This post is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Hitchens, a remarkable man; not for any idea he ever held, but that he was honest enough to change his mind and tell eveyone why.
This is a prelude, a foundation to a later post, where Tim Steele and I will call into serious question the value of 16s rRNA sampling of the gut microbiome, after some time of both of us being “fanboys.” See, we did science and changed our views accordingly.
What the fuck is science, anyway? In today’s politicized world, it’s a bludgeon. It’s too often what one invokes in order to smear, dismiss, assert, or otherwise look the other way. It has—in modern use for too many—become a sort of “authority” one references in order to lay claim to legitimacy. And too often, it’s motivated by laziness, or a reluctance to dump a bad investment in shit that’s just wrong or in need of serious critical evaluation.
Good science is hard to do. Few are up to the task, and that may simply be for the reason that, having solved a huge number of plaguing problems in human quotidian history, we’re quibbling at nipping at heels. I don’t know, but I do know what science is:
Observation and experiment.
That’s all, fundamentally. But unfortunately, today, the lion’s share of what’s touted as such turns on ad hominem, ad verecundiam, and ad populum. That is, a focus on the man, the institution(s) with whom he or she is aligned, and public opinion. This is not science. In fact, science done right and with discipline is such a value that its history is a vaulted one of slicing through such fallacies like a cold knife through super-cooled nitrogen under vacuum.
There are important additional elements. Perhaps most fundamental is that observations be re-observable, and experiments be reproducible. That’s no too much to ask, right? ‘Let me know what you observed and what the results of your experiments were. I’ll do the same, so will a lot of other guys & gals, and if we do the same and find the same, then the hypothesis you have derived has more confidence that it may be true.’
But if we can’t, that’s a problem, a BIG FUCKING RED FLAG.