OK I've made one post about lacerated nads and another having a pop at John Prescott. I think I can indulge myself with a heavy, longish one now; for variety's sake if nothing else.
Here's an interesting read for anyone interested in the role played by science in politics today …
It's a speech by Michael Crichton and though on the long side it is rather good and worth ten minutes of any thinking person's time.
The speech was made a couple of years ago and received a mixed reception, particularly as it implied that a lot of the supposed science surrounding such hot current issues as Global Warming is not really science. Much of the criticism went along the lines of 'anyone who speaks out against the reality of global warming must be in league with the oil companies'. Maybe he is, I don’t know, but I have never been a great fan of shooting, or smearing, the messenger. Better to read the message and decide if it makes sense or not.
Michael Crichton does have some Green credentials however. He clearly supports recycling, as evidenced by him using exactly the same story line for both Westworld and Jurassic Park; Cowboys AND Dinosaurs, this man is one shrewd dude.
Once upon a time I was a great fan of modern science. Thirteen years of Catholic schooling will do that to you. I remember the reaction from the priest who ran my secondary school when I told him that I was off to start a geology degree. He wasn't that impressed. All those fossils and extended timescales tend to get in the way of a literal belief in the Bible. But, hey, I thought I was an atheist at the time, so what the f*ck.
Since then I have learned a few things. Or rather I learned to interpret a few things in a different way. For the sake of keeping this post brief(ish) I'll restrict myself to a few bullet points:
- Science and religion are completely compatible
- Most scientific discoveries are accidental and often come as quite a surprise to the people making them as they are normally looking for something else. And that's why you can spend forty years and countless billions on, say, atomic fusion research and come up with, erm, no practical applications for atomic fusion.
- The scientific method, in its pure form, is indeed a noble thing
- However, scientists are people and are subject to exactly the same vices as the rest of us; jealously, ambition, pride, greed, insecurity, mendacity ...
- Belief in God = Belief in chance / probability
- Priests = Scientists
- Sacred objects = fossils, particularly of human ancestors
- Saints = Darwin / Einstein / Newton etc.
- Rituals = The experimental method
- Sacred Books = Scientific Journals
- Churches = Museums
- Cathedrals = BIG Science research sites e.g. CERN
- Seminaries = Universities
- Sacred Vestments = White Coats
- Prophecy = Modelling
- Sacred Dogma = BIG theories such as Evolution / Big Bang
- Superstitions = Smaller theories such as Global Warming / Extraterrestrial Life
What makes this all so ludicrous is just how inadequate a tool modern science has become. We kid ourselves that we understand how the universe works yet we truly haven’t the faintest idea. If this seems harsh, ask yourself a few test questions:
- Given the choice would you be the first passenger on a rocket plane a) built solely on the basis of scientific theory with no practical testing, or b) built solely on a practical trial and error basis, by someone with no scientific background whatsoever?
- Do you believe that scientists conducting genetic experiments are a) formulating experiments based on a thorough understanding of genetics, or b) just doing lots of sick twisted shit at random and seeing what comes out
- Do you have the faintest idea what electricity is? Or light? Do you really think anyone else does?
- Hand on heart, and head, do you really believe that you, your own self-awareness, is merely the product of instinct, acquired behaviour, a little chemistry and gene-powered self delusion?
A good contemporary example is the whole Global Warming issue. I am old enough to remember the days before Global Warming. Back then we were told to be scared of other things; Global Freezing, over population, resource depletion. You don’t hear much about those kiddies these days. Global Freezing didn’t work out as planned, resource depletion is a nonsense because we just find other ways of doing things, and human population will level off long before we run out of ways to make food production more efficient. In Europe we're actually paying farmers NOT to grow food. People are starving, sure, but that's 100% to do with politics and nothing to do with carrying capacity.
So, all these chimeras were quietly dropped and Global Warming was edged to centre stage. This post is too long already to launch a polemic on that particular scientific superstition; let's just say the case for a human impact on global temperature isn't as cast iron as many people would have us believe. I will however chuck out a few parting thoughts on the subject
- Peak global oil production is likely to take place within 10-20 years, so how can those models that talk about the impact of fossil fuel usage in 50 to 100 years time make any sense? Or the whole Kyoto thing, come to think of it.
- I can’t even get an accurate weather forecast for tomorrow morning so why should I have any faith in models that reach out 10, 20, 50, 100 years?
- Variation in climate occurs naturally anyway. Londoners held markets and fairs on the frozen Thames 500 years ago. The Romans were growing Mediterranean crops in England 2,000 years ago. Desert regions in the Middle East were fertile 10,000 years ago. It happens.
- We all avoid thinking about the the realities of our existence, pretty much on a constant basis but, for the record, we are sitting on a spinning ball of molten rock, hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour. Our planet is constantly bathed by deadly radiation given off by an enormous nuclear furnace. The space around our planet is filled with thousands of chunks of rock, all capable of stripping our world of its wafer thin atmosphere. Countless millions of species of defunct life forms have already existed on this planet before passing into extinction.
You've got two choices on this issue; either we're here as a fluke and could get snuffed out at any moment in the blink of an eye, or someone or something is looking after us. Either way, do you really think sorting out your rubbish into separate piles is going to change anything?