Click below to see the truth. (That’s actually a lie. I can’t promise the truth, but I can promise the motivation behind the lies. I can promise, but I’m not going to.) That is, of course, an exaggeration. If you are one of those intelligent people who took a Masters Degree in something or are working on the cutting edge of research in any given field, then what you know is probably the truth. Probably.
Here is what I actually mean. Until you get up to very high level education, almost all the science that you will have been taught will either have been a gross oversimplification or it will have been outright wrong. I know this might come as a shock to you, so I will help relieve this shock by giving you a very precise example of where you are utterly wrong.
How do you think life began? As in all life, the original genesis moment of Earth? You will (unless you are a very up-to-date biologist) probably think that life began as primordial soup. There was some mix of volatile organic compounds that got hit by lightning, combined with gases in the air and formed animo acids – the basic building blocks of all life. If that rings a bell, then congratulations – you were listening in biology class.
You are also completely wrong. Just think about that idea for a second. It implies that when animo acids are made inside cells, it harnesses the power of electricity (or heat or radiation, depending on which primordial soup theory you subscribe to). And as anyone who knows the first thing about life will know, we aren’t powered by electricity. Or heat, or radiation. We are in fact powered by a process known as proton chemiosmosis. That is (if anyone really cares) when trillions of protons are driven across a membrane, the cell throws electrons and neutrons into the stream and derives a chemical called Adenosine Triphosphate, which is essentially the fuel for all life on Earth.
But the point is, what you have been taught is wrong. And that’s not just because you were (in all likeliness) taught it before the primordial soup theory was thoroughly debunked in 2010. The thing that flaws me is that the primordial soup theory is still being taught in schools around the world.
The reasons for still teaching this are diverse and murky. Of course, the textbooks will never be able to keep up with real lab research – you’d need a new textbook every ten minutes or so. Also, even the basic idea of proton chemiosmosis is pretty mind boggling. But still, that’s a pretty poor excuse for teaching something that is proven to be wrong. Actually, this leads onto my next point very nicely. How convenient. There is a good Einstein quote I’ve found to go here.
Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But No Simpler
The problem with almost all modern science outreach programs is that they go too simple. They go beyond the ‘Einstein boundary’, the point at which things stop being simplified and start being wrong. That thing is totally real and not just a thing I made up. The problem with almost all publicly available science is that it falls beyond the Einstein boundary. School science – oversimplified, mostly wrong. TV documentary science – oversimplified, mostly wrong. Science in most museums – oversimplified, mostly wrong. The world is a dark place for those who want to find the truth.
So, after this rather gloomy article, I have a few suggestions. Suggestions for how to find the truth.
- Follow the citations. If you read a Wikipedia article that sounds dubious or interesting, click through on the little blue numbers. They get you to interesting papers, original sources and other interesting things.
- Read original research. If there are news articles referencing a paper, go and read that paper. It will almost certainly contain some greater truth.
- Ask questions. If someone tells you something, question them. Not only will it make you a true dissident, it will unveil the deeper truths of the universe to you.
- Keep asking. Never stop asking questions. I don’t want to sound like a cheesy self-help person, but this really is the way to find out new things. Ask, ask, ask. Always.