Is Science Always True?

ASuToiSToday is Sunday, March 23, 2014.

The good thing about science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it.”  –Neil deGrasse Tyson

I think Neil deGrasse Tyson was probably using this statement to make a distinction between science and religion.  It’s true that when scientists say something, they can generally back it up with proof.  There are a few theories out there, though, that many people take as true, but a good scientist knows that a theory is something that we think might be true, based on evidence, but it hasn’t been formally proven yet.

Still, there is a danger in believing everything the scientists tell us without understanding that

  • it is based on what we know now, but a discovery may be made in the future which will invalidate it.
  • future scientific equipment may be able to view or measure that which we cannot yet see or quantify.
  • just because something cannot be seen, measured, or understood at the present time, doesn’t mean that it is not there, or that it is not important.
  • statistics and facts can be interpreted wrongly; it is possible to come to a conclusion that turns out to be false, even if the facts are true.

I found a bunch of things on the web recently that I learned years ago and had always thought of as true.  Some of these so-called “facts” may be in your own fact-bank, as well.  Time to trade them in for some newer facts.

The Milky Way is not a simple spiral galaxy.  It’s a “barred spiral,” which means that there is a big bar across the middle and the arms sprout from both ends.

Mt. Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world.  That honor belongs to Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.  Mauna Kea is only 13,799 feet (4,206 meters) above sea level, but if you count the portion that is underwater, the whole thing is  33,465 feet tall (10,200 meters). Everest is only 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level, with none of it below sea level.

We don’t lose most of our body heat through our heads.  The truth is that we lose the same amount of heat per square inch through our heads as we do through the rest of the body.  If you are outside on a cold day and your head feels cold, that’s probably because you haven’t got a hat on, even though the rest of you is nicely covered.  Put a hat on.

The Great Wall of China is the only manmade object visible from space.  You might be able to see it from a plane, but even in low earth orbit it’s pretty hard to pick out without a good camera lens. At night, spacemen can see lights, and because of this, they can see cities and highways at night.

The reason old panes of glass are uneven and not clear is NOT because glass is a slow-moving liquid.  No, the glass isn’t slowly dripping downward.  Glass in the old days (early to mid 1800) was made by a process known as the crown method: the glass was blown, flattened, heated and spun, which meant that it was rippled and a little thicker in some places than others.  The glass looked wavy like that when it was first installed.

Mother birds will not abandon their babies if human beings touch them.  First of all, if you see a baby bird that doesn’t seem to be able to fly back to its nest, assume unless you know otherwise that the mother bird is nearby and that she will come and rescue her little one once you’ve gone away.  If you do feel the need to rescue the baby bird from imminent danger, don’t worry.  The parents will come back and get the baby.  If the baby is still fuzzy and has no feathers, do try to get it back into the nest if you an. The adult birds probably won’t even notice.  The argument that the mother will leave her baby because your human scent is on it doesn’t really “fly” because the vast majority of birds can’t smell very well, if at all.

Different parts of your tongue don’t perceive different tastes.  I remember seeing an illustration of the tongue with areas marked out for sweet, salty, sour and bitter tastes in a textbook once.  The tip was for sweet things, the sides were for salty things, the back was for bitter tastes and the middle was for sour.  Wrong!  Most people can sense different tastes all over their tongues.  There are chefs who swear that we can also taste something called ‘unami” – a kind of savory, meaty flavor.  (The word is from Japanese.)  It wasn’t until the late 20th century that scientists found that there is such a thing as “unami.”

Most people did not think the world was flat before Columbus’ voyage.  They might have believed in sea monsters, but they did not think it was flat.

Blood that lacks oxygen turns blue.  Nope, your veins are blue because of a trick of the light.  “Tired” blood is really just very dark red, a kind of bluish-red.

Chameleons do not change color to blend in with surroundings.  They change color if they’re feeling angry, combative, or fearful.  They may change colors to attract a mate.  And they change colors depending on the light and the air temperature.  Otherwise, their normal coloration is pretty good camouflage.

Humans have five senses.  Actually, we have a lot more than just five.  Scientists haven’t yet agreed on the exact number.  Some senses seem part of one of the “big five.” For example, scientists are starting to call our ability to sense pain (nociception) is a separate sense apart from the general sense of touch.

So there you have it.  Sure, science is true… for now.  But that may change.

And as for religion, much of that has to do with spiritual, rather than physical things.  How can you expect science, which limits itself to the physical world, to “prove” anything of a spiritual nature?   As well, I was reminded by a friend who read this post that the spiritual laws are also true – whether you believe in them or not.  🙂

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