“A powerful yet often overlooked consequence of our environmental vulnerability to adapt to the existing culture is that our very identity and personality is often linked to the institutions, practices, trends and hence values we are born into and exist in. This psychological adaptation and inevitable familiarity creates a comfort zone which, over time, can be painful to disrupt, regardless of how well reasoned the data standing to the contrary of what we believe may be.”
—The Zeitgeist Movement
Outstanding excerpt from Looking Forward (1969) by Jacque Fresco and Kenneth Keyes. (Don’t be intimidated. You’ll be glad you read it all!)
Many people have confused the scientific method with laboratories and test tubes. But a laboratory is only a room where there are special devices for turning up facts. Charles Darwin, who is regarded as one of the world’s greatest scientists, did not use a laboratory. The world was his laboratory. He needed no special apparatus to uncover the facts that suggested and confirmed his theory of evolution. The scientific method is an attitude—a dogged insistence that no matter how right something sounds, we’re going to check it out by observation. Sometimes this means tests, and sometimes it only means opening our eyes to observe facts that have been around us for years. So, if you want to boil down the method of science to one word, it’s simply testing.
As man reaches out toward the twenty-first century, he will learn to be suspicious of all ideas that are not formulated so that they can be tested by observation. He will realize that the history of human thought shows that the ideas of which we are surest are the ones we most need to test. He will realize that his common sense only mirrors his training and experience. What seems natural and right to him is usually a reflection of the conditions under which he spent his first decade of life.
New generations, who will live and breathe the scientific spirit, will supplant us. Prejudice, grasshopper-like guessing, and emotional thinking will be rare. People of the future will, as suggested by John Dewey, achieve, “… the habit of suspended judgment, of skepticism, of desire for evidence, of appeal to observation rather than sentiment, discussion rather than bias, inquiry rather than conventional idealizations.” They will know when further logical manipulation is fruitless. They will know when to stop discussing and check the facts. They will be like the proverbial “Man from Missouri”—show me. If they want to know whether a pudding’s good, they won’t just read the recipe; they know that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” They will feel, as Karl Pearson does, that, “There is no short cut to truth, no way to gain a knowledge of the universe except through the gateway of scientific method.”
Attitudes that Help Us Develop Reliable Knowledge
… Men, women, and children in the twenty-first-century world will probably use these or similar techniques to make the scientific spirit a way of life, not just something they use every now and then. They will hold ideas tentatively, not as bastions to be defended, but as tools to be improved. They will keep their eyes and minds open to find facts that do not support their points of view, for contrary facts may lead them to formulations that have greater predictability.
Because of limitations in our sensory and cortical equipment, no one can know all about anything in this world. All of our senses are limited in range. Dogs can hear higher-pitched sounds than we can. Our eyes can see only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Edison said, “We don’t know one-millionth of one per cent about anything.” Since we can’t know all there is to know about anything we must always keep an open mind for important factors that have been left out of our thinking. Wendell Johnson pointed out, “An attitude of this kind—’You can’t tell me anything about that’—has an effect quite similar to that of a pus sac in the brain.”
The world in which we live is constantly changing. No object in this world is without change. “The world rolls,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the circumstances vary every hour.” On the atomic level all we have is motion and dynamism—perpetual split-second change. If we would act in ways that are effective and bring us the most happiness, we must train our senses to scan the world around us constantly to detect things that may have changed in a significant way. Alfred North Whitehead said, “Knowledge keeps no better than fish.”
Another thing that helps us achieve the scientific spirit is to remember that no two things in this world are absolutely identical. Two things may be similar for our purpose, but the closer we look, the more differences we find. We become prejudiced when we lump a group of people under a single label and then respond to individuals as though they have the same characteristics as the label. Only open eyes and open minds are prepared to cope with a world in which no two things are alike. The words we use imply similarity. We must use our eyes and ears to remind us of differences that are important for our purpose.
Men, women, and children in the twenty-first century will learn to think in terms of degrees. The language we use often implies polar opposites—good or bad, true or false, beautiful or ugly, fast or slow, black or white. But the world in which we live usually shows a large number of degrees between extremes.
If we are to be as relaxed and happy as possible, our thoughts must adequately reflect the reality around us. And we can’t do that by making black and white statements if the area to which we are referring contains shades of grey.
Individuals in the twenty-first century will learn to think in terms of probability. They will realize that man must regard all his knowledge as more or less probable. “Absolute certainty,” said C. J. Keyser, “is aprivilege of uneducated minds—and fanatics. It is, for scientific folks, an unattainable ideal.” The people of the future will think of their ideas in terms of an ascending scale of probability, ranging from, “This seems most unlikely,” through, “This may be or may not be confirmed by further observation,” to, “This has a very high degree of probability.”
When people adapt their thinking to the degree nature of our world, they will be more relaxed. They will be more effective at locating and adopting, but always tentatively, the points-of-view that best represent the world about them. “A truly scientific attitude,” said Dr. Roger Williams, “is one of humility…A know-it-all attitude is incompatible with the scientific method.” Individuals in the twenty-first century will be acutely aware of the way their own nervous system influences their observations and reactions. We see life through the filter of our own individual personality and mode of thinking. Even the language structure that we absorb plays an important part in how we think and the way we observe things. Our ego-needs play a big part in selecting what we notice, fail to notice, remember, or forget. “We see things not’as they are,” said the wise man, “but as we are.”
Individuals in the twenty-first-century world will have a profound feeling of the way all people and all things interact with their environment. People or things are not cut-and-dried entities. The way they act varies depending on the time and place. We must notice differences. Wendell Johnson said, “To a mouse, cheese is cheese. That is why mouse traps are effective.”
Ever Lovelier Words
The success of the method of science in solving almost every problem put to it will give individuals in the twenty-first century a deep confidence in its effectiveness. They will not be afraid to experiment with new ways of feeling, thinking, and acting, for they will have observed the self-corrective aspect of science. Science gives us the latest word, not the last word. They will know that if they try something new in personal or social life, the happiness it yields can be determined after sufficient experience has accumulated. They will adapt to changes in a relaxed way as they zigzag toward the achievement of their values. They will know that there are better ways of doing things than have been used in the past, and they will be determined to experiment until they have found them. They will know that most of the unhappiness of human beings in the mid-twentieth century was not due to the lack of shiny new gadgets; it was due, in part, to not using the scientific method to check out new political and social structures that could have yielded greater happiness for them.
About a century ago Abraham Lincoln brilliantly expressed the attitudes that will most effectively help us work toward a happier future: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
Future generations of mankind will realize that it is only through the scientific method of thinking that their value systems can be fully realized. They will welcome experimentation of all kinds in all phases of life. They will have a habitual open-mindedness coupled with a rigid insistence that all problems be formulated in a way that permits factual checking. They will have the attitude described by Wendell Johnson, “To a scientist a theory is something to be tested. He seeks not to defend his beliefs, but to improve them. He is, above everything else, an expert at ‘changing his mind.’ “
Craig Ferguson figured out why everything sucks!
Awesome jeweled caterpillar becomes even more awesome moth
If you’re not floored by the fact that the orange moth on the right literally started its life with the body of the even more bizarre caterpillar on the left, then you’re a lost cause for Science.
The moth/caterpillar is the species Acraga coa. It’s from the family Dalceridae, and a google image search shows just how cool all of its cousins look. In fact, I might just post a few more pictures later…
The diversity of life on this planet is truly astounding! It is unfortunate that we are destroying so much of it with our current socio-economic mode of operation. I wonder… how many more amazing undiscovered species are out there, and how many have we destroyed without having discovered them? The same goes for exotic plants and fungi, which form the foundation of our medical cures and treatments. Might there be a cure for cancer out there, perhaps exclusive to the Amazon rainforest, being burned up or bulldozed right this moment?
In Case You Missed It, Greenland Just Melted
97% of Greenland’s surface ice sheet thawed in July. Seriously: 97%. How much more ice needs to melt before we get serious about climate change?, upworthy.com
97% of Greenland’s surface ice sheet thawed in July. Seriously: 97%. How much more ice needs to melt before we get serious about climate change?
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