email - September 2014

Why Lie?

What is to be gained by making up stories about planets outside our solar system?

In response to last monthís article about the admission that some of the habitable planets discovered outside our solar system donít even exist, 1 Atarii wrote:

Great articles this month. I really love when you interject a bit of your own personality and history into the articles, and perhaps it is only human nature's love of sensationalism, but when you talk about non-science (such as the claimed detection of planets) I am thoroughly enthralled.

The question is, however, WHY? Sure, evolution is a huge life question, so it is only obvious that people are going to delude themselves into believing it; global warming has several obvious agendas; but whether or not a planet exists light-years away? Why lie about that? If they're not lying, then they have deluded themselves. Or is it that we are hearing sensationalism, but in the lab, they talk amongst one another in great dejection, wondering if they will ever have the equipment to actually see a planet or a star?

What on earth is happening?

The reason why scientists claim to have discovered planets is the same reason why they claim to have found fossils of human ancestors, and so on. But, before we tell you what that reason is, letís take a stroll down memory lane.

Astronomers on Strike

Do you remember the Great New York Garbage Strike of 1981? It was settled after 17 days. 2 Even if you donít remember it, you can probably imagine what New York City smelled like after two weeks, and why the residents were so anxious to get the dispute resolved.

Now imagine how terribly you and your family would suffer if all the astronomers went on strike for 17 days! How could you live if nobody looked through a telescope for just two weeks?

You know how much you spend on garbage collection each month. How much do you spend on astronomers each month? Nothing? Really? Actually, you spend more than you think. Astronomers typically work for universities (and planetariums associated with universities). Tuition and admission fees pay part of their salaries; but the rest of their income comes from federally-funded research grants and subsidized tuition assistance. That means you are paying them with your tax dollars. You arenít paying them as much as you pay your garbage manóbut you are paying them.

You may not realize how much you are paying astronomersóbut the astronomers do! Last month, we quoted one of the astronomers who wrote about habitable planets outside our solar system. Remember, he defended his actions this way:

"I spend my days looking at squiggles on a graph," says Robertson. "But a lot of science is publicly funded, and the taxpayers who contribute to that deserve a return on their investment. I wouldn't say we should shy away from artist impressions or anything that helps us communicate the results of our work to the public." 3

When government bureaucrats are handing out funding to astronomers, do they give it to the astronomer who has discovered a planet, or one who hasnít?

As Atarii pointed out, it doesnít really affect your life if a habitable planet is circling a distant planet or not. So, why would you pay anyone to tell you if it does or not? You have to be made to think that it is important. You have to be told that if we donít fund this research we will fall behind the Chinese in science.

In the private sector, research has to result in something that provides a good return on investment, or else the company goes out of business. They use real science to discover natural laws which they later exploit for financial gain.

Academics sometimes take the attitude that they are above engineers because academics arenít using science to get filthy lucre like engineers do. Their pursuit of knowledge is pure and virtuous. But the truth is they are getting paid, too. They donít sell productsóthey sell stories. Stories tend to have a shorter shelf life than products. They always have to come up with new stories to sell.

Thatís why the story about human evolution changes so much. Somebody always has to come up with a new story based on a new bone in order to get new funding.

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1 Disclosure, August 2014, ďUndiscovered PlanetsĒ,
3 Aron, New Scientist, 3 July 2014, ďFirst life-friendly exoplanet may not exist after allĒ,