When I heard it the first time, it puzzled me. The ignorant command is heard in several versions. "Don't question the science." "Follow the science." "Accept the science." Having worked in the scientific community for 22 years, I learned that scientists question everything. I like what one of my friends said. "Don't question the science? That's what scientists do!"
Dr. Albert Einstein questioned his own hypotheses, theories and ideas. Why? Many other scientists questioned them, too. However, to validate an erroneous concept, he created the infamous "fudge factor."
In an article titled "Einstein's Greatest Blunder?" (Donald Goldsmith, PhD, 1997), we read, "In theoretical physics, when Albert Einstein originally tried to produce a general theory of relativity, he found that the theory seemed to predict the gravitational collapse of the universe: it seemed that the universe should either be expanding or collapsing, and to produce a model in which the universe was static and stable (which seemed to Einstein at the time to be the 'proper' result), he introduced an expansionist variable (called the Cosmological Constant), whose sole purpose was to cancel out the cumulative effects of gravitation. He later called this 'the biggest blunder of my life.'"
Nicolaus Copernicus is well known for his work about heliocentricity -- that is, the sun is the center of our solar system. I read that he delayed publishing his ideas because of opposition, NOT from the church, but from his fellow scientific scholars. You see, scientists believed that the sun circled the earth but Copernicus was questioning the science of the day. Of course, he was right.
In January of 1912, German geophysicist Alfred Wegener questioned the science of the day and proposed what we now call continental drift. He was accused of having "moving crust disease and wandering pole plague." However, in the 1960s tectonic plate movement was confirmed.
British surgeon and pioneer in bacteriology Dr. Joseph Lister promoted the concept of bacteria or germs floating in the air that caused disease and death. He applied the work of Louis Pasteur in developing an antiseptic to reduce death. He was mocked and his ideas were scorned by his colleagues. He questioned the science of the day but he was right. Have you ever heard of the mouthwash called Listerine? Named after Joseph Lister, Listerine was developed in 1879 by Joseph Lawrence, a chemist in St. Louis, Mo.
How about Robert H. Goddard? Ever hear of him? He was the butt of mockery and ridicule for the audacity of questioning common sense and science. To discredit Goddard, in 1920 the New York Times publicly reviled him because he thought humans could go into space in a contraption called a rocket. One of the statements in the article said, "That Professor Goddard seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." However, because Robert Goddard questioned science, we now have NASA's world-famous Goddard Space Flight Center and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Following an hypothesis from 1755, Mr. Edwin Hubble questioned the science of the day (1924) and proposed that tiny space clouds outside our Milky Way galaxy were distant galaxies. He was opposed by many in the astronomical field, particularly by Harlow Shapley, head of the Harvard College Observatory (1921–1952). But Edwin Hubble is a name you should recognize, for the Hubble Telescope is named after him.
Do you see what I'm talking about? It's not only okay to question established scientific thought, we MUST question it. Whether our challenge is valid or not, we learn through our investigation. That is the scientific method.
A major problem develops when an idea is proven incorrect, but the propagators of the concept do what Charles Darwin and his followers did. They created hypotheses and theories, called them facts and defended the concepts with religious zeal. Then, as Einstein did, they created fudge factors in attempts to validate their ideas. My dad said several times, "Son, if someone says something long enough and loud enough, even though it is wrong, eventually he will have a big following."
And that is why some ideas are called science but they are actually philosophy or religion. I've worked with scientists who hold to several beliefs that have been scientifically disproven. But they've based their professions on their beliefs, so they hold onto their non-scientific philosophies with religious ardor.
So, go ahead. Question the science. Search for truth. But don't fight. If someone gets agitated about it, that's not your problem.
-- S. Eugene Linzey is an author, mentor and speaker. Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his web site at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.