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Real World Physics Problems Newsletter - Reality, Issue #45
July 21, 2018

Science and Reality

I'm sure that everyone by now has heard the term "fake news". It refers quite simply to the claim that news outlets create fictitious news for various dubious reasons. Depending on which side of the political spectrum you're on, this term will have different meanings to you. Often times the interpretations that come with this term are subjective. And quite honestly, how reality is interpreted is often times also subjective.

Science, on the other hand, is an attempt to approach matters in a non-subjective way, or rather an objective way. Science is not political in any way. The closest it could ever come to any political stripe is as an Independent. This means that science is not a point of view, and to make this claim is to not understand science. It is a shame that more politicians don't have a science background, since it trains the mind to think objectively and to better understand the difference between dogma and fact. It's not a 100% guarantee that someone with a science background will be the best person for a job in politics but I think it can go a long way to getting better politicians in office.

Too often politicians are ideological about various topics; topics which have been studied in peer-reviewed journals and analyzed by experts in the field. Why don't they just look at what the experts have concluded instead of sticking to their ideological view points? Maybe because they don't really understand (or care) what peer-reviewed studies are, and see it as just another point of view. Someone with a science background would be less likely to have this mindset.

My personal favorite branch of science - physics - helps keep me grounded in what seems to be an increasingly insane world, where up is down, down is up, and you can just say anything you want enough times and people will believe it. I'm mostly referring to American politics here, but regardless, this is a very troubling trend. I'm not a person that gets offended, since I think that it's kind of an artificial term, but when I see that certain large groups of people will just believe anything that particular cult personalities will tell them, then that is very offensive to me. It's like saying that F = ma/3, instead of F = ma. It's like at some point, truth just doesn't matter, and all that matters is believing what your cult leader says. Reality be damned.

The thing about reality is that it has a way of coming back no matter how often you try to push it away. Sea levels will continue to rise, as the scientific models of climate change have long predicted, and it can be denied up until the point that coastal cities around the world start to end up underwater. What you think or don't think doesn't really matter at that point, since it will happen, to either a really bad degree or to a catastrophic degree. The science has long since predicted this. If you don't believe the science behind this then why not visit the NASA website and see what they have to say. And if you don't believe them either, then ask yourself how an organization that can send people and probes into outer space using the most sophisticated technology possible, can be so wrong on this. And if you instead believe "Joe's blog" when he says that climate change is a hoax (or whoever says this), instead of NASA, then ask yourself why. Is it because you like Joe? Is it because he reaches you emotionally in a way that NASA cannot?

Part of the problem is that most voters don't like science that much. It's not a sexy subject area, usually, and politicians that talk like professors aren't very appealing to voters, even though they may actually be the best choice. But that's a failure of our institutions in educating people on things that are actually important; things like how money works, how the economy works, and of course, how science works.

Understanding science does not just help you with science related activities, but helps you make sense of a complicated world. You don't even need to understand large areas of science, but just understand the scientific method, and the essence of scientific thinking in order to help separate out fact from dogma. Very useful at the ballot box.

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