Science is simple
but subtle

An example in five steps

"Energy is the capacity to do work" writes the textbook writer.  Then, a  few chapters later, he writes, "Energy can be  unavailable for doing work." Some people sense something wrong here; some don't. 

Something subtle is wrong.  Very wrong.  But this is one of those things we must figure out for ourselves because when we are simply told, we don't really" see." 

Discuss it with friends, preferably including one or two who have taken an elementary physics course.  Try to find specifically, just what is wrong? 


Most of today’s science is new in the evolutionary progress of man—a few centuries old, at most.  Most is simple.  But it’s subtle.  It requires ways of looking, ways of thinking, that stretch our thought processes.  It wasn’t obvious in the days of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, and it’s no more obvious today, even though it has catapulted us into technological cultures undreamt of by the ancients.  Most of today’s science is simply not what it seems at first glance ,and too few people ever take that necessary second glance. 

What seems to be “science” is often just "pseudo." 


Pseudoscience is almost always oversimplification. It’s infected with “Herpes simpletonisus,” a  whole zoo of “singles” …  Single-minded, single cause and single effect, single purpose, single-person subcultures (egocentrisms), single-component measure, etc.  It’s also often infected with an unskeptical wish to believe.  Science succeeds because it looks to our world, not only to our wishes, for its information to act upon. 


Even simple things can have complex causes.  Schrödinger.s “precious something contained in our food which keeps us from death” is “energy” to most of us.  Schrödinger recognized that many influences create many possibilities of what that precious something might actually be.  He sorted through those possibilities and found that energy, as known to science in the 20th century, isn’t particularly relevant.  The key to understanding is entropy, and the key to Schrödinger's insight is skill at sorting the relevant from the irrelevant. 


Several years ago, one person with unusually clear perception of the simple but subtle concepts of modern science examined all the textbooks submitted to teach the children of California the science they might need in their lives.  What he found was a disaster in progress. “Everything was written by someone who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, …They were teaching something they didn’t understand, and which was in fact useless…” 
(Richard Feynman in Surely You’re Joking, My Feynman, pp 262-276.) 
The authors of those textbooks were the teachers of our teachers.  That disaster is still progressing. 

Friends, let's get together and try to figure this out....