I have recently been reviewing Chaplin 2007; Dunning-Davies 2011a, 2011b; Hutchinson 2008; Milgrom 2003; Pringle 2003; Singh 2008, among others, for my own reasons.
None of that will mean much to any of you, though many will know they are the keys to figuring out the backdrop of what leads me to write the following.
The short and skinny of it is that these papers relate to the hard evidence that water stores information. To me it is a self evident thing, but I was surprised at how much an issue of contention the concept is. I can be a little dense at times, and didn’t understand the vitriol I found in some of the comments.
But then it hit me: I was reading what could be said to be empirical evidence for homeopathy. Now, before you freak out, and just to state, I was looking at these papers for completely different reasons, and this was a realization that came to me on the side of my own purposes. However, this realization led me to look into Montagnier et al. 2010, and the review, Ho 2011, for anyone interested.
Now I can sense the emotional, knee-jerk, dismissive reaction of many at reading even these careful words, as soon as the word homeopathy came into play, so let me be clear:
I neither believe in, nor do I discredit, homeopathy. I do not use it myself, and never have. Likewise, I do not discount the possibility of using it in the future should I be convinced of it’s merits. I have no opinion on the subject. I am opinionated about so many other things that investing the time developing an opinion, and then pursuing it, is outside my time constraints and interests.
We have to pick our battles.
However, this all brings to mind that some things never change. Prevailing wisdom, no matter how flawed or well based, always protects itself and all too often rejects evidence contrary to the purpose of preserving it’s own paradigm (i.e. water cannot store information, and any data that show it does, especially data that could be friendly to the concept of homeopathy, must be flawed, and that is the end of it: Not even worth examining.)
Such is the story when it comes to co2 and global warming. Such is the story when it comes to evidence of particles moving faster than light. Such is the story when it comes to evidence that the future affects the past, and that time is not linear (this in spite of recognized quantum mechanical realities, and a growing body of admittedly controversial evidence that the future does effect the past). I can go on at length about the state of established ignorance in the presence, but I think it is far more important to recognize that it is nothing new.
Always has science rejected new information.
Alfred Wegener was an object of ridicule (you can read about his sins here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Wegener, or read the book “Krakatoa” by Winchester for a brilliant, if inadvertent, summation of them). He committed the scientifically treasonous act of suggesting the continents drifted around on a mantle, and that geological activity such as earthquakes and volcanic activity were caused by the friction and forces created by those movements. They laughed at him. Cut his funding. Ridiculed his work. The man wasn’t even a geologist, they said. What does he know?
We know how that ended, now, don’t we? Looking back we laugh (or worse, forget) the near universal opposition to his proposal. The man was an object of ridicule, yet now, he is a founding father of geology.
The history of knowledge is replete with stories of the established viewpoint making mock of the evidence set to uproot and cast it down.
To quote Robert Schoch, Ph. D., at length for a moment:
“Despite the myth of the “objectivity” of “pure science,” there is nothing fully objective about the way practicing scientists actually pursue their business. Scientists, like everyone else, are influenced either subtly or explicitly by combinations of social, political, and religious pressures (even when reacting against such factors) and by deeply ingrained assumptions and worldviews that are virtually inescapable. The status quo rewards “good” scientists, those who toe the party line, with prestige, honor, promotions, grant money, personal gain, and even wealth. But those who step out of line may be severely punished.
As science historians Juan Miguel Campanario and Brian Martin (2008) have pointed out, there are different strategies one can pursue as a scientist (or academic scholar more generally). Most scientists build their careers by accepting, and working within, the existing paradigm of the time, adding to the overall picture with carefully sifted bits of data and perhaps elaborating and slightly tweaking existing theories. The work they do is neither highly original nor spectacular, but in terms of peer acceptance and likelihood of success (whether measured in terms of contributions to the paradigm or, more honestly, promotion and upward mobility in terms of jobs and salaries) it is a good, conservative approach. Such a path, herding with the scientific pack, generally results in a stable career, moderate prestige, and the material benefits that go with being a well-paid industrial or academic scientist.
On the other hand we can consider the “scientific risk takers,” those who pursue speculative or unusual ideas, do not dismiss anomalous data, and end up questioning the reigning paradigm. The stakes are high. If the dissident succeeds in having a new idea or theory accepted by the mainstream, the rewards in terms of prestige (which may result in funding, jobs, or other material benefits) can be enormous. However, the odds are stacked against the true innovator, and such a path is difficult, to say the least. Not only, one can argue, is there a high probability that the theories or ideas espoused by the innovator are false in an absolute sense, but even if there is something to them, there is also an incredible prejudice against new ideas among status quo scientists.”
In some ways I am glad to be decidedly not academic in background, but the derision received for holding data based points of view contrary to prevailing wisdom is in many ways worse.
To quote Max Planck, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing it’s opponents and making them see the light, but rather because it’s opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” (quoted in Kuhn 1962, 150)
It is a sad truth that new information is subject to the same political and socioeconomic obstruction today as it was in centuries past. Whether its the skeptical view of global warming, or the re-writing of ancient history because of Gobekli Tepi and the Bosnian Pyramids, progress is halted because we cling to the old view for very human reasons (power, money, status, and prestige).
If only we remembered, daily, that all progress made in the past was generally won in a hard fought contest against the prevailing wisdom of the day, maybe we could make the path’s of trailblazers in these rapidly changing times easier and less full of personal ridicule and arrogant dismissal.
It is not to say we shouldn’t be critical, and demand empirical evidences: We should. But it is long past time we abandon dogmatic, almost religious, notions that we have a history of holding onto in every generation of man to this point: That we know, and our knowledge is complete. It has been folly all along, and is so today.