Fruitful Research or Foolishness:
How Can We Determine Which?

Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 171, 2016 November)

How much research should governments or private foundations support? A major problem in deciding which research to support is that it is difficult to discern if a given project will be fruitful in the future. A researcher could spend years on a project and come up with few significant results. If a researcher knew for certain that a project would be fruitful, he would not need to waste time on fruitless research that could never produce meaningful results.
But as research always involves many unknowns, the results of some research is often very difficult to predict. The results may turn out to be worthless, or incredibly important. Many major discoveries that have revolutionized our world at first appeared to be useless. The only way to adequately assess the usefulness of some research area is to allow enough time to pass so that its value becomes clear, even if this seemed to be obvious from the start.
Even then there may still be disagreement in some cases because no one knows how much time is needed to determine the value of some research. Often, though, forty years is sufficient, and the usefulness of certain research is usually apparent long before this. It took only a few years to learn that home computers, the internet, and digital photography were all major advances, even though all of these technology examples were seen by those who should know better as a worthless, waste of effort. Unfortunately, ideology is a key determinate if research is funded. Billions of dollars have been awarded to researchers to prove Darwinian evolution, and most of their money was wasted. Grants awarded to document creation, or even evidence against Darwinism are close to zero unless the purpose of the research can be disguised.

Many research projects seem foolish, and the fact that it is difficult to assess the value of research on a short term basis, has caused many pundits to publicly criticize certain research. Some newspapers even carry out campaigns against the large money grants that the government  awards  some  re-searchers. Past Congressmen and Senators,  such  as  Senator

William Proxmire, have spent much time criticizing research that appears to be a waste of time and resources.
Some headlines that illustrate this public protest include, “The National Science Foundation is wasting Tens of Millions of Your Tax Dollars a Year,” “Government Wastes $50,000 on Tape Recordings of Babbling Babies,” and “Government Jackasses Wasting Thousands of Tax Payers’ $$ to Find Out What Wild Burros Eat.” Many other examples could be cited, but these suffice to illustrate the flavor of these attacks.
These critiques could cause a reduction in research, which may have the advantage of saving tax money, but could also prove to have enormous tragic implications in the future. One example is research that supports, or could support, creationism, has, as noted above, very close to a zero chance of being funded. The reason is evolution is widely taught in our government schools and information counter to this worldview is rarely taught. As a result, it has the firm backing of consensus science, so support of research critical of Darwinism is viewed by the scientific establishment as an obvious waste of money.
Examples of creation research that creationists were unable to get funded that turned out to be proven include the claim that over 90 percent of DNA is useless, thus was called junk DNA for over a decade. This junk DNA is now known to have very important functions in the cell, mostly related to genetic regulation. Another of many examples is the 98% myth of genetic similarity between humans and chimps, which was eventually proven false by research that has documented the chasm existing between chimps and humans. Specifically, there are about 0.9 billion base pair differences between the two creatures. The over 100 useless or worse human organs touted by Darwinists as proof of evolution have all been proven to be useful, if not critical, for human health. If in these cases researchers were open about its implications for Darwinism, funding would no doubt have been denied. Most of the research was done by evolutionists with no hint of disproving major evolution claims, yet that was the result. I have often said the only way evolution will be vilified is by evolutionists themselves. Work by creationists will be ignored, even if it is published in peer-reviewed journal, which is very unlikely.  

I have chosen three examples from 50 and 100 years ago to illustrate the fact  that  time  has altered our judgment about what research is worthwhile. Imagine a tirade on “the foolishness of research” being directed at Dr. Alexander Fleming. Fleming discovered penicillin, one of the most important medical drugs today which has saved the lives of countless millions of people. Penicillin is actually produced by a type of common bread mold that has bothered homemakers for centuries.

First Example

Scientists Receives 10,000-dollar Grant to Study Bread Mold!
The State Department has announced that Dr. Alexander Fleming, who as a well-educated doctor should know better, has been awarded a grant of $10,000 to study, if you can believe it, common bread mold! This newspaper has reported on government abuses in giving grant money to study worthless, even foolish things, but this one takes the cake! One might wonder, why would anyone want to study slimy bread molds? They are troublesome enough without someone trying to grow them. This grant is a flagrant waste of our government’s money—which is our money. And this example has been one of the greatest abuses to date. What possible benefit could an understanding of bread mold be for mankind?
This reporter could understand researching methods of trying to get rid of it, but Fleming is researching his particular notion that this bothersome bread mold can be used to fight disease! One might wonder if the recipient is supposed to eat it (sound appetizing?), smear it on the infected area, or what? When this reporter asked the Doctor about the purpose of his research, he stated that “preliminary investigations indicate that penicillin is bactericidal. If the mold does not harm the human system, it could be a great bacteria fighting agent without the toxic effect that most poisons have. Many molds are not poisonous to humans, but kills bacteria without harming most other organisms.”

This reporter thinks that Dr. Fleming is spending too much time in his laboratory and not enough time looking at the real world. Scientists have dreamed up such foolishness in the past, and will probably continue to dream up other foolishness in the future, but why support this foolishness with our tax dollars? One might think that Fleming  could   use   a   little more common sense. Obviously  bread  mold  lives  on bread. One might wonder about someone who cannot tell the difference between bread and bacteria. But then maybe Fleming has been looking through his microscope too long and can’t tell the difference. This isn’t the only case of major nearsightedness that I’m aware of; I know of several government agencies that have a case almost as bad.

Second Example
Many inventions seem useless when they are first developed. The telephone, for example, was not seen as practicable for some time — but today most of us realize that we would have a difficult time living without our cell phones. Imagine, again, a newspaper story reporting the story of Alexander Graham Bell receiving a grant to perfect his telephone invention.

Grant for $60,000 Given to Perfect a Talking Invention
Alexander Graham Bell, a man with no scientific or academic credentials, was awarded a grant today by the government to perfect an instrument he calls “the telephone.” This “telephone” is supposed to carry one’s voice through a wire. This sounds like a very silly thing to do. The air carries my voice quite well—who needs a wire? Bell, with no professional qualifications, believes it works. Even if it does work, which this writer has his doubts, why would one ever want to talk to wires? Why not just look at a person and talk to him? Even when talking to someone who is next door—one just has to talk through an open window or walk over to see him. Why should we give someone $60,000 to encourage laziness? Some people, though, evidently need fancy inventions. If Bell’s idea were possible, other than as a toy I would be hard pressed to dream up a useful purpose for it. Grow up, Mr. Bell, and go play with someone else’s $60,000. I don’t want you playing with my tax money!!!

Third Example

The third example is a true case that occurred in the 1960s before science had documented the human appendix has several important functions. The name of the researcher has been changed, as he is still an active PhD level scientist, although in the closet.

Researcher Thinks Appendix has a Use!

Will Smith has applied for a grant to research the appendix because he  thinks  it  may have an important use in humans! Evolution has proved that it has no function in humans and is clear evidence that we evolved from primates in which it does have a function. Furthermore, creationism is religion, so the grant was, for good reason, not awarded because of valid separation of church reasons. The appendix has been long known to be a vestigial organ and is still one of the most commonly cited examples of a useless organ in humans. Because of evolutionary science, doctors “don’t worry about removing an appendix, because they have a framework in which to understand that it’s a vestigial organ — that, it served a purpose in our evolutionary past, but that purpose is long gone, even though the organ isn’t. The appendix is often given as one of the “strongest evidences” to disprove creationism. This argument was first made by Charles Darwin in his The Descent of Man (1871) where he presented evidence for human animal ancestry including what he called rudiments. Remove the appendix, and no evidence whatsoever exists that it causes any harm. Millions have been removed and these persons are all doing fine. So spending money on research is a waste!

Notice in these examples, Fleming, who was professionally and academically qualified, was criticized due to these qualifications. Conversely, Bell, who lacked qualifications, was criticized because he lacked academic and professional qualifications for his research. Clever writing can damn someone if he does, and damn him if he doesn’t. Also, note the writer’s appeal to “common sense.”
It is easy for an outsider to criticize research — and much of the criticism may be valid. The tragedy, though, is that we usually do not know what areas of research will turn out to be useful in the future. To insure we don’t discard a useful idea, all feasible ideas, or as many as possible, should be developed. Those with experience in this area tell us that eventually a large number of valid discoveries and inventions turn out to be useful, or even important. It may take years, sometimes decades, but in time they are found to be useful in some way. Few discoveries sit on the shelf forever.

But even if a use for an invention or discovery never develops, the work on it may not be wasted because all research is a learning experience.  Billions are spent on recreation, and those few discoveries that are not yet useful could be seen as recreation, or, at the least, the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake that adds to our knowledge about the universe. We employ professional baseball players, actors, singers, etc. for our enjoyment. Millions of us read books and magazines for the same reason. Discoveries such as these can, at least, be written up to inform readers.

Dozens of articles by Dr Bergman on this website: