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A Dumbing-down of Nations
- Scientific Advance and Education
by Dr. Jeremy Dunning-Davies

December 22, 2008
Recently, we’ve seen yet another claim for the discovery of a black hole and this one, like some of the earlier ones, refers to the existence of such an object at the centre of our own galaxy. The publication of these claims proceeds unhindered by so-called scientific referees. Apart from appearing in the official scientific literature, they are afforded enormous exposure in all areas of the public media.

This is wonderful for those concerned in that it reinforces the pseudo-scientific myths being foisted on an unsuspecting public and ensures continued funding from public funds, because results have been ‘found’ which conform to official current thinking, and certainly don’t rock the scientific boat. Such announcements might well be termed highly ‘pc’ in the scientific sense.

As far as the recent announcement is concerned, though, there is an added aspect of interest, and that is that, in 2002, one of those involved with the present announcement, Reinhard Genzel, was involved in a similar claim which appeared in Nature[1]. A colleague and I pointed out a very obvious flaw in the claim – namely that any black hole had to possess a mass and radius of an event horizon which satisfied the inequality:
There may well be other objections that people would wish to raise, but this trivial condition MUST be satisfied according to the commonly accepted theory. The authors agreed in writing that the objection was correct but still believed their interpretation of the data also to be correct. To me, this was a gallant and very reasonable thing to say. However, Nature would not publish the objection, even alongside the reply. In my view, this says much about Nature and those controlling its content.

In stark contrast to this appalling attitude, when a similar incident occurred with an article in Science, the objection and the reply were published[2]. In many ways, the important point in common between these two stories is that, in both cases, the scientists criticised had carefully collected a body of observational data and had proceeded to interpret it using the notions of conventionally accepted wisdom. It is easy to feel they had obtained the interpretations they wanted. It is certainly true that these interpretations would have done no harm to any future applications for funding. However, viewed in a somewhat more generous – but possibly true – light, it might be felt that they had interpreted their data using the knowledge and scientific tools available to them.

To many it may be difficult to imagine that anyone actively involved in this, or associated, areas of science could possess such a narrow, tunnel vision of the topic and of the scientific tools available for the interpretation of data. In reality, however, is that so difficult to believe?

It seems that the education system throughout the Western World at least is geared to protecting the status quo; undergraduate and postgraduate students are not trained or encouraged to think with truly open minds. How many know that alternative explanations for so many things are in existence? Very few!

It is rarely pointed out that, when discussing problems to do with basic questions in cosmology or questions associated with the age or life cycle of a star, we are all concerned with theories – and that is what they virtually all are, theories! Students are amazed when you point out the very simple straightforward fact that no-one has witnessed the birth, life and death of one and the same star. Trivial as this sounds, it is nevertheless an important truth. All orthodox-thinking astronomers and astrophysicists rely on pure theory associated with the history of a star’s life; an ingenious theory maybe, but still a theory which has no truly direct evidence to support it.

Hence, when you mention the notion of an electric universe for the first time, students are taken aback before beginning to think for themselves and realise that gravity isn’t the only force active in the universe. One is reminded of the amazement students exhibit when you explain that Newton’s second law doesn’t tell you what a force is, merely what results from its application. In fact, it’s truly amazing to realise that so much in physics is based on forces and yet no-one really knows what a force is! If we really knew the answer to that question, we could probably make frighteningly rapid progress in unravelling many problems now facing us.

One important thing we do know about forces, though, is the relative sizes of each and here it is well known that the gravitational force is extremely weak, especially when compared with the electric force. However, although well known, this fact is effectively hidden from many, seemingly in order to preserve the myths surrounding gravity and its effects.

Certainly in Britain, students are taught all the basics of mechanics and, separately, probably even more about electromagnetism; but rarely, if ever, are the two considered in parallel in the same module. In the majority of cases, our undergraduates and postgraduates are left to carry out the comparison themselves if it occurs to them, as individuals, to do so. Hence, this combined with the fact that independent thought is often actively discouraged, results in the perpetration of so many myths surrounding gravity and leaves that force in a rarely challenged position of extreme authority within the community of physicists.

It is here that the proponents of an Electric Universe come into their own, having to act as modern day evangelists in a distinctly hostile environment. It must always be remembered that they hold one big advantage over their gravitationally obsessed opponents – they can draw on the results of laboratory experiments to support at least some of their assertions, whereas, as pointed out already, their opponents are totally reliant on theory!

In a perfect world, both groups would work together amicably in search of the final complete answer but this is certainly not a perfect world. I doubt either group has the complete answer in exactly the same way as, in all probability, steady state theory and the big bang theory probably both contain elements of truth while neither is actually completely correct.

The overwhelming point, however, is that the influence of the electromagnetic force in all areas of physics, but especially astrophysics and cosmology, can be ignored no longer. If the present system of education isn’t changed to accommodate this very soon, we will be condemning yet another generation to an academic future programmed by those with a vested interest in denying our youth the chance to think openly and, indeed, properly.

Basically, it is this contrived unwillingness and inability to think openly that causes so much trouble for some, while maintaining the positions of so many false prophets in our scientific world. Newton was, in my view, undoubtedly great! However, when later people like Lagrange and Hamilton introduced the ideas of analytical mechanics, no-one took that as an affront against Newton; it was seen, correctly, as people introducing new ideas and ways of tackling problems of classical mechanics.

Later, when people found classical ways of dealing with the problems of, for example, the shift of the perihelion of Mercury and the bending of light rays, they were seen to be mounting an attack on Einstein himself. In fact, all they were doing was showing that there were other ways of obtaining the same results. This indicates quite clearly, in my view, one of the things wrong in our scientific society.

Surely science is meant to be searching for correct explanations of the phenomena surrounding us, whether they be topics in physics/astrophysics, the area which fascinates me personally, or topics in medicine where people should be searching for desperately needed cures as well as means for preventing the onset of so many diseases and debilitating conditions? In all cases, in all areas of science and, indeed, in all areas of society, having an open mind at the start of a search is of paramount importance!

It really is amazing that so many apparently intelligent people from all corners of the earth can claim definitely to know the one single truth concerning any individual topic! In one way, it is the mark of extreme arrogance; in another, of extreme stupidity. However, I suppose the truth lies in the almost overwhelming desire of some humans to achieve positions of power and authority over their fellow human beings and, once they have achieved that goal, any means are deemed acceptable to maintain that position.

We see very clearly the tragic results of the activities of ordinary criminals, but, in many ways, these people constituting those who constitute the scientific mafia are just as bad - maybe more so. It just isn't recognised, partially because no-one recognises their activities as, in any way, wrong. It is indeed a strange world in which we live.

At the end of the day, all would do well to remember the words of John W. Whitehead, who said:
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.
These words provide cause for real reflection amongst many, but especially among those who deny our youth what we all owe them – the right to think with totally open minds!

[1] R. Schödel et al, Nature, 419 (2002) 694

[2] J.Dunning-Davies, Science, 305 (2004) 1238
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