A Life Scientific but not as we know it, Jim @jimalkhalili

An impressive “The Life Scientific” yesterday, except not as we know it, Jim. Chris Toumazou has had an impressive career as an inventor, but where was the science? It was a life unscientific. It was a life driven by human needs. No less impressive, just not science.

I’m not naive, I know the point is to big-up science, everywhere from cosmology to daily life, taking in the Brian Cox “celebrity-dumbing-down” effect in the evolutionary ascent of man – but, come back Bruno. You know – we’d like you to believe science has all the bases covered and can provide all the answers we need to anything and everything. I’m pretty sure Jim doesn’t actually believe this, looking at his appointment as head of the BHA. This edition had no science whatsoever. It was all engineering and applied technology, even the medical technology and the multi-discipline development. I’m all for it. I’m an Imperial College Engineer too, but it’s just not science.

Yes, technology generally has a science base, but the application of technology isn’t the science, it’s far more than that. Promotion to prospective students is one thing, but misrepresenting science, setting misplaced expectations, is not doing it any favours in the long run.

[Post Note : When I wrote the above, I hadn’t watched even one episode of Cox’s “Human Universe”, I was just talking from repute, general media reports and quotes from Cox. I actually watched the “Why Are We Here?” episode last night. As I said on facebook:-

“… it’s an even bigger pile of unscientific tosh than I had feared – bollox mitigated by some nice cinematography. … Sagan and Bruno must be turning in their graves. …  It’s not the dumbing down that’s the problem. It’s the choice of contentious speculative lazy brainless ideas, expressed as opinion without the slightest hint of empirical evidence disguised as science fact. (I think Jim is deeper and wider – he plays the “promoting science” game, part of his day-job – but behind that I think he knows what’s what.) The irony; Cox was loved-up and waxing lyrical (cheesey, vomit-inducing) over the colour image of the CMBR sky-map (a meme if ever there was one!) – at the very time BICEP2 are eating humble-pie with their champagne. That never was science (it was always prejudiced politics ignoring existing evidence).”

To elaborate :

“As BICEP2 clearly demonstrates, most science is a work in progress.”

Sure, and not all work in progress is of equal scientific value, or necessarily of any scientific value beyond the process.

“At the heart of this theatre is the artificial landmark of a peer-reviewed paper.”

Exactly. Public science is really about authority, not about publication any more than it should be about press-releases and press-conferences or worse still stage-managed “theatre”. Authority based on concensus of the widest scientific community is what establishes science. Until then it is just speculation – 5-sigma speculation possibly, but 10 out of 10 useless. Speculation promoted in support of interests. Politics.

“[Even] Nature has a stake in discussions of the gravitational-waves story. Our news team was among those tipped off about the claim in advance.”

Science media (of all kinds, even major organs of repute) are part of the problem conflating the promotion and funding of science related activities with science itself, to the detriment of the latter.

Inflation, Multiple (all-possible) universes, etc – are pure drivel – politically developed as denial of otherwise obvious theories and evidence. BICEP2 never was science, never will be – the “error” is the least of their concerns, the question of why the error wasn’t detected is, or rather “overlooked” – not even considered – is …. political.

Wake up, science.]

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