other chemists. And if the reviewers see fit, they will accept it for publication, and the Khmer Theory will gain supporters, and after years of ongoing research and successful laboratory tests, it might get a mention in a new textbook for an advanced college chemistry course, and years later, when no one doubts that Khmer Theory tells us something real about the natural world, then it will be added to a high school chemistry textbook.
On the other hand, should the Khmer Chemistry be the continued laughing stock of chemists worldwide, and only manage to publish half-baked papers in fringe chemistry journals because no one thought the test of the hypothesis really works, then KC will never make it further than a college course on political science.
Such a hypothesis with a companion idea to test it has actually come along a few years ago. It's called Intelligent Design (wiki), and the idea is that some systems, components, or features of living organisms are so complex ("irreducibly complex") that they could not have evolved (i.e. originated) via natural causes. And intelligent designer must have been at play. The blood clotting cascade, the bacterial flagellum, the first living organism, and the cell are a few such proposed constructions. Boeing 747s, pocket watches, and mousetraps also figure prominently (wiki).
Should we care what the consequences are if this hypothesis is proven correct? It would overturn our (scientific) understanding of how life evolved and evolves. So we would rather not allow it to be tested? Of course not. Let it be tested by all means.
Does it matter that the people with whom Intelligent Design originated believe in God, or that they believe God created humans as described in the Bible, or that they believe God helps evolution along once in a while? Should we care that if an Intelligent Designer were proved to have had a hand in evolution, that we couldn't really use that knowledge to anything else within biology?
No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No.
A theory's validity stands on its own. But...
The fact is that Intelligent Design has not been validated. Irreducible complexity has not been shown to exist anywhere in the biological world. No credible peer-reviewed papers have appeared in scientific journals that anyone who isn't married to the theological consequences of Intelligent Design take seriously. That should lay the matter to rest until someone comes up with evidence to the contrary. It's worth the wait, but excuse us if we do not include Intelligent Design in high school textbooks and curricula until that day arrives.
Thus I chastise those who refute Intelligent Design with the argument that its proponents are religious, or that they have a non-scientific agenda.
And accordingly I berate those who try to rewrite science textbooks and school curricula by any other means than doing science.
Shame on both of you.
Friday Fabulous Flower - Redbuds
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