Words by Mr Max Lakin
As a lifelong environmentalist, an accomplished scientist, an entrepreneur, and a born fighter, I’m an absolute believer in the scientific method. As a means of understanding nature based on a few unchanging principles, the scientific method is simple and elegant. We could even say it’s beautiful. But, given the obstacles that it has faced in the past and still faces today, the scientific method is at risk of becoming just a beautiful dream.
Science begins with observation. We look at an aspect of the natural world and, based on what we see, we derive a possible explanation. Then we perform experiments to test the explanation’s validity. If the explanations are validated, the result could be a new law of science. Otherwise, it’s “a swing and a miss.”
“It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess was, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, or what your name is. If your experimental results disagree with nature, your guess was wrong. That’s all there is to it.”
As the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman explained, “That simple principle is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess was, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, or what your name is. If your experimental results disagree with nature, your guess was wrong. That’s all there is to it.”
Unfortunately, that’s not all there is to it, and that’s never been all there is to it. In the 17th century, when Galileo Galilei’s investigations showed that the Earth revolved around the sun, he was prosecuted by religious authorities who invoked decrees from the Council of Trent.
Galileo could be prosecuted for heresy because his discoveries conflicted with biblical verses. And in the 21st century, new varieties of heresy have appeared. Climate change and its purported human causes have become an inviolable doctrine in academia, politics, and the media. Reminiscent of the Council of Trent, bill S. 729, now before Congress, “prohibits use of funds to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change.” In other words, if you believe the government should be able to support any research on climate change, you can shut up and sit down.
In our most prestigious universities, anyone who invokes the scientific method against the new orthodoxy is committing career suicide. Let me repeat, I’m a scientist, not a political ideologue or an ivory tower professor. In fact, I’m an environmental activist. I led the creation of the C.L.E.A.N. Food Certified Label that is now on hundreds of products at Whole Foods. My research exposed the lack of safety assessment standards for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and I have gone head-to-head against the Monsanto Corporation for the absence of those standards. I was the featured scientist in Poisoning Paradise, a film produced by Pierce Brosnan that exposes the exploitation of Native Hawaiians by Big Agro-biotech. My company, CytoSolve, has developed the world’s first computational platform for scalable integration of molecular pathway models. This can put an end to laboratory testing on animals forever.
My work has been based on the scientific method, but I’ve learned that the scientific method alone is not enough. You’ve also got to fight. I’ve had to fight for freedom, because freedom threatens the interests of the political/academic/media establishment. At MIT, I fought for minorities’ access to education, for workers rights, and for freedom of speech for everyone.
My principles in these causes were always the same as my allegiance to the scientific method. When freedom is suppressed in any area of life, truth is replaced by power-driven and profit-driven falsifications. That’s what’s happening right now in our national discourse (or lack thereof) on health care, education, immigration, and most flagrantly on global warming doctrine. All of these issues have a real impact on people’s everyday lives. They’re all going to cost most people money, and they’re going to make a much smaller number of people billions or trillions of dollars. We deserve to have open and transparent discourse and debate on all matters of national interest before any of us are required to pay for them.
Bertrand Russell, a Nobel Prize laureate like Richard Feynman, wrote, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people are so full of questions.” Here Russell correctly identified questioning as the essential wisdom of the scientists and the scientific method. But the opponents of that wisdom aren’t just fools and fanatics. They know exactly what they’re doing, they’re very good at it, and they’re not going to go away by themselves.
Whatever works for you
For our personal health and for the sustainability of human life on our planet, we need the truth that only authentic science provides us — and that just ain’t possible without freedom. So, I say “Fight on.”