I find myself increasingly annoyed with the arrogance of certain “cultured” individuals to reject science. Yes, it’s going to be that sort of a text, so if you’re still reading after that first phrase, it’s for you, cin-cin. I’ve made myself an italian spritz, because my wine’s cold, dry and well.. delicious, so let’s dig in. You see, my dear future self, today is just one more day in the increasingly long line of days I find myself pondering on whether I should or shouldn’t cancel cable. The telly I owned for the past decade just dodged another possible beer can, when I found myself face to face with an “au naturel” talk-show host who I think either lost all her neurons or her neurons committed suicide. Either way, I doubt her sanity. She was talking about … well… I think she was talking about bio foods, but when she took the issue through autism, ADHD, vaccines and genetically modified foods my brain simply went into a coma. Dude, remember her? Damn, I hope you don’t.
A few years ago I have been diagnosed with a special kind of neurological disorder. Suddenly, my whole world was upside down. In a good way. How? Well, for more than thirty years I’ve struggled to make sense of the world I lived in and failed. Now? I … medicate (ahem, just polishing my sword, like David Carradine). But now I see clearly, and it makes my hair stand up on end. When I was doing rounds in my university’s labs, almost two decades ago, scientist were trusted. When I’m doing my rounds now, circling chicks at the mall because I can’t find my wife (yeah, that old joke), scientists are feared, openly mocked and rejected. What changed? I think I know the real answer, the one you won’t find in any textbooks – our society changed. There are no longer individuals behind titles or job descriptions, there are no longer personalities and skills, good decisions or bad, human beings have become generic, hidden and increasingly lacking identity. You won’t see Jack talking on the telly, you see “a representative of” or “a doctor” or “an engineer” or you name it, it’s there. Jack doesn’t exist, his job took over. If Jack does or says something stupid, his audience won’t blame him, they’ll blame the group they themselves put him in. If that idiot Wakefield swindled his bogus papers (because they’re certainly not research) into Lancet, taking advantage of the idiots already at Lancet, he isn’t blamed by the public – the whole medical research is taking the blame.
This is not just grounds for worry, it’s grounds for a bloody revolution. In reverse. Facebook made opinion-sharing very easy, it toppled dictators and stuff, but it also made the people who are unable to think for themselves much more easily targeted by manipulators and idiots alike. As a communication platform, it sure hit the bullseye. As a public social service, it really failed. What we all forget is nobody’s perfect. Not me, not you, not the engineers, not the doctors, not the politicians, nobody in this world is perfect, not even Gandhi or Mother Theresa. We all have different brains, a different education and therefore, what each of us perceives from a news article, facebook post or whatever is most of the time not the truth. The low blow is, we’re under pressure from peers, media, family, whatever and whoever, to conform. We’re taught to “believe”. To desire social integration. To be part of a specific social construct. Hipsters, holocaust deniers, nutritionists, truthers, they’re just a small part of society, we may love or hate them but we’re just like them. Most of us want to be social. Most of us desire to be included, to be accepted, to be considered worthy of praise or attention – and as such, we have constructed our own golden prison. Scientists, fitness enthusiasts, police officers, military personnel, politicians, parents, vegans, each one of this groups is a social construct, designed to offer an easy way out for those who forgot how to adult. Each one individual included in such a group has no other distinctive ability, or even if one has it’s not really needed, except being accepted into that group. If you’re into those monster motorcycles, you won’t be caught dead at an anime convention, even if you secretly watched every episode of Sailor Moon. The group won’t accept that, so you hide it. Stuff like that, I’m sure you get my point. There are accepted exceptions, like when your daughter managed to paint your nails to match the rainbow, you only get a good rep if that happens, but that’s it. If you are accepted in that group then you have to accept the group, you have to lose everything opposed to what the group stands for. Thus the social pressure I’m talking about. Thus, if one fails, they all fail.
But there’s a catch. You got in, you’re it. No biker gang gives admission tests, no parenting group requires knowledge of good parenting tactics – they’re supposedly “helping” you. They’re teaching you. You think there’s a doctor out there who hasn’t screwed up at least once? You think there’s any label on their appointment making page where their grades are in full view? You think those grades, had they existed, would actually have any meaning when it comes to competence or experience? Nah. The group’s too big. And so, there’s good bikers or bad bikers, good doctors or bad ones, good engineers or bad ones – and you can’t tell, you won’t be able to tell which is which and who’s to blame if something goes wrong. Of instance, Dr. Oz is quite catchy on the telly, I’m sure he’s a quite excellent heart surgeon – but when it comes to nutrition or the other things he puts forward on his show, he’s a quack (literally). His own peers sort of think his advice is idiotic, which is saying something. If history has taught us something, it’s this: 99% of any group you can think of will choose money and fame over poverty and irrelevance. If they can get some money out of something, they will. It won’t matter if their skill at cutting you open and sewing you back up is excellent or just above average – but usually excellence comes with a higher price. However, there’s a bigger catch – you think anybody who depends on him to put food on his children’s table will oust him? Nobody. Same thing with any group. Scientist will sometimes be employed by the private sector to research something for them and some will be paid better and some, not so much. Conflict of interest, mon ami, that’s why there’s that paragraph in every paper – to prove they are not biased, in theory. In theory, I said, stop laughing. Go watch “Thank you for smoking” again. It’s hard to prove something you either don’t believe in or you get paid good money to disprove.
So far, I’ve said many things, but remember just this one: scientists are people, too. Some are idiots, some are gullible, some are biased (why on earth are creationists found in the archaeology or biology departments is beyond me), some are corrupt or corruptible, and some are honest. Just like your workplace, look around. Their work is sometimes peer-reviewed, to catch the errors that slipped into their research. Some don’t even bother with peer reviews. Sometimes even the peer reviews fail to catch the problem. Add a frantic media looking for scoops and good shit stories and boy, do we have a problem. Because nobody peer reviews the news crew, nor does it do any research on facebook posts and shares. All it takes is a stupid story in the hands of a lunatic in the gullible audience and you know, I don’t think anybody is brainy enough to out-smart and out-logic the hell out of an idiot believer. Because, you know, they’s people too and they’s got the right to be heard because they’s important and shit. Like Jenny McCarthy, a woman recommended by only two years of university, a liberal arts high school and lots of nude photo shoots, who keeps a bigger audience than any doctor I know (except Dr. Oz, but… whatever) and claims vaccines cause autism. And she recommends gluten-free, organic crap. And so on. Just an example, there’s tons more. She “believes”, just like Falwell. She forgets arsenic is also natural, however. Bless you kid, ye’r dumb as bricks.
Science is never perfect, however it is perfectible and prone to the old try/try again thing we’re constantly reminded in school. Stupidity, on the other hand… But what really bugs me is the arrogance of the idiots. They demand “scientists”, a generic term defining who knows what or who, see above, stop making decisions for them. Decisions about what, you ask, feeling a slight headache approaching? Well, take your pick: vaccines, medicine, GMO foods, beer-fed cattle and red-bull drinking lambs, whatever. It won’t matter that more than half of our crops would disappear if we embraced their “no” attitude, because every damn vegetable there is out there is also modified, if not by direct genetic manipulation then by inbreeding, cross-breeding and whatever else breeding there is. Just look at the bulldog, or any pure-bred race of dogs. Proof enough? However, if we want bio, organic and that sort of foods, it’s ok. We’d be more than happy happy to pay more money for them, innit? We. Not anybody else. But they (the truthers) demand we also don’t sell them to others, either, be it seeds or the whole thing. We’d better let others starve to death, instead. I get it we should stop making so much toxic waste, I’m all for that – but none of them hippies tried to breed, care for and then eat their own crops and pets livestock, innit? None of them ever tried doing that with only 2 euro a day, innit? Why should we impose our own beliefs (which have no link to science, like at all, so far) on those who can’t afford to pay big bucks for bio, organic and grass fed happy pigs or cows? Or GMO corn, rice or wheat, for that matter? Now that is really arrogance.
I mean, what screams more of stupidity (or irony, but I doubt they’d understand) than protesting for your right to not be forced to do something you don’t want, only for you, in turn, to force others to do something they don’t want (like starve to death, me thinks) because, shucks, you want it more (to quote Rocket Raccoon). If that’s the future, we be dead.