Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist, TV host, Internet super hero and spirit animal, once said: “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
And guess what? He’s right. Science is truth. It’s not absolute truth, but given evidence, science is our most pure and unbiased judge.
Unfortunately, science is also exhausting. It’s confusing. It’s often boring. For most of us, the mere mention of “science” is a portal back to those long days stuck in an uncomfortable desk, in an overheated classroom, doodling in our notebooks while the teacher goes on with the Borophyll, praying that some classmate would lighten the mood with a stupid joke, or a fake fart noise, or anything to break up the monotony.
In our adult lives, we’re not required to sit through science class anymore, so when we encounter anything that drums up those old bored, desperate feelings, our brain taps out and shuts down until we can hit it with something more immediately gratifying. Something to break up the monotony — the real world fake fart noise. Or, in the case of DeflateGate, the fact that the Patriots are claiming that Jim McNally called himself The Deflator in reference to his weight loss.
In the hours after the Pats released their nearly 20,0000-word Wells report rebuttal, The Deflator line was the only thing that made an impact. It was the easiest, most tabloid-friendly, and admittedly, stupidest joke in the entire report. Whether or not it’s true, it looks ridiculous, and it can’t be proven either way. So, that became the rallying cry for those people too lazy to read the whole report and looking for another excuse not to read the whole report. They latched on to that Deflator line and ran with it, and with the way the Internet works, that headline blew everything else out of the water.
Under that “everything else” umbrella lies the most important thing of all: The science.
If you read the Pats’ report, which included a breakdown from Nobel Prize winning chemist Roderick MacKinnon, or this recent article, by Drew Fustin, who has a Ph.D is Physics from the University of Chicago and wrote his dissertation on air pressure, then you understand the truth about this whole mess. You’re aware of the science. Basically, that the conclusions drawn in the Wells report were incorrect. That, even though we don’t have all the evidence, the evidence we have supports the Patriots claim that there was no deflation at all. That the changes in the Patriots’ football, even as compared to the changes in the Colts footballs, were entirely consistent with the Ideal Gas Law. In other words, that Jim McNally didn’t deflate the balls in that bathroom.
And sure, one can claim that MacKinnon has a business relationship (however loose it might be) with the Kraft Group, and one can claim that Drew Fustin, despite his ph.D in Physics, is a Patriots fan. But unlike with the garbled mess that was presented in the Wells report, can one question the science behind MacKinnon and Fustin’s conclusions? Did they manipulate facts? Make unjust assumptions?
If not, then their bias doesn’t matter. If not, then barely anything matters. In that case, whether or not you believe in it, the science is true.
And after all that, if your response is still: “BUT THE PATS SAID THE DELFATOR WAS TALKING ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS. OH MY GOD. WHAT A JOKE. WHAT AN INSULT. THIS JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE!” — then here’s one more quote from the great NdGT to wrap this column in a nice little scientific bow:
“One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview — not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases...but people prefer reassurance to research.”
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine