Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Faith in the facts

I keep waiting for a day to go by in which someone in the Trump administration doesn't say something completely batshit insane.

The latest person to try to reach the summit of Mount Lunacy is Dr. Mark Green, nominee for Army Secretary, who apparently got his Ph.D. from Big Bob's Discount Diploma Warehouse.  Because besides such bizarre statements as "the government exists... to crush evil," particularly evil in the form of transgender people who are just looking for a quiet place to pee, Green has gone on record as saying that he not only doesn't accept evolution, he doesn't believe in...

... the Theory of Relativity.

In a speech that focused not on what he would do in his role as Army Secretary, but on The Universe According To Mark Green, he said, "The theory of relativity is a theory and some people accept it, but that requires somewhat of a degree of faith."

No.  No, no, no.  Faith is exactly what it doesn't take.  Although religious folks will probably disagree with me on this definition, faith is essentially believing in stuff for which you have no evidence; and as such, I've never really understood the distinction between "faith" and "delusion."  All that it takes to accept the Theory of Relativity is understanding the evidence that has been amassed in its favor.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

And at this point, the evidence is overwhelming.  Given its staggering conclusions -- weirdness like time dilation, the speed of light being the ultimate universal speed limit, and warped space -- it is understandable that after it was published, scientists wanted to make sure that Einstein was right.  So they immediately began designing experiments to test Einstein's theoretical predictions.

Needless to say, every single one of the experiments has supported that Einstein was 100% correct.  Every time there's some sort of suspected glitch -- like six years ago, when physicists at CERN thought they had detected a faster-than-light neutrino -- it's turned out to be an experimental error or an uncontrolled variable.  At this point, media should simply have a one-click method for punching in the headline "EINSTEIN VINDICATED AGAIN" whenever this sort of thing happens.

What is funniest about all of this is that the technology Green would be overseeing, as Army Secretary, includes SatNav guidance systems that use GPS coordinates -- which have to take relativistic effects into account.  If you decide that you "don't have enough faith" to accept relativity, your navigational systems will gradually drift out of sync with the Earth (i.e., with reality), and your multi-million-dollar tanks will end up driving directly off of cliffs.

So you need exactly zero faith to accept relativity.  Or evolution, or cosmology, or plate tectonics, or radioisotope dating, or any of the other scientifically sound models that Green and his ilk tend to jettison.  All you need to do is to take the time to learn some science.  What does take faith, however, is accepting that anyone who has as little knowledge of the real world as Mark Green does has any business running an entire branch of the military.

Anyhow, there you have it: our "alternative fact" of the day.  It's almost as good as the "alternative fact" of the day before, which came straight from Dear Leader Trump, to wit: Andrew Jackson was a good guy with a "big heart" who "was really angry about what he saw happening with the Civil War."  Oh, and the Civil War could "have all been worked out," and that "people don't ask the question" about why the Civil War started.

Except, of course, for the thousands of historians who have been writing about the causes of the Civil War for decades.  And Andrew "Big Heart" Jackson was responsible for the forced deportation of fifteen thousand Native Americans from their ancestral homes, in one of the biggest forced relocations ever perpetrated, and in which a quarter of them died of disease, starvation, and exposure.

Oh, yeah, and I don't think Jackson was particularly angry about the Civil War, given that he died sixteen years before it started.

So it'd be nice if our leaders would stop saying things that turn the United States into a world-wide laughingstock.  I'm planning on going to Ecuador this summer, and I'd really like it if I don't have to tell the Ecuadorians I meet that just because I'm an American doesn't mean I'm an ignorant, raving loon.  Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Do you get the feeling that we're so far into la-la land that it seems almost pointless to point it out?

    You can write a reasoned rebuttal to the nonsense (well, written, by the way) but the people who ought to read it, who ought to realize where it is they're standing, those people have already moved on to their next alternate reality item, dragging their followers along with them.

    Mind you, we should still speak up, but more than ever I see it as preaching to the choir. The intended targets, meanwhile, are listening to their own "special" choir singing all their favorite tunes.

    At this point, I don't think they care one bit if anything they say is just plain dumb as long as it fuels their alternate reality. That's because in their reality, we hold no sway. Why, in their reality we might not even exist.