From _The Science Gap: Dispelling the Myths and Understanding the Reality of Science_, by

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From _The Science Gap: Dispelling the Myths and Understanding the Reality of Science_, by Dr. Milton A. Rothman (former professor of physics at Trenton State College and former research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory). P. 93: If you suggest that stories about faster-than-light travel to distant stars are pure fantasy, their stock answer is: "Everything we thought we knew in the past has been overturned, so how do we know the theories of today will not be replaced by different theories in the future?" According to the idea that theories are but temporary abstractions, the principle of relativity now in fashion will undoubtedly turn out to be wrong in the future. Somehow a way will be found to get around the part of the theory that says you can't travel faster than light. Look at history. Heavier-than-air flight was once believed to be impossible. See how silly those unbelievers turned out to be. Therefore, scientists are just as wrong when they say that faster-than-light travel is impossible. Although argument- by-analogy is indefensible in any kind of science, I have heard this kind of logic proposed by some well-known science fiction writers whose reputations are based on writing "hard science." . . . What makes this argument invalid is the fact that it is based upon a myth. The idea that all theories are temporary is simply not true, even though it is believed by a great many people. The reason is, as we have shown, that we do know some things for a certainty. Even though the history of science is filled with examples of scientists changing their minds about the nature of things, does it necessarily follow that they will continue to change their minds about all presently accepted ideas? The truth is that many of the theories of the past were primitive, tentative, and either incorrect or incomplete. When they changed, they changed to theories that were more correct and more complete. This change took place because as laboratory techniques improved, experimental evidence got better. . . . Some historians and philosophers of science try to claim that scientific knowledge is nothing more than the consensus of the scientific community. According to this notion, scientists need only change their consensus and knowledge changes accordingly. . . . In the physical sciences the consensus theory of knowledge simply does not take the facts into account. Much of the conventional wisdom of nineteenth- century physics consisted of a variety of conjectures believed to be true by a number of scientists and accepted on faith by others without close examination. It did not conform to our present standards of "knowledge." . . . To reduce scientific knowledge to "consensus" ignores the contribution of empirical evidence--evidence based on observation. From p. 117, after a long chapter on why we cannot expect to find new forces in nature to help us make anti-gravity and the like: The conclusion to which we are forced--unsatisfactory as it might be to many--is that we cannot depend on the discovery of new and radically different kinds of forces in the future to help us go faster than light, to hold vehicles suspended in midair, to make objects move by directing thoughts at them, or to transmit messages telepathically. We must make do with the forces that exist. And finally, from p. 235-6: Here is a review of some of the predictions we have made in this book: . . . * Nobody is going to travel the distant stars at speeds faster than that of light. (Principle of relativity; Poincare' symmetry)


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