In June of 2018, the world lost Dr. Martin Blank.
He was “admired in academia, government, industry and activist circles for fearless honesty and ability to explain complex cellular bioelectromagnetics with accompanying environmental effects on tech-loving societies,” per his obituary in the New York Times.
And “he was a gentleman in his interactions with other scientific peers, but always defended his well thought out positions. Thus, he served as an excellent example for students and younger scientists,” per his obituary in the journal of the Bioelectricmagnetics Society (where he served as president for over a decade).
Dr. Blank was not only one of the most important EMF scientists in the world, but he was also my father and the inspiration behind the creation of SYB.
Shortly after he passed, I sent a note out to my SYB mailing list. And I thought I would share it here. Because one of the many things I cherish from how my father raised me, was the appreciation of science that he gave me. It has deeply influenced how I see the world, and how I’ve chosen to build and grow SYB.
What Dr. Blank Taught Me About Science
“Science” comes from the word meaning “knowledge”, which is appropriate as science reflects the best knowledge we possess of how the universe operates, within our ability to measure. And the discipline of science is a means of standardizing how such knowledge is acquired and verified (what we know as the scientific method).
What this means is that science is not truth. Nor can science explain everything.
Instead, science is a standardized means by which we approach a best possible understanding the world around us. And we can use that knowledge to help build a better world, whether through technological innovation, medical breakthroughs — or even just learning how to live a healthier life.
I also learned the scientific meaning of the word “proof” (which is quite different from, for example, the legal definition of proof)— and the difference between proof and evidence.
For example, saying “there is no definitive proof that EMF harms humans” is quite different, in a scientific sense, from saying “there is a large and growing body of compelling scientific evidence that EMF harms humans.” Both things can be true, depending on your standard of “proof”.
In math, you can prove things definitively. In law, you need to convince a judge or jurors that something is beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s how you prove something.
In science, you want to follow the preponderance of the evidence. Given a set of facts that have been borne out, and are repeatable by, the scientific method, to what reasonable conclusion does that lead you and others? What can you safely and rationally deduce from the information that has been demonstrated by science?
In that sense, science is less comforting and certain than math or law– very little is actually provable, in any absolute sense of the word.
But, at the same time, the absence of definitive proof that something is harmful in no way means that it is safe.
More importantly, science evolves— things that were once considered scientific fact can be completely overturned through the acquisition of new knowledge generated through the scientific method. In that sense, science is a living entity, not a static set of definitive facts.
I didn’t learn this appreciation for science from a lecture– dad never lectured me on science. Instead, I learned it through so many different interactions. I remember once when I was a child we found a dead carpenter bee in the shed behind the house. Instead of throwing it away, we put it under the microscope. I remember being amazed that we actually found wood shavings in its belly.
Or that time when I needed an experiment for the school science fair, and he taught me about how even a tiny drop of soap will spread over the surface of water, dispersing other objects in its path. And a thousand other interactions where dad subtly taught me about science.
As I grew up and our discussions were deeper, I also learned from my father that the practice of science can be easily corrupted by unscrupulous scientists and the influence of money– particularly corporate money that funds a tremendous amount of scientific activity.
So even though I never became a scientist, I was raised with a fundamental understanding of what science is.