We Must Delve into the Unknown to Further Science
Shôn Ellerton, Dec 21, 2022
We will never be able to progress into new frontiers of science if we only sanction what we know and understand as being science.
I often wonder how on Earth, no pun intended, did we manage to get men to walk on the moon. What’s more striking is the fact that only 12 men have walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972. Relying on technology which, by today’s standards, looked very much antiquated, we somehow managed to achieve the near impossible. What’s more, all twelve astronauts returned safely, which was a near miracle considering the risks they undertook.
I gaze up at the night sky and ponder over the vast distance separating us from our moon, around a quarter of a million miles, and yet, in the grander scale of things like the solar system and the galaxy, it is next to nothing. A tiny little capsule containing three men hurtling towards the moon, the equivalent of launching a pellet the size of a garden pea from Adelaide and hitting an area in Melbourne with an error of 3km either side. Although corrections can be made mid-flight, the astronauts are aware that once the fuel is gone, there’s no stopping at the nearest interplanetary ‘petrol station’. And once they’re on the moon walking about and making history, no doubt, they would have always been thinking in the back of their minds what would happen if the lunar lander fails to lift off. There would have been no way back and we would have watched for decades up to now with our naked eyes, the gleaming surface of the moon at night knowing there, somewhere, would be those preserved bodies in their space suits. A morbid thought I admit.
For me, this achievement represents the culmination and apex of human achievement and courage. The combined and accumulative efforts of the best scientists, engineers, technicians, and mathematicians the Earth can summon. But it has not been without its failures of course. Nor has the science materialised as if it just came naturally over decades of years of academia and institutionalised research. We could have only achieved such great heights of engineering and scientific achievement by going beyond what we know. This domain belongs to the scientists, and they lie on the frontier of what we know and go beyond. Without them, our technological progress in society stops in its tracks especially under regimes ruled by tyranny, religious persecution and orthodox groupthink. As a good example, look no further than those countries in the Middle East which regressed socially and technically once they became victim to being ruled by religious despotic leaders.
For science to advance, we need scientists, much like Star Trek’s intrepid crew going beyond the final frontier seeking and exploring strange new worlds. Many of us feel decidedly uncomfortable to delve into the unknown. A world of unproved principles, mysterious phenomena, and, generally, things that do things without understanding why they do those things. Throughout the history of mankind, we have created an extraordinary cornucopia of scientific marvels in technology, medicine, and engineering, many of which, looking back to their creations, would have baffled the general scientific community as to why they worked, or how they could have possibly worked at all.
Take, for example, the discovery that taking in Vitamin C would stop scurvy. A captain, during the 1500s by the name of James Lancaster took with him lemons on his long sea voyages across the Atlantic knowing that they stopped the onset on scurvy. His attempts to persuade the Royal Navy that scurvy, a condition which proves fatal if not addressed, could be prevented by taking this simple action fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, he was lambasted by the then-scientific community of the day regarding his quackery of fringe and unfounded theories, especially one purporting the use of a mere lemon. Meanwhile, James Lancaster continued to adopt his practice of taking citrus fruits on his vessel while sailors in the Royal Navy passed away mysteriously from scurvy. The worst part is that, during the next two hundred years, two million people died of scurvy up to the point James Lind wrote his treatise on scurvy in 1753.
Even so, it took another few decades to properly peer-review the study before the Royal Navy adopted the practice of taking on board citrus fruits. Was it worth two million lives for the sake of silencing a theory nobody understood at the time but worked? Now, let that very thought sink in regarding the silencing of alternative medical views during the coronavirus pandemic. Without a shadow of a doubt, censoring open debates and suppressing discussion from well-respected and learned physicians and scientists who do not toe the line of the official government guidelines and narrative is not only damaging, but potentially very dangerous. Hot off the press at time of writing is Australian Dr Kerryn Phelps, a former federal MP and former president of the Australian Medical Association for New South Wales, who declared that more research should be made into the safety of vaccines, a subject very much considered taboo during the pandemic. Considering her pro-vaccination stance, it generated much interest in the news. However, she only broke the silence when her partner fell ill under the vaccine.
I could cite several examples of visionary scientists who stretched the boundaries of science not understanding why their discoveries worked. And all this, while an army of technicians and analysts, buried in statistics and established principles, work to either prove or disprove any new theory or discovery against well-known facts and paradigms. They are quick in discounting and suppressing alternative views as mere quackery which have not yet been peer-reviewed or lie outside the bell curve. Statisticians are, in general, risk averse and consider outliers as being highly unlikely to be of value. Despite the possible danger of considering outliers to be of merit, there is the potential of missing out on potential gems. An adage I once came across illustrates this well. Most ideas in the fringe tend to be useless but most of our scientific breakthroughs come from the fringe.
Technicians, some who like to think of themselves as being qualified and accredited scientists, are merely technicians. Not scientists. They may be qualified and accredited by an academic institution, but that means little in the realm of extending science. Furthering science, of course, requires knowledge of what we know already, and this is what we achieve through learning, whether it is from hearsay, experimentation, or through academic circles. But to extend science requires a very different and hardened mindset.
Scientists going beyond the sphere of established knowledge are not generally popular and are often feared at the time they are experimenting and doing their research. They may, if successful, become heroes to then be documented in our history books later. But not at first. Some encroach into the metaphysical, the esoteric, or even the downright mystical. The analysts and technicians would, of course, balk at the idea that anything which cannot be proven isn’t science. It’s not to say, we don’t need analysts and technicians, but their view of science is through a very narrow lens of knowledge that they are comfortable with. Newton, Copernicus and Tesla certainly dabbled in science which scared the living daylights of the mainstream masses. And this is a difficult and sometimes, dangerous, place for the scientist at the edge of the frontier of established knowledge. Fighting to be heard against established mainstream consensus is like trying to swim to shore against a riptide within a culture based on religious, political or social orthodoxy. Certainly, the cult of Fauci during the pandemic was fortified by the political and corporate lobbies of the time and alternative views were quickly suppressed in the name of ‘safety’. And I think it would be fair to say, that it did develop into some sort of cult. Many thousands of medical doctors, physicians, chemists, and health workers around the globe airing alternative views were silenced while one man, Fauci, was given the power of being the imam of science pushing health propaganda sanctioned and approved by governmental institutions colluding with major corporations. This is a form of fascism. And it worked. People complied and if you didn’t, others would disapprove of you.
It’s not too difficult to comprehend how fear can strike the populace on such subjects as disease or experimenting with new sources of energy that have anything to do with subatomic particles, but what about the seemingly benign world of archaeologists? Surely, those dinosaur-bone-loving prospectors are a dandy bunch of fine people, being wonderfully surprised and wide-smiling when a new discovery is made? Aren’t all palaeontologists and archaeologists just like those people in that movie, Jurassic Park? Apparently not.
Netflix aired its Ancient Apocalypse documentary series starring an archaeologist by the name of Graham Hancock, an archaeologist who’s been deeply upsetting mainstream archaeologists and probably, most of our monotheist religious institutions as well. What did he do to upset them? Quite simply, Hancock is upsetting mainstream archaeologists daring to suggest that advanced human civilisation existed as far back to the Ice Age. His research has been very extensive and entirely plausible which makes Hancock not just a mere quack but a real threat to those archaeologists that support the traditional theory in which the earliest advanced civilisation started around the time of Mesopotamia circa 4000 BC. In fact, Hancock proved so much of a threat, he was banned at conducting research at Serpent Mound in Ohio, which isn’t terribly surprising given the power of reach by the religious community in the area. The message is very clear insofar that they do not want their history upended and changed.
Worse still, for the orthodox masses in the community, Hancock was interviewed by Joe Rogan, renowned for giving a platform to many voices bucking the narrative mainstream including Doctors Malone and McCullough, Alex Jones, and Abigail Shrier. For the masses, that very action of being interviewed by Rogan gave less perceived credibility as to the validity of his research. And why is that? Mainstream thinking is neither intelligent nor unintelligent but rather one of gravitating with the crowd. To take a loose analogy, by taking the back door near the projection screen out of the cinema to get out as quickly as possible while the rest of the sheep ascend the central aisle shuffling slowly in the crowd to squeeze out the front door. I used to walk out the back door many years ago in those West End London theatres and remember that sense of feeling of being a bit of a smartarse when someone looked at me from the crowd. In general, the mainstream hate those on the fringe, much like that weird kid in school who dresses differently from the others.
Scientists see their world as a big black box with mysteries to unearth. Many of these discoveries may not be fully understood when revealed, and to the scientist, the challenge is to understand why these discoveries work. From the Dr Jekyll perspective, what could benefit mankind like finding out that certain species of trees and grasses has something in it to cure a headache to that of Mr Hyde, discovering a bacteria like anthrax that can be used as a bioweapon. It may take a very long time to fully understand why these discoveries work, but if they yield results which are successful, if only partly, they are still valid and worthy of discussion until proved wrong. In terms of law and justice, this is equivalent to the innocent until proved guilty approach.
Technicians and analysts see their world in terms of statistics and absolutes. They are not there to contribute new material but rather to verify and prove. They take the opposing view of the scientist claiming that a new discovery is not valid until proved correct, much like the peer-review of Lind’s scurvy treatise. Because of this guilty until innocent approach, it goes without saying that technicians and analysts are not the ‘authors’ in the world of science but rather the ‘editors’.
Ultimately, scientists and technicians should work together and balance the equation of what we know as science. This, ultimately, extends our knowledge of science and what we know. If the balance is upset, for example, when established knowledge is not allowed to be disrupted, or when alternative discoveries that threaten to upend traditional views are suppressed or silenced, we find ourselves no longer able to progress for the benefit of mankind. Likewise, the technicians and analysts are needed by the scientists to affirm and verify our discoveries, and, sure, they may take time to do so, but they should never be in a position of power or influence to discourage new science, whether it is understood or not, at the frontier of the unknown.