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on science hysteria [May. 31st, 2005|01:55 pm]
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

May 1905, Scientific American, on Coal Resources- "The report of the Royal Commission on the amount of coal still available below the surface of Great Britain comes as a flat contradiction of those alarmists who take pleasure in telling us that, within such and such a limited time, we shall have dug all the coal out of the earth, and shall have to depend on some other kind of fuel. The conclusion is that if coal were to be mined at the average rate per year of the past thirty-four years, there is enough coal available to last for over six hundred years to come. If this condition may be taken as representative, the exhaustion of the world's coal supply will take place at such a remote date that it need give us no concern."

from here (9/2003), class action lawsuit on wi-fi radiation, Item 10- "There are questions of both fact and law common to the class, and those common questions predominate over any questions affecting only individual members of the class. Among the common questions are the following
  1. Whether Defendants failed to exercise ordinary care in determining to install wireless local area networks in the classrooms of District 97;
  2. Whether, by such conduct, Defendants have breached the duty of care they owe to the children of District 97;
  3. Whether, by such conduct, Defendants have exposed the children of District 97 to unreasonably dangerous health risks caused by constant exposure to high frequency electromagnetic radiation; and
  4. Whether Plaintiffs and the Class are entitled to injunctive relief."

I have no problem with having concerns about things like the environment, radiation, and even social security. However, despite advances in actuarial science, we really don't have a tremendous ability to follow-through on the real sort of long term observation to get at the truth. Even if we were committed to performing good science, morality demands that we not sit idly by when suspicion of danger lurks. Philosophically, science is not good at handling change over time, and as a result, often ends up with a static worldview over just about everything. We deal in absolute truths- evolution happens, the atom is unbreakable, the sun circles the earth. What is true today, what was true yesterday, and what was true many years ago- all viewpoints will change. Truth, with a capital T, is the exclusive domain of religion, and upon which science has no beachhead.

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