For a few nanoseconds today, CNN’s headline was all physics:
The article isn’t bad. But the headline did not hint at the potential imminent discovery of the Higgs boson, or collective amazement and pride for the most complex machine ever built by mankind.
No, of course, CNN headlined with the idea that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had a chance of destroying the Earth.
(I’m writing this post twelve hours after this article was the top story, so I don’t remember the exact headline that was used. Bad blogger *whap*!)
In our schools and in our media, there’s a heavy mandate to provide access to the two major sides of each story.
For political issues, this makes complete sense. Democrats and Republicans have opposite opinions as to how the United States should be run. Politics is fraught with uncertainty, and whether small government or large government is more appropriate can only be determined by leadership and time.
I’m going to make the unpopular (and you might say terribly arrogant) statement that not every idea deserves equal time. Certain ideas are just plain wrong.
You can believe all you want that if you drop an object it will fall upwards. But that idea is wrong. If you write an article about gravity, standards of journalistic integrity state you need to provide someone who can argue the other side. Common sense says no such thing — ask one of those gravity deniers to let go of a bowling ball over a bare foot and see how invested they are in their viewpoint.
If you happen to be a denier, you’re welcome to continue to prove these key ideas wrong, and scientists will be happy to hear arguments if they’re well-founded. But you’re going to be wrong. There’s something you overlooked.
Ironically, this open-mindedness is what gets science into trouble in the first place. Because scientists are willing to listen to alternative theories, scientists appear weak as if they don’t know what will happen. In actuality, scientists know pretty much exactly what will happen. Especially for a machine they themselves built.
Sure, there are still plenty of unexplained phenomena out there. I’ve touched on them in the past. The existence of these phenomena do not imply in any way that our current physics is wrong or invalid. Our laws may stand to need a little correcting, but the way that we understand the universe now is pretty much dead on. Science is based on thousands of years of observation. We know what we know because we’ve seen it happen.
The media’s quixotic need to profile both sides of issues propagates the public debates about evolution and climate change. Scientists have no doubt at all that either of those phenomena are occurring. But the omnipresent doubters in the media hurt the cause of true knowledge.
Science isn’t an issue, it’s the search for the ultimate truth. You’re welcome to participate in the debate. In fact, most scientists would love the opportunity to talk science with you. Just make sure you’re actually talking science.