What people know may not be so | PostIndependent.com

What people know may not be so

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See It

All too often, people are inclined to believe things they have heard without questioning their accuracy. Here are a few examples.

• UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin. Although the search for planets revolving around other sun-like stars indicates there may be many billions of them in our galaxy, the number capable of supporting even the most primitive forms of life is far fewer, and the number with conditions suitable for the development of complex life forms is believed to be quite rare.

Fewer than 20 planets have been discovered closer than 100 light-years from earth, only one of which appears have any chance of supporting any form of life. The presence of interstellar dust prohibits space travel at velocities exceeding 10 percent of the speed of light, which tells us that space travel from a planet just 100 light-years away would take 400 years, and it would likely take untold thousands of years from any planet which might have a technologically advanced civilization.

• The Boston Tea Party was a protest against British taxes. The truth is that the protest over British-imposed taxes was in 1765, resulting in their repeal the following year. The Boston Tea Party in 1774, nine years later, was a protest against the East India Co., to which the British government had granted a monopoly on importing tea into the colonies, allowing it to inflate the price of tea. Tea Partiers please note; the Boston Tea Party was about corporate greed and abuse.

• Bottled water is safer than municipal tap water. Safety regulations and testing requirements for bottled water producers are far less rigorous than those which apply to public water supplies.

• Sea salt is superior to common salt. Common salt is essentially sea salt that’s mined from salt deposits, which were the result of evaporation of ocean bays that got separated from the ocean. So common salt is also sea salt, but does not contain the man-made contaminants (many of them potentially harmful) that now pollute the oceans in ever increasing quantities.

• Evolution is not true because it is only a theory. By definition, a theory is a scientific principle offered to explain phenomena, and rendered plausible by evidence in fact.

A prominent example is the theory of gravity. It is quite obvious that in spite of being only a theory, gravity really does exist. It is the mathematical basis for calculating the movement of the moon and all of our communication and GPS satellites around the Earth, the planets about the sun, and the navigation of all of our lunar and planetary missions. Yet we do not have an explanation of why gravity exists.

There is also much we still do not understand about evolution, but the abundance of facts, including the fossil record, biological research, and especially the discovery and analysis of DNA, all substantiate the fact that evolution has taken place since the origin of life on our planet, and is continuing to take place around us.

The unanswered question is the mystery of how and why. There are scientists who challenge Darwinian “survival of the fittest” as the explanation of evolution, saying it explains only extinctions, while holding that there are other explanations for progressive evolution. However there is no disagreement among scientists that all life comes from a common ancestry, that new forms of life have arisen, and that many have become extinct.

• The name Dotsero comes from “dot zero,” the so-called starting point of the survey for the 38-mile railroad cutoff up the Colorado River (constructed in 1933-34) to connect the Denver Rio Grande Western and the Denver and Salt Lake railroads, greatly shortening the distance to Denver. However Dotsero appears on maps from the late 1800s, and is a Ute word referring to the nearby volcanic crater known by the same name. And there had been a Dotsero station on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad long before the survey for the cutoff was started.

You should not believe something you keep hearing just because other people believe it and are spreading it around. Instead, you should check out against a consensus of unbiased authoritative sources.

– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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