In many cases these essays are my rant of the week, or, until recently, of the month or quarter. Today, I'm in too good a mood to rant.
It's been a pretty good week for the Scientific Method, small science, and the legal system. I'm referring of course to the JAMA article written by Emily Rosa on Therapeutic Touch, and the dismissal of the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
Rosa's article underscores everything I believe in about Science and how it's useful. The simple tools of observation and deduction make it possible to find the truth amid confusion. Confusing claims about energy fields and human healing can be tested with a coin, some cardboard and a notebook. They really are simple tools: Emily Rosa is in the fourth grade.
I know that a fourth grader is capable of doing the experiment she did, but by actually investing the time and making the splash, she reminded adults how easy and important Science is. People need be reminded that beliefs need testing, and that the test is usually easier than it looks. More importantly, kids being shown that Science is easy and can get you national recognition can only encourage more of them to take it seriously. Everyone needs to develop critical thinking, and the younger the better.
It's also a good message to the people and agencies that fund research that small research projects can have a large impact. How many research hospitals and medical schools are kicking themselves for not investing the cost of a fourth grade science project? Rosa's work highlights the minimal cost that can be involved in debunking some of the hocus pocus that's rampant in this country. I wonder what it would take to get a class of sixth graders to check out past life regression?
A week that just had Rosa's article in it would be nothing to sneeze at, but it just got better.
You've certainly heard enough about the facts in the dismissal of the Paula Jones case, so I won't repeat them. I'm not happy about it because I'm a staunch Democrat and my boy's at least partially off the hook. I didn't vote for Clinton last election (or Dole either), and see eye-to-eye with him only about half the time. I'm not pleased for the effect, if any, that this case will have on future sexual harassment litigation. That's a serious issue that deserves serious consideration, and this case really doesn't break any new ground there, no matter what pundits may believe.
I'm happy because I think it's a fine demonstration that the legal system often works. I agree with the Judge Wright's assessment that even if the defense were to prove all of its claims, there was no harassment. Acting like a dick is not a crime.
The two events are very similar in that in both cases people had to make closely reasoned decisions amid a haze of conflicting claims. It's a rare and beautiful thing to see truth come out twice in a week.