From each of us here at In The Old Corps to each of you, please have a joy-filled and safe celebration of the new year. Recapping 2017 proved easy. There were only 2 news stories this year: at any moment Trump would be dethroned as a sexist/any-damned-ist-you-can-think-of pig, and to be a Leftist Male is no longer license to prey on women. I can’t find any other stories among the lamestream media, not counting Fox. Most commentary I’ve seen on 2017 was it’s nuttiness in comparison to 2016 which ranks among the most unusual in recent history. 2018 should be a blast, so we hope to see you there!
A fair part of that nuttiness stems from the belief in the symbols of authority. A white lab coat ensures most folks will believe whatever the coat’s wearer says. Put a lab coat on the janitor and have her mention something about quantum mechanics, such as ‘string theory is best vacuumed, cuz it gets in the nooks and crannies and things live there.’ You’d think Jesus had returned and pronounced salvation from the reaction of folks to the lab coat. Except Jesus wasn’t believed by everyone, including eyewitnesses. Maybe if He’d had the Twitter Gestapo?
The absolute faith in the symbols of authority isn’t new. White lab coats, a general’s stars, scepters and crowns quickly remove the friction of questions. This leads to abuse such as fake news and pseudoscience. Pseudoscience isn’t new. Ben Franklin accepted a commission from the French king to investigate, along with Lavoisier, the scientific miracle of mesmerism. It’s an interesting story about the power of belief in and knowledge of an esoteric, almost occult practice passed off as proven science.
There are several scientific methods created by such luminaries as Aristotle and Francis Bacon. A current workable method has 7 steps: 1) observe; 2) question; 3) hypothesize; 4) develop metrics of outcomes to test; 5) test; 6) refine, alter, expand or reject the hypothesis; and 7) theorize.
Where I have a problem with Scientism, the modern name for Positivism, is that it makes the truth claim that the only authentic knowledge comes from science. Or in America from self-proclaimed “scientists.” Scientism’s current cachet in our culture is in steps 2 and 6. Looking at it another way, if the data gathered in testing supports rejecting a hypothesis, how can a scientist get another grant, another job when the scientist failed? But before we get there we have to ask questions, we have to ask why.
Asking why is a bloody annoying discipline. Known alternatively as ‘Root Cause Analysis’ and ‘Asking 5 Whys,’ the method gets several layers under the surface. Trigger warning – asking why 5 times requires more than 2 neurons firing in sequence. Define the terms so that they are understood. You may get upset and watch your idol crumbles. Keep going! Ask why 5 times. It’s as American as apple pie. And why is that?