Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stockholm Syndrome

Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) editorialises about the Aussies who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for showing that hitherto mysterious stomach ailments were caused by bacteria:

... when Australian physician Barry Marshall suggested, at a Brussels conference in 1983, that peptic ulcers might have a bacterial cause, his findings were dismissed by colleagues as "the most preposterous thing ever heard," according to his entry in the Current Biography Yearbook ... For their findings, yesterday Drs. Marshall and Warren shared this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine and its $1.3 million prize. It's an inspired choice -- and a useful reminder that just because there's a scientific "consensus," that doesn't mean it's true.

Geddit? Global warming, tax cuts leading to lower revenue, the feasibility of missile defence systems, and of course intelligent design -- just because scientists are in general agreement on these things doesn't mean that Dubya is mistaken when he believes otherwise. Now this of course is a licence for crackpottery, especially on the intelligent design part, upon which Dave at Backword has collected highly relevant thoughts, including:

'Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped' ...

We know for instance that chemistry is reducible to the behaviour of atoms and molecules, and that atoms and molecules are subject to the four fundamental forces. But chemistry goes on. There are interesting new materials every year. Universities have not run out of problems worthy of PhD theses. They likely never will. This doesn’t mean that high-energy physics is wrong, or that there are mysterious forces unaccounted for ...

But perhaps the Wall Street Journal would like to put up its own prize for theories battling the scientific consensus?

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