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Desert Diary
Culture/Theory and Fact


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There has been much publicity in recent times about what a scientific theory is and what it is not, and it's become apparent that the "it's only a theory" syndrome is mostly directed toward a limited number of scientific explanations. The vast majority of people accept theories as fact with no problem at all. Thus, most people accept that the earth revolves around the sun, that matter is made up of atoms, and that the earth is approximately spherical.

However, one theory that is widely accepted in the western world does have a large number of nay-sayers, including people in our Chihuahuan Desert region. This is the germ theory, the explanation that many diseases are caused by microorganisms infecting the body. Unbelievers vary from those who attribute disease to the disturbance of vital energy flows within the body, to those who blame witchcraft, to those who believe health can be achieved only by the casting out of demons.

It seems that acceptance of any given theory is as much a matter of culture as of science.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.