We are told that tomorrow 22 April 2017 is again Earth Day, and are advised to celebrate with all manner of activities and observances designed for people of all ages - just google ‘earth day’ and prepare to be overwhelmed. One of the more visible activities promoted by the Left is the ‘March for Science’ held in Washington DC and presumably other locales. The purported purpose of the march is for people to “join the effort to defend the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world.” Here the progressives’ propagandized presumption is that such a ‘defense’ is needed because the Right, now on Trumpist steroids (trumpoids?), is hell bent on removing, or at least ignoring, science in coming up with new public policies. And what better way to deliver the message to POTUS, COTUS, and now SCOTUS than with massive mobs in synchrony shouting slogans on the National Mall.
Despite proclaiming that “science isn’t Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative”, the consensus science promoted by the event sponsors is definitely of the hue that was endorsed by everyone from Ptolemy to the Popes, and for centuries kept people in fear of falling off the edge of the earth. (more here)
- What is scientific knowledge, and how did it come about?
- What is the scientific method?
- What differentiates scientific knowledge from other forms of knowing?
- How have science and society gotten along historically?
- How do you differentiate between science and religion?
- What are the limits of science and scientific knowing?
- How can you tell that an area of science has advanced?
- What is a theory? And which theories should impact public policy?
- Current big issues in science.
- What are the risks in research and knowledge discovery in general?
- What is peer review and how well does it work?
- What is the difference between Ptolemaic and Copernican thought?
These talks would be followed by Q&As allowing issues important to the audience to be discussed in terms of their involved science and extensions to critical thought. Perhaps then they can take away something other than ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, climate deniers have got to go!’ echoing in their brain pans.
[22apr17 update] Propaganda is one of the words and notions the meaning of which has been completely destroyed by what we know as the media and academe. Like ‘discriminate’, propaganda’s surviving semantic is strictly pejorative. If you are a propagandist, you are a bad person spewing bad stuff that turns mini-minds to do bad things. RR has never subscribed to this simplistic revision of our vocabulary, and we use it here in its former meaning from a time when critical thinking was still in vogue. Actually, pockets of it survive, and here is an example from the American Historical Association that gives a scholarly answer to ‘what is propaganda?’
I bring this up because today is Earth Day, a major annual observance on the Left’s propaganda calendar. Also, propaganda is worth reviewing because our local leftwingers seem to be terminally ignorant about propaganda, an item on their long ‘debate is over’ list. (see also ‘The Still Muddled Middle’) Here is a taste of a fuller understanding of ‘propaganda’ from the ASA that first appeared during WW2 in a government pamphlet.
“Propaganda isn’t an easy thing to define, but most students agree that it has to do with any ideas or beliefs that are intentionally propagated. It uses words and word substitutes in trying to reach a goal—pictures, drawings, graphs, exhibits, parades, songs, and other devices. Of course, propaganda is used in controversial matters, but it is also used to promote things that are generally acceptable and noncontroversial. So there are different kinds of propaganda. They run all the way from selfish, deceitful, and subversive effort to honest and aboveboard promotion of things that are good. Propaganda can be concealed or open, emotional or containing appeals to reason, or a combination of emotional and logical appeals.”
It should be no secret that an objective of RR has always been to propagandize conservetarian principles as the desiderata of governance and social organization.
So when we look at Earth Day and its almost half century of history, it should be clear that the celebration has been a long-running global effort to propagandize socialism as the unifying ideology behind all the fronted things that are supposed to be ‘good for our Earth’. The not so hidden message (to those who pay attention) is that all this goodness and light will be attained once we all join in common thought and deed as we gather and educate the remnants of backward thinkers.
As we examine the calendar of such celebrations and the fine sounding, nature-preserving organizations that support them, it is also clear that the Left has gained the march on the Right. Today the legions have been gathered to ‘defend science’ against the Right that is, a la Alinsky, painted as comprised of the knuckle-dragging nemeses of science. None of their minions (aka here as ‘lemmings’) give or even can give a thought to the horrible history that the Left has had with science that was borne from politicized labs, transmitted to politicized classrooms, and then back again to the labs. Examples abound, but here we can be satisfied with the progressives’ embrace of American-born eugenics as the ‘science’ needed to breed and nurture the right kind of people while segregating us from the undesirables as we actively prune their proclivity to procreate. And, of course, no one should forget the ‘science’ of Trofim Lysenko, USSR’s gift to plant genetics and bane to Soviet agriculture. Government made sure that Lysenko’s fevered agribiology became consensus science, or else. Something similar to that goes on today with globalists uncompromisingly promoting an hysterically wholesale response to what is sold to the public as preventable manmade global warming.
Which brings us to what can the above suggested science forums (fora?) inform minds sclerotic and calcified by the teachings of politically correct science. Here I want to devote a few words to outline the discussion of items 6 and 7 above – limits of science and scientific knowing, and evaluating the progress of science.
In the 20th century science delivered the final coup de grace to Newtonian certainty and to the clockwork universe, which can be summarized by ‘if we know the exact state of the world as it is now, we can apply our science of how things work and reliably determine the future state of the world.’ While no one thought that we could ever have such massive and detailed knowledge about the ‘world’, it was the concept or thought that counted, and still counts in some considerable number of stunted and/or cynical minds. The underpinning there was that we live in a deterministic and computable universe. Well boys and girls, it turns out that we don’t, and that has become a terribly inconvenient truth to collectivists everywhere. Their solution? Just deny it and lie. (‘A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.’, Joseph Göbbels and/or Vladimir Lenin, take your pick.)
First, quantum mechanics emerged in the 1920s and dispelled once and for all that we can know anything for certain. The best science could henceforth ever do is to describe ‘what is’ to within a probability distribution from which Nature would pick correct answers with the passage of time. Then it became science’s goal to discover, structure, and reduce the variance of these probability distributions – in short, ‘squeeze out’ as much uncertainty as possible. But along the way science has also had to suffer traumas that called for totally discarding some of these distributions and looking for better ones elsewhere to replace them. All this effort and never coming up with a crisp answer given by a single number; they always had to be presented with that pesky +/- something appended.
Then we come to computability. Even if we pretend to know the state of a system – e.g. the atmosphere – perfectly, could we compute what it would be at some time in the future? Well no, not exactly because that damn +/- comes in here from at least two sources. For systems of even mild complexity, we don’t know the correct rules (algorithm) for how it transfers from one state to another even given the exact inputs and system operating environment. We can do this only approximately with equations from theories that get updated from time to time. You see, only charlatans propagandize ‘settled science’.
But the discovery of chaos theory put the real kibosh on computability. This theory daily demonstrates that even the tiniest error or truncation of input numbers can cause a system computer model, no matter how correct, to give wildly different answers – e.g. look at all the different outputs from the anointed general circulation models which the IPCC has been exercising now for a few decades.
So for openers, our universe is both probabilistic and chaotic, and even though there is much more to it, in this little dissertation we’ll have to leave it here. Go forth in the confidence that the future into which we all march is a dense fog into which we can ever see but dimly.