Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's never too late to do the right thing

"If the people knew what we had done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us."

- George H.W. Bush
In an ABC documentary that intended to lay to rest "conspiracy theories" about the murder of President John F. Kennedy, anchor Peter Jennings said of all theories, "most theories are wrong".

Except the correct one.

Thanks to entrenched orthodoxy, Americans, even those suspicious of the circumstances of JFK's murder, seem confused about the very word theory. Simply, anything posited to explain in more general terms a specific and observable fact is a theory. Perhaps, most theories are wrong but so what? That in no way discredits the process of theorizing which is, in fact, an essential ingredient of the scientific method:
  1. the careful observation and description of observable phenomenon;
  2. the construction of a theory to explain it in more general terms.
Since the emergence of our species, we have known that things thrown up fall down. Later, Galileo would observe that all falling bodies accelerate at the same rate, regardless of weight and he calculated the rate of that acceleration.

It was left to Newton to propose a "theory" that embraced the orbit of the moon, literally, "falling around the earth". It was left to Einstein to find in this work yet another likeness --the curvature of space-time itself. Theories, all!

Of course, most theories may be wrong. Some fundamentalists believe the earth to be some 6,000 years old though some Egyptian hieroglyphs are considerably older. Yet --Darwinists are called "theorists". Of course, "most" theories are wrong. We are interested in the correct ones and in the process of inquiry that is most likely to result in correct theories. I am not interested in flawed processes that result in either dogma, itself "bad theory", or psuedo-science like "intelligent design" --creationism with big words.

What are the characteristics of a correct theory? A theory has but one job and that is to explain a finite set of observable facts. Galileo's formula expressed an observable fact, but it was Newton's theory that explained that description in terms of an unseen force. His contemporaries must have thought Newton a crazy "theorist".

Newton's theory held sway until Einstein replaced "force" with the very curvature of space-time. Still, Newton is correct. As Klaato in The Day the Earth Stood Still might have put it: Newton's math will get you from the earth to the moon and safely back again and --one day --to the planets and back. Journeys to stars are the province of Einstein. But firing up the rocket is pure Newton: for every action there is an opposite but equal reaction. Theories rule!

Since JFK was murdered in Dallas on November 22, 1963, a certain mentality in the US has tried to demonize the word "theory" as they have demonized the word "liberal" --both perfectly good words. I might posit a "theory" about why the right wing, in particular, is afraid of the word "theory" just as it is afraid of the word "liberal". I suspect that they fear both words for the same reasons. Both words threaten conservative orthodoxy, itself a theory but a wrong one!

The following video does a great job of debunking an "official" theory, a "cover story" promoted by those who may have an interest in throwing up a lot of expensive, highly paid flack around the truth.

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