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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crichton's *Rule of 48*

Among the books I'm currently reading is Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain, his first novel published in 1969. I'm about halfway through, and ran across this paragraph last night that I thought was interesting: The *Rule of 48*

For years it was stated that men had 48 chromosomes in their cells; there were pictures to prove it, and any number of careful studies. In 1953, a group of American researchers announced to the world that the human chromosome number was 46. Once more, there were pictures to prove it, and studies to confirm it. But these researchers also went back to reexamine the old pictures, and the old studies -- and found only 46 chromosomes, not 48.

I had to laugh -- this happened to me a long time ago while presenting data of my research. A seasoned professor started getting huffy with me during my talk, and insisted my data were wrong. (He had multi-grants along different lines, and my data threw a monkey wrench into his conclusions, but I didn't know that at the time!)

I realized then, and was reminded last night, that we -- all of us -- have to be very careful to understand the difference between what we *know* and what we THINK we know. There are so many details every day that the only way to make sense of them is to fold *how things work* into a world construct. I was flummoxed during that talk at the ardent emotion in this rational scientist, and decided then that even though I also have a construct, I must always be open and willing to examine my beliefs. In fact, thinking back, about a year later I started examining the events surrounding Jesus' death that led ultimately after a great deal of angst to my conversion. Hmm, all things do seem to work together, don't they?

1 comment:

Andra M. said...

Who said "Only fools are positive?"

I can't tell you how many times I was positive about something and someone came along to prove me wrong.

. . . I must always be open and willing to examine my beliefs.

So true!