Subjective science

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Subjective science
*Chapter 12 of my upcoming novel, Resurrection, is posted here. In 1920, Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming, while cleaning some glass plates on which he had been growing a certain kind of bacteria, noticed an odd thing: one of the plates had become contaminated by mold. Curiously, the area around the mold looked free of bacterial growth. His observation indicated that a relationship might exist: the mold or a substance produced by the mold might prevent bacterial growth. Fleming's observation led to the discovery of Penicillin, a new miracle drug that could be used to treat bacterial infections. The story of Fleming's discovery is mirrored throughout science: observations lead to guesses which sometimes lead to discoveries. When we observe something in the physical world we can choose to accept that observation if it is repeatable, or take it a step further and use science to explain its function should we find that important. (Thank goodness Fleming decided it was important) But not every observation needs to be explained nor investigated. And here's the thing. The lack of that rigor does not change the veracity of the observation. For example, every time I toast frozen bread, relative to fresh bread, it comes out crispier on the outside, more tender on the inside. That's a repeatable observation—one that can be shared amongst others interested in crispy bread with tender insides. I do not need to form a hypothesis as to why that happens and then spend my time using the scientific method to explain the phenomenon. It's easy to get hung up on the idea that if we cannot explain something it cannot be stated as fact. Observations are facts. Conclusions as to causation are not yet facts until they can be proven. I do not require proof that my toast tastes better when first frozen anymore than I need proof that what I hear is accurate. If you do, it might help to ask yourself why.
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Paul McGowan

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