What, then, are some of the salient differences between “a(n internet) search” and research? Since I’d not previously worked out the distinction – despite my t-shirt – it seemed not before time that I do so now.

Right off the bat, two things stand out that separate a search from research: first, googling is biased, and second, it is democratic. There is no order to those terms. Permit me now to explain them a bit, in the order reversed from their presentation.

Googling is democratic because absolutely anyone can do it. There is no entrance exam or fee, no required demonstration of competence or even basic intelligence needed. If you can sit at a computer and type with even a marginal degree of facility, Google (or Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo, or who/what ever) will accept your parameters and present you with results. The artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems integrated into those search engines will even do their best (impossible to avoid the anthropomorphism here) to work through your shitty spelling and come up with the words you likely meant to type in. (This last is certainly my salvation, as I am a terrible speller.)

This is not a bad thing, by itself. It is good that people, that everyone, should have access to a “universal encyclopedia.” But in saying things that way, we’ve just demonstrated a failure to understand one of the differences between a search, and research. Because, you see, an encyclopedia is curated; its articles and entries are passed through a system of scholarly evaluation and peer review to test them for their accuracy, thoroughness, and logical cogency. But such curating is most certainly NOT “democratic.” It is predicated upon earned expertise, hard-won knowledge, and not merely the personal whim of someone who wants to be told what they already believe.

Which brings us to the subject of bias. Google wants you to keep using their service, so the first items on the list of search results that they will present to you are ones that their AI metrics say are the ones you are going to want to see. And then, having been shown what you want to be shown, you are going to then cherry-pick from among those results to fabricate and justify the conclusion you always wanted to see in the first place.

Research is different. Researchers are, of course, human. So while they will also be biased, they will wear that bias outwardly, and test it constantly. I am a Whitehead scholar (shock!) and am automatically inclined to read his arguments sympathetically. Thus, his alternative to Einstein’s general theory of relativity (GR) has been shown to be variously inadequate … in its specifics. But – and here is where the non-democratic but actual scholarship comes into play – Whitehead’s specific theory was merely an example of a much more general approach to theories of gravitational cosmology. The physicists who have “dealt” with Whitehead’s proposal have done so by cheating: John Synge, for example, explicitly bragged about tearing out and throwing away all of those inconvenient parts of his argument that did not allow Synge to just casually mutilate Whitehead’s theory so as to shoe-horn it into the Schwarzschildii metric. Clifford Will never even did Whitehead the courtesy of “tearing out and throwing away” those pages (the first third of Whitehead’s book) that he didn’t want to bother with, since Will clearly never bothered to look at anything Whitehead wrote at all, despite commonly citing Whitehead’s work in his own notes.

Did any of the foregoing making any sense to you? Unless you have some genuine expertise in the subjects – as opposed to a few google searches – then the answer is likely “no.” To get there, you could start with my own book, but even that would barely suffice to gloss the topic unless you also made the effort to become familiar with differential geometry and the history of gravitational cosmology in the 20th Century. Because that book is itself the product of actual research, and not just a few snippets I obtained by googling.

(By the bye, some of the results of that research came as complete surprised to me. For one, despite what physicist (those who even pretend to look at their own history, anyway) might tell you, Whitehead was the first to propose a bimetriciii theory of space and gravity. If you google “bimetric gravity” you’re likely to get some hits at www.arXiv.org. But those hits will involve a bunch of differential geometry, which won’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling unless you are accustomed to doing actual research. The other surprise for me – because no one else in the scholarship had bothered to mention it, much less notice it – was that Whitehead proposed an entire FAMILY of theories, of which his particular one was nothing more than an exempli gratia. So, despite my biases – my right hand to any god you do or do not believe in, I thought I was just writing a defensible dissertation! – after weeks of crawling through The Astrophysical Journal, against all my “best” intentions, I was making original discoveries. So I reported them to the world, and have stood my ground on them since.)

So researchers might be biased, but the good ones won’t allow that bias to get in the way of their conclusions. Not even when they’re right …

But continuing to use my own example as an example, I actually did make the effort to achieve a sufficient facility with differential geometry so that I actually could comb through the Astrophysical Journal and grasp with some minimal degree of facility the arguments being made. I actually did learn something of the history of research in gravitational cosmology in the 20th Century. I actually did make the effort to present those findings to a worldwide community of people who were more than capable of taking me out behind the woodshed and whupping me like a stepchild if I failed to live up to the level of scholarship and expertise required of someone presuming to engage in actual research. The arguments I made went no further than what I could justify: I did not claim Whitehead was “right,” only that he’d been systematically misinterpreted. I did not cherry pick my data to reach that conclusion. Neither did I pretend that any and every “democratic” piece of fatuous twaddle had the same standing as logic, principles, evidence, and facts.

Finally, anyone claiming “I did my own research,” most certainly did no research of any kind. Because no one ever does “their own” research; research is always cumulative, building on the work of others who have themselves engaged in actual research.

So ask yourself: have I surveyed the available peer-reviewed literature? Have I consulted the established experts in the field? Have I taken account of the actual evidence, how that evidence was gathered, and compared this to my hypothesis? No?

Then cupcake, “research” played no role in what you’ve done.

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i Consider, for example, less invasive search engines such as http://www.duckduckgo.com, which is the one I currently use. I am not being paid for this endorsement.

ii By the bye, I had to look that name up because, of course, I misspelled it on my own.

iii Einstein’s GR theory is monometric – it has only one metric – that stands as the measurement for both space and the physical characters propagating through space. Whitehead breaks those metrics, those measures, into two: one for space, the other for physical characters like gravity. 18 years after Whitehead published his work, Nathan Rosen published an article that used the word “bimetric,” and there after he was given credit for being the first. That Whitehead was first is so obvious that anyone who actually looked at his work – that is, who did not “tear out and throw away” the key pages of Whitehead’s argument – could not fail to see this fact. But when Clifford Will was classifying theories of gravity and space in the 1970’s, Nathan Rosen was still alive while Whitehead, alas, was still dead. One can only speculate on why Clifford Will elected to disregard Whitehead’s status as the first bimetric theory.