How 'Credibility' Overwhelms Truth
"The resistance to a new idea increases as the square of its importance."
- Bertrand Russell
One hundred years ago this December 17, two obscure bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, flew the first airplane. One would think this event and many to follow would have been reported and celebrated around the world.
They weren't. One journalist from the Wright brothers' hometown was "allegedly" fired from his position for reporting such a heresy. More than one year later, Scientific American ran an editorial debunking the whole idea because their repeated flights weren't reported by newspapers. We had a chicken-and-the-egg problem: Scientists didn't believe anything that wasn't reported, but it wasn't reported because no editor would accept it.
Shades of Galileo's colleagues refusing to look through his telescope... This is the conundrum of scientific and engineering discovery: new developments cannot 'exist' unless 'credibly' reported. It took five years for the Wrights' achievements to become 'credible' in spite of thousands of eyewitnesses to several flights. The spell of denial lifted five years later when Theodore Roosevelt ordered official test flights in 1908.
Our time is no different but the stakes are higher. The issue now is clean energy and planetary survival. Hundreds of independent experiments on a wide range of new energy concepts have been successful but remain unreported and unsupported. Any one of these could change the world. Given the proper public support, renewable, clean, cheap and abundant energy could soon become available. We'll need no more fossil fuels and nuclear power plants.
Yet this prospect has been suppressed at every turn by powerful vested interests. The media again passes while the mainstream scientists wallow in denial ("if it isn't reported it isn't real"), forming an unwitting alliance with the corrupting energy barons and government. Meanwhile, we continue to be addicted to oil, so much so we don't seem to know a good thing when it comes along. We must transform this addiction towards alternatives before it's too late. We must lift the contradictory veil of credibility.
From ten years' direct experience at witnessing new energy breakthroughs in laboratories around the world, I can personally vouch for the successes in new energy research, whether it be cold fusion, advanced hydrogen chemistry or vacuum energy. But, like during the Wrights' first flights, we are not delivering the product yet. We are in the research phase of a research and development cycle. The research, if properly supported, will inevitably lead to the deployment of energy systems that will profoundly change the world.
Why can't we perceive the truth hidden beneath the conundrum of credibility? It seems that credibility is simply a fantasy created by media, academe, politicians and corporate interests. In this game of smoke and mirrors, style has usurped substance, moreso than ever in these trying times. Hidden under the radar of the mass culture, we are missing out on concrete solutions, with the truth lying not so far below, but actively suppressed by current powers, who see such developments either as impossible or as a threat to an economy based mostly on polluting, destabilizing and unsustainable energy resources.
I am convinced we could have a comprehensive energy policy leading to zero emissions by 2020. The research is mature enough to set this goal, just as JFK had done for the lunar landing. I am also convinced that a publicly funded R&D effort of some hundreds of millions of dollars will catapult us into a sustainable future with many energy choices. On the other hand, we can maintain "credibility" by doing nothing.
Meanwhile the research goes on in scattered locations by inventors in government labs, universities or on their own, with little or no support or acknowledgement from the government or the scientific mainstream. In my opinion, the development phase needs to become transparent and public. It is too important to be left to existing powers whose economic self-interest is suppressing the development of new energy at every turn. Yet we may need it to avert global disaster from pollution, climate change, prolonged blackouts, and wars over oil.
We can learn another lesson from the development of aviation. Even though the Wrights and many others were repeatedly flying during the early 1900s, support for the technology awaited World War I in 1914. The same happened with the development of nuclear energy during World War II: military applications drove the technology.
Will we have to wait for a military application of new energy before we see it? I hope not. This technology is too important to be left to control by the military-industrial-secrecy complex. I already shudder about what would happen if we supported the U.S. military's notion of "Full Spectrum Dominance" by deploying weapons in space (www.peaceinspace.com). Likewise, I hope to never see military control of new energy technologies.
We at the New Energy Movement are seeking ways of educating the public about new energy research and its application under the guidance of democratic systems. We need to facilitate free and open discussions about the best choices. We must minimize price-gouging and empire-building and military secrecy. Let's begin a wave of personal and environmental freedom triggered by a new clean, cheap and decentralized energy system.
The Wright brothers have already flown in the new energy game. We now await delivering passengers and mail, and we cannot expect the inventors to do that. Nor should we defer to large energy companies and the existing government to make wise choices. The public must take control of this issue and guide us through the transition to the New Energy Age. Only then can we educate and empower ourselves to come up with the best ways of creating a bright future for generations to come.
Brian O'Leary, Ph.D.