An illustration of faith in the sciences. November 4, 2006Posted by Administrator in Cultural Pessimism, Education, Faith, Science.
OPENING CAVEAT: I hold no brief and very little interest in whether or not Sasquatch exists. In the end, I really could not care less if the hirsute monster exists or not.
Seems this fellow named Meldrum, a Ph. D in anatomical sciences, has been gathering data on Bigfoot for the past ten years, and has been publishing papers on the creature, has come to the point of claiming that the big guy actually exists.
For the past 10 years, he has added his scholarly sounding research to a field full of sham videos and supermarket tabloid exposes. And he is convinced he has produced a body of evidence that proves there is a Bigfoot.
“It used to be you went to a bookstore and asked for a book on Bigfoot and you’d be directed to the occult section, right between the Bermuda Triangle and UFOs,” Meldrum said. “Now you can find some in the natural science section.”
A number of his colleagues, whom I suspect bear a spiritual resemblance to their philosophical master in foolishness PZ Myers, are rumbling their discontent and suggesting that Meldrum have his tenured position at Idaho State University revoked.
Martin Hackworth, a senior lecturer in the physics department, called Meldrum’s research a “joke.”
“Do I cringe when I see the Discovery Channel and I see Idaho State University, Jeff Meldrum? Yes, I do,” Hackworth said. “He believes he’s taken up the cause of people who have been shut out by the scientific community. He’s lionized there. He’s worshipped. He walks on water. It’s embarrassing.”
. . .many (ISU) scientists are embarrassed by what they call Meldrum’s “pseudo-academic” pursuits and have called on the university to review his work with an eye toward revoking his tenure. One physics professor, D.P. Wells, wonders whether Meldrum plans to research Santa Claus, too.
Despite this, Meldrum has some supporters, including his dean,
“He’s a bona fide scientist,” Kijinski said. “I think he helps this university. He provides a form of open discussion and dissenting viewpoints that may not be popular with the scientific community, but that’s what academics all about.”
and naturalist Jane Goodall,
Her blurb on the jacket of Meldrum’s new book, “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,” lauds him for bringing “a much-needed level of scientific analysis” to the Bigfoot debate.
“As a scientist, she’s very curious and she keeps an open mind,” said Goodall spokeswoman Nona Gandelman. “She’s fascinated by it.”
Now, I could well be wrong, but suspect that PZ would be clamoring for the removal of Dr. Meldrum’s tenure in that it does not fit the established mantra of acceptable science. For years, Bigfoot has been equivalent to the Loch Ness monster and the Abominable Snowman; rural legends designed to chill the blood of exurban housewives and gullible schoolchildren.
Yet, Dr. Meldrum has persistently explored this phenomenom based on one incident:
Meldrum said it was a decade ago in Walla Walla, Wash., that he first discovered flat 15-inch footprints in the woods. He said he thought initially that they were a hoax, but noticed locked joints and a narrow arch – traits he came to believe could only belong to Bigfoot.
That’s what set the hook,” Meldrum said. “I resolved at this point, this was a question I’d get to the bottom of.”
This lone discovery, aided I am sure by not a little FAITH in the possibility that the smelly brute exists, caused him to go against the entrenched FAITH of the acceptable scientific community and pursue this line of inquiry.
I’ll admit, I may be wrong in saying that PZ might have no problem with this research; save for this caveat: If I told PZ initially that Meldrum was a Christian, you may well bet that he would dismiss Meldrum’s Bigfoot mania as a direct symptom of his religious gullibility. But if I told Myers that Meldrum was atheist, or even agnostic, Myers would be much more open to Meldrum’s indulgence in this line of inquiry.
Hence, Myers’ own faith would reveal itself.
There is concept in philosophy, known as the Aristotle’s “Three Acts of the Mind.” Science restricts itself-and rightfully- to the third act of the mind, that of what may be known by reason alone. The difficulty is that we have other knowledge that comes about from beyond reason; emotion, hunches, instincts (beyond simple reflexes). Meldrum, in indulging in these hunches, has also used his reason to cause the scientific community to reconsider its notions of truth. But many scientists, and PZ is forefront among them, cling too much to their own faith in the Third Act of the Mind as the sole arbiter of truth, rendering them incapable of interpreting more subtle -and sometimes not so subtle- truths that are right in front of them.
And in hewing to that Third Act as a gospel route to Truth, render their truths immediately suspect. They hold to faith, without ever admitting that faith may exist.
An intellectual oxymoron of breathtaking simplicity, yet powerfully damaging.