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Monday, May 08, 2006

What We Know but Cannot Prove is So

It's an interesting question. We know things deep in our hearts yet they are things we cannot prove. Many people believe in Gods. Their scoiety backs them up and eliminates the need for hard core proof. Others around them can choose not to believe but society will make the non-believer the outcast. There is no way of knowing how to prove the existance or non-existance of god. All one can do is use their beliefs to make sense of the world.

I believe something that I cannot prove. I believe that there are people among us who, given the opportunity, could be brilliant scientists. These people work as carpenters, bakers, ditch diggers, and all sorts of, what we believe, are lower forms of contributions to society. Given the chance they could figure out how life began on earth. They could help ease world poverty, hunger, war, and all of the other real problems that confound mankind.

One example is Kary Mullis, the man who dreamed up Polymerase Chain Reaction. This technology is used to amplify DNA. He won the Nobel prize for this work. He was considered a slacker by his superiors, even after they sold the technology for over 300 million dollars. Kary was given a ten thousand dollar bonus. Prior to this job, where he outlined how PCR would work, where his company made hundred of millions for this scientific idea, where the Nobel prize was earned, Kary worked as a baker. He baked bread and muffins and cakes.

Imagine, this mind working away in a bakery. The smell of fresh bread wafting through the air. Customers are picking up orders as casual is exchanged over the display cabinets. Somewhere else there is a biotechnology company starting up. They put together their business plan, seek out funding, write up the corporate policies and so on. At some point they probably picked up something from the bakery for an early morning meeting. One day the need for a supervisor is discussed at the biotech company. "We need someone who will supervise the DNA amplification group." In the old days DNA was amplified by growing it in viruses. Kary decides he needs more money so he leaves and joins the new biotech company. A few years later, after all the meetings and the original research plans have been forgotten, the company cashes in on the one idea from the ex-baker.

Somewhere out there, right now, a group of attractive and well dressed individuals are sitting in a board room overlooking New York City. Among this group are lawyers, MBAs, PhDs from the finest schools. They are making a plans that will make them rich. Somewhere else there is a young girl, gutting fish in a factory off the shores of the Mississippi. Given the chance she has the kind of brain that could turn water into fuel. She'll never figure out how to earn a decent living however.

I use this belief to make sense of the world. If our leaders were truly the best at what they do then we'd live in a perfect world. Most likely, the truth is that our leaders are the best at getting themselves promoted. Our leaders know what society believes and treat the beliefs as if they were truths. If you want to be president in America, you have to go to church. You must believe in God. Likewise, if you want to be a successful scientist you must believe in the current dogma of the establishment. If you want to be involved in discovery, you have to know what the current trends in popular thought are, and you have to start tearing them down. Piece by piece you have to get to the heart of the matter and see if "the truth" really is the truth.

There are probably only a handful of individuals who have the ability to get at the truth. There are certainly far more individuals who can learn something in a book and pass that information on as if they understand it. The young lady working at the fish factory in Mississippi might read something in a book that is short on logic and thus she appears confused. Teachers will misconstrue this as not understanding. The truth is that the teacher doesn't understand that what was written was not acceptable to the type of person who has the ability to get at the truth.

Galaleo once told the church that the world revolved around the sun. They threw him in jail. He didn't understand that the world revolved around us because God made us and we were the center of the universe. Galaleo looked up at the stars and asked them what they thought. Real learning is not done in a book. It is done by looking at the world around you and trying to come up with explanations for the way things are. Why do fish live in water and humans on land? I can imagine the young lady in Mississippi thinking these thoughts as she's gutting fish on the second shift. The sun is slanting through the dirty windows of the factory in the late Mississippi evening. The shift boss and the other workers are focused on their gutting techniques or maybe what they are going to do at midnight when they are off. The young lady has her thoughts and never thinks about what to do with them. She was never taught self promotion and it never occured to her. She can think about the natural world but the human world is too hard.

I can't prove that she exists. I think she does and she knows why fish survive in water.

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