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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on April 5, 2001 15:51:47 UTC

John,

There is nothing which can replace objective rational thought. The problem with objective rational thought is that it sometimes successfully solves some problem. If the solution turns out to have important consequences relevant to the community of mankind, then an institution will come to be built around that solution. The institution will depend on the correctness of that solution and will eventually hold the position in religious awe. Something not to be questioned.

So the success itself leads to the quenching of objective rational thought. I will give you a tiny example of success totally quenching rationality. Newton came up with F=ma. The relationship was a brilliant observation but he made a subtle mistake which has plagued science ever since.

In Newton's time, spring scales existed and were commonly used to measure "weight". But mankind had been using "weights and measures" for thousands of years before Newton. Balances were used long before spring scales were invented. And, as Newton well knew, the use of a balance and a standard won't do to measure force: you will get exactly the same "weight" at the pole or the equator. Since acceleration has units (and is a vector) Newton needed to define the two other entities in the equation. He made a major mistake when he identified weight with force (I think he did this because of the common use of spring scales at the time) and defined a new term "mass" for the other entity.

Now, as any butcher will tell you, a five pound steak is still a five pound steak when you throw it up in the air. The concept "weight" as held by the common man, is exactly what Newton meant by "mass". Had Newton done the rational thing and invented a term for the other entity; say for example "Press" and written his equation P=wa, ( i.e., Press equals weight times acceleration); he would have saved us a lot of difficulty.

First, we would not have to spend days persuading every student that what he thinks is weight is not weight but rather mass. (Don't you find it astounding that this job has to be done over and over with every generation? To me it implies that the concept we tag as "mass" is picked up very quickly by children only tagged as weight.)

Second, the weightlessness when in orbit would not have to be explained to the layman. One's weight would be the same in orbit as it is here. We would instead say that there is no Press between him and the ship. But actually, Newton already had a term for that: it's called Force so there was no real need to invent another word. The error was pure and simple, the common concept weight is mass not force and the scientific community should have used that relation.

But this error will never be corrected because it is currently part of the catechism or science, the new religion. This is a microcosm of how the results of rational objective thought create "Academies", institutes which use their power to prevent rational objective thought.

Religions arise from exactly the same source. Those who started the institutions (or who's work started the institutions) were very probably extremely rational people who thought about things and came up with the best explanation they could given the state of their knowledge. I have talked to people today who are, in many respects, trying to institute a new religious position. They always believe they have found the solution but are usually working with less than all the facts or accept as fact ideas which are not well thought out. But I have found them to be very rational people, just ignorant of the facts and not really concerned with the possibility of error. A flaw I also find rampant in the field of "science".

Sorry to run on so -- Dick

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