The Swedish prime monster Freddy Reinfeld was interviewed on TV News last week. At one point he was replying to questions sent in by viewers, and one question went like this: “What are you slobs doing for the environment?”
Figure 1: Freddy wondering if his party logo is fascist enough
While we all know that the answer is “very little actually” but he anyway tried to muddle his way through, repeating whatever had been battered into his brain by his advisors a few months before. Among other things he mentioned that ethanol fuel has far lower emissions than gasoline (not true) and that we need not worry about flying as a source of greenhouse gasses because the airlines will come up with technical improvements and new fuels to salve our collective conscience (also very unlikely).
The man obviously has no grasp of science or technology. Not unusual, really, as few politicians have. Tony Blair, interviewed in New Scientist, also professed an utter lack of knowledge about science. He mumbled that perhaps he should have paid more attention to it in school. And as for Bush…well let’s not even go there, shall we?
This is quite odd really, since these same politicians base many of their decisions on “evidence”. The “evidence” for the war in Iraq, the “statistics” leading to energy policy all over the world, all of this signed under by men who have not the slightest fucking clue what they are talking about.
All modern governments understand very little or nothing about science, and yet tend to have a childlike belief in its power. Everything will be mended by the anonymous guys in the thick glasses, they promise us. Water shortages, climate change, fish depletion, fossil fuel extinction…all will be made right by those dudes in white. But when a vast majority of the world’s scientists tell the politicians that something must be done about this or that problem, they are usually ignored.
The politicians get away with this because the general public also has no idea about science. And by science I don’t mean technology and gadgets, but the art of critical thinking. A glance at any magazine aimed at the middle-aged female market will show you that critical thinking (also known as “lack of faith”) is not really a valued asset in our time. But this is no accident – a population that understands and accepts the central message of Science – scepticism and the necessity of proof – is much, much harder to trick, deceive or lie to.
You don’t have to have a university degree to live scientifically; you just have to require proof (or at least an absence of disproof) for the things you claim to believe. This opinion is not widespread. The phrase “but I can feel that it is true!” is far too commonly used, and being an idiot today is almost applauded (Jackass, Big Brother, any movie with Jack Black or Jim Carrey).
And all of this perhaps explains why science and critical thinking, despite our crushing global problems, is still not a priority in schools today – the last thing a politician really wants is a public who know when he is talking through his arse.
/ paddy (and thanks to Carl for showing me the way)