Monthly Archives: December 2013

Introduction

Hi everyone, and welcome to my blog, “The Man Behind the Curtain.“ My name is Chris Eppig; I have a Ph.D. in biology and a passion for sharing my knowledge and understanding of the natural world with anybody who will listen.

We can’t figure out what is true and how the world really is just by casually observing things. The way things appear is not always how they are, and our minds can fool us. But why is it important for everyday people to understand science and the knowledge that comes from it? Can’t these things just be left to the nerds? Unfortunately, no. We live in a time where science interacts with our lives more than ever. Not just in terms of technology, but medicine, food, infrastructure, and even our personal relationships. We face problems that only science can solve, and the public needs to understand both the nature of the problems and the nature of the solutions. After all, we live in a democracy and the public is involved in how public money gets spent and who is in charge of making decisions. When we understand the inner workings of anything, we can make better decisions about it. For example, the FDA has recently been cracking down on the use of antibiotics in agriculture and soap. What is the problem? How or does this solve the problem? Is it a good idea? How important is it? These are all questions that an informed public should know the answer to. 

Aside from these practical reasons, I believe that scientific knowledge enriches our lives. An example: A year or two ago, the local astronomy club had their telescopes set up on the roof of a science museum for the public to look at. One gentleman had his telescope pointed at what I believe he said was a Messier object (I can’t remember which one). What I saw when I looked through his telescope was a pale white mist. It was utterly boring, and I had to squint my eye uncomfortably even to see it at all. But then he told me what it was: it was a cluster of over 100,000 stars, so far away that individual stars were impossible to make out, even through this powerful telescope. I immediately looked back through the telescope, as I realized, with a lump in my throat, that this thing that I had initially dismissed as uninteresting was bigger and more beautiful than the grand canyon. I was filled with a sense of how big the universe is, and, rather than feeling small as some might, I felt big for having seen and had some understanding of some small part of it.

The reason for this blog is that we humans are not naturally equipped to see the world as it is. This isn’t anybody’s fault, or a design flaw in our brains, it’s just that things aren’t always as they seem to us:

The Earth appears to be flat. 

The sun appears to orbit the Earth, and the sun, stars and moon all appear to be smaller than the Earth. 

The moon appears to emit its own light. 

Matter appears to be solid, even though it’s mostly empty space. 

Mushrooms look like they are the entire organism, and like they are closely related to plants. 

Dangerous events often seem more likely to occur than they really are. 

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

In this blog I will focus on two things. First, I will talk about some common misconceptions that people have about the natural world and about science. Second, I will discuss common errors in thinking that interfere with people’s ability to interpret the world as it really is. 

The man behind the curtain is not me — it is the real world, which we can discover through science, and it is beautiful. Let me show it to you. 

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