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Memories of the 28th Century

Eliminating Ignorance

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One Scintilla At a Time

Earlier today I saw the headline: “New York is investigating Exxon Mobil for allegedly misleading the public about climate change.” My comment when I shared it on Facebook was: “I'm glad I'm not paying for this witch-hunt, because nothing will be proven, but it is possible that it will be shown how questionable some of the so-called science is.” But this is nothing compared to some reporting on actual scientific papers.

For one example, you may have seen an article about an alien megastructure The article has things about Dyson spheres and other possibilities. I searched out the actual paper written by the scientists The conclusion is that the anomaly probably is the collection of pieces from a collision between a planet and something else, along the lines of the collision that created the Moon. Apparently the person who wrote Washington Post article couldn’t bother to read the paper.

I get the impression that many science reporters have trouble understanding basic facts, definitions, etc., so they don’t bother reading the scientific papers beyond the abstract and maybe something that has an interesting header. One basic but often neglected definition is the definition of species.
A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus and denoted by a Latin binomial, e.g., Homo sapiens.”
That’s simple and straightforward; if the beasts can interbreed, then they are of the same species. But I regularly find mentions of Neanderthals and humans being different species (they were two variations of a single species), and just this week there was an article about a new species of coyote. Funny thing is that it is just another variety of wolf or dog, because dogs, coyotes, and wolves can interbreed and do so. When there are substantially different varieties of a species; varieties that are unlikely to interbreed; those varieties are called “races” or “subspecies”.

The abuse of the term "race" is yet another example of common ignorance. It especially bothers me when it is applied to humans to give something to some people that is denied to others. The species Homo sapiens does not have races or subspecies, but some people prefer to use non-facts, and that has led to unpleasantness for many humans.

I had been planning to write on abuses of power by police in the U.S.A., but that is a dull subject that is largely the results of ignorance on the parts of police personnel. I don't know if there are minimum education requirements for them, but there should be. Even before they get training in police methods, they should know that each and every person that they meet has legal rights that the police must honor. Police can't just slap someone around, because they feel like it, and they can't kill people who don't want to talk with them. They can't use weapons at all, unless they are actually threatened by an armed person. They can't search anyone unless they have a warrant to search. Hell, they aren't supposed to break any laws or regulations unless there is a specific emergency; that means that speed limits apply to police. Unfortunately, most police never take a course in Constitutional Law or Civil Rights, so they aren't exposed to the restrictions under which they are supposed to operate.

Police aren't the only ones who don't know about the legal restrictions. Legislators often have similar problems, so laws get passed that are improper, and it takes time to have invalid laws overturned. Local officials and boards also have problems staying within the legal limits of their powers.

What shows up in the news is bad enough, but there are many other violations that governmental boards make in the ordinary course of their work that aren't brought to light until years late, if ever. One example I can think of was a town that allocated sewer betterment charges by a method that was not among the methods that are authorized by statute. Apparently they had been doing things that way for years, and no one pointed out that charges weren't legally valid.

Another thing that I was thinking about writing on was complaining, and how to do it effectively. I’ll get to that another day.