Tuesday, December 16, 2003

It's Not Always The Peasants....

What is it with Ecoloons ? Every single protest, at least 25% of the banners reference one book. This one. I mean, Mary Shelley may have been a great writer and all but c'mon.... what's up with a bit of originality ?

So, anyway, Mary Shelley has gone down in pop culture as the spiritual mother of the anti-science brigade. That's as maybe, but have you noticed how most Hollywood versions let the scientists off the hook ?

Every time the castle gets stormed, it's by a mob of peasants. Maybe I'm not to up on social divisions but, it's fair to say, if someone round here was robbing graves and using the body parts to create homicidal monsters, then even the folks with BMWs in the drive would be really upset. But no, in so far as 'Frankenstein' lodged the idea of the mad scientist into pop culture, it also gave birth to the idea that opposing a Frankenstein meant you were some kind of ignorant bumpkin.

Even today, scientists are still getting a free ride due to that perception. Take how Black Triangle covers Michael Meachers' latest statement. Mikey spoke thus:

I think people who say we need to go by the science, and people don't understand the science, it's too complicated, and if only they knew as much as we did then they'd take the same decision - I think that is deeply cynical, anti-democratic and unacceptable.

To which Anthony replies:

I wonder, if we had a democratic vote that gravity was a conspiracy peddled by Boeing and British Airways, would Meacher jump off the white cliffs of Dover and try to fly to Paris?

As ever with Black Triangle, whatever you feel about the nature of the views expressed, it is refreshing to hear the equation stated so clearly. The agenda of the scientific community is antagonistic to the principles of democratic government and the rule of law. It's that simple.

But, what isn't that simple is the choice Anthony implies, between the Science Collective and the new-age freaks. Time for an analogy: it's possible to say that the Pentagon's bureaucratic structures have failed to adapt to the new realities of the Age of Terror, without necessary being a pacifist. In fact, many of the people saying this want to reform the Pentagon to increase its war fighting abilities. So it is with those of us who say British science needs reforming with a chainsaw.

We don't believe that death is an alternative form of consciousness, dogs are telepathic and gravity's a social construct. We believe in science - we just wonder how many scientists do these days. We don't buy new-age BS and we don't buy head-patting, patronising drivel from Labocrats with axes of their own to grind. What we want is, to coin a phrase with a truly horrible history, a third way between the mindlessly infantile posturing of the freaks and the arrogant ranting of the white-coated cultists. We're not going to run off a cliff to stick it to them Frankensteins with their 'gravity' but we sure aren't going to mill round outside the castle while the geeks urinate on us from the battlements while claiming they're 97.84% sure it's raining.

Michael 'Jurassic Park' Crichton summed up this point of view perfectly in his Caltech Michelin Lecture ,which blew most of the Scienceoids boats out of the water. Try this next time you hear one of them invoke the scientific consensus:

I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.

Fabulous. Read the whole thing.

All of Crichton's ideas for fixing up science are excellent, but I think he still holds back from going for the throat. Why talk about 'scientific fraud' anyway ? Is it fraud or isn't it ? Why is it an offence for a shopkeeper to fiddle his taxes but when publicly-funded scientists fiddle their figures to score grants or publications, it's treated as a big joke ?

Or, moving on to the scandal d'jour: whatever view you take on the safety of MMR, the performance of the scientific establishment has been a disgrace. The Financial Services Authority demands as one of it's central principles that firms must 'deal with regulators in an open and co-operative way, and must disclose to the FSA appropriately anything relating to the firm of which the FSA would reasonably expect notice'. How's that for a compare & contrast with the way even public sector scientists go about their business ? How did we ever get to the position where people selling building's cover had to meet higher standards than people working with Ebola virus ? Who knows ? But, the question is worth asking, and many more like it.

All this is, of course, vaguely familiar to Conservatives. Scientists present themselves as especially enlightened. The law is for the ordinaries, and public scrutiny is unwelcome because the oiks wouldn't know what they were hearing anyway. Scientists claim to exist on a higher plane, helping to guide us to the new tomorrow. Is it any wonder that there is no term more redundant than left-wing scientist ? We on the right have bought into the idea of pure science, neglecting that, though science may be pure, the scientists are anything but. Look at the virtual lynching of Bjorn Lomberg for proof of that. We need to recognise that Sciencism is just the same old socialist monster in a lab coat. And so, my fellow Conservatives, I will conclude on this point: last one to the castle is a social worker!

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