SETH GODIN: Selling confusion
Over the last few decades, there's been a consistent campaign to sow confusion around evolution, vaccines and climate change.
[OCS: Adaptive evolution is a theory and like any other theory, it is still in the process of being examined, tested, and possibly falsified. Nobody has done it yet. Vaccines are not without some degree of risk, possibly of severe consequences to a few individuals, but it appears that the statistical evidence for the good outweighs the statistical evidence of the bad. Climate change is easy, the climate has always been in a state of flux since the Earth developed an atmosphere. No argument from anyone about this singular fact. Since we do not know or have a methodology for calculating the Earth’s optimal temperature, and we have scientific evidence that the Earth has been hotter, colder, with more and with less atmospheric carbon dioxide all before the appearance of the industrial revolution, the matter is still undecided.
So, like the old adage of following the money, we can see that there are various individuals, activists, and special interests groups with a vested interest in selling a particular narrative in exchange for profits, prestige, and political power.]
In all three areas, we all have access to far more data, far more certainty and endless amounts of proof that the original theories have held up. The data is more accurate than it's ever been. Evolution is the best way to explain and predict the origin and change of species. Vaccines are not the cause of autism and save millions of kids' (and parents') lives. And the world is, in fact, getting dangerously warmer.
[OCS: As for accurate data and scientific certitude, adaptive evolution is still being tested and its boundaries mapped. Many researchers believe that man developed adaptive programs to produce life-saving responses to ancestral threats and these programs have been coded into our genetic structure; adapting over time to changing circumstances.
With respect to vaccines, the quality of the data as being reported to various governmental institutions seems to bear out that vaccines do more good than harm in generally protecting society. Has anyone noticed that it was the elite progressives that started the anti-vax movement after an actress made it her cause celebre? And, the resultant disease clusters appear mostly in affluent areas?
However, with the quality of the data used to drive the global warming models, the raw data has been destroyed or compromised by the lack of adequate archival mechanisms and what remains has been statistically manipulated, homogenized if you will, to facilitate computations by climate models which are known to be incomplete. The fact that only the satellite data appears to cover the globe is another factor in looking more closely at the terrestrial datasets.
As for the word “dangerously” in the context of global climate change, it is a ludicrous description, again because we do not know the Earth’s optimum temperature and the charter of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is more about political and economic power than science. How many people know that the IPCC’s framework ignores natural causes of global climate change and focuses on the man-made “anthropogenic” contribution to the overall climate system. Ludicrous as there are several factors that make man’s puny signal – if it can actually be measured – impossible to find in the noise of normal climate variability. The Sun’s energy output in all spectral bands, extraterrestrial cosmic rays, the Earth position relative to the Sun, the Earth’s rotational and precessional dynamics, the Earth’s vulcanology and plate tectonics, the deep ocean currents, and the most prevalent and potent of greenhouse gases, water vapor, greatly outweigh anything man can do to nature.]
Poll after poll in many parts of the world show that people are equivocating or outright denying all three. Unlike the increasingly asymptotic consistency in scientific explanations, the deniers have an endless list of reasons for their confusion, many of which contradict each other. Confusion doesn't need to be right to be confusing.
[OCS: Consensus is a political, not a scientific, process and the average person is too concerned with the issues of day-to-day living and survival to get anything more than a smidgen of news from politically biased sources. How many average people read Physics Review or any scientific journals. Science is not performed by counting published scientific papers and then concluding or suggesting something is true. Especially while one finding can falsify the whole kit and caboodle.
About the nice phrase “increasingly asymptotic consistency in scientific explanations,” how many scientists claimed that Einstein’s work was hooey – and Einstein himself believed Quantum Mechanics was dodgy mathematics to describe “spooky action at a distance.”
Every generation has those who do not conform to the popular wisdom of the day; Galileo comes promptly to mind. The use of the word “deniers” is a pejorative copped from those who disbelieve Hitler’s holocaust was real. Just another way to shame your opposition using emotionally-charged labels.]
Worth noting that this response doesn't happen around things that are far more complicated or scientifically controversial (like gravity and dark matter). It's the combination of visceral impact and tribal cohesion that drives the desire to deny.
[OCS: There is nothing scientifically controversial in researcher’s various mathematical formulations relative to gravity, dark matter, string theory, or any other theoretical work. There may be disagreements , but not with the religious fervor of a zealot who substitutes feelings for facts.
This is bullpucky because it conflates some science with other science. Higgs posited the Higgs Boson, but we didn’t find the Higgs Boson until man was sufficiently sophisticated and well-funded enough to build the Large Hadron Collider. Yes, there is a certain tribal cohesion driving the narrative, but it is more prevalent with those who take a cause to be a religion, accepting dogma without critical thought or actual proof. And, as in most tribes, it consists of individuals signaling their tribal belonging to other individuals – in this case by adopting the position of politicians and media sources rather than of the scientists themselves.]
Cigarette companies were among the original denialists (they claimed that cigarettes were unrelated to lung cancer, but that didn't work out very well for them), and much of their confusion playbook is being used on these new topics.
[OCS: This is a very poor analogy as it proves the case that special interests are willing to hide, subvert, or lie about research to preserve power and profits. With cigarettes, there is a statistical link (correlation and causation) between tobacco products and cancer. With global climate change, there is no such link that can be observed in any of the models that appear to have been tweaked to replicate the climate patterns of the past, but fail to predict the climate patterns of the future – thus falsifying themselves without human intervention.]
To what end? Confusion might help some industries or causes in the short run, but where does it lead? Working to turn facts into political issues doesn't make them any less true.
[OCS: An interesting statement because attempting to turn political issues into facts is not only dangerous, it doesn’t make them any less true. Confusion, chaos, and complexity has always been the realm of politicians as they confuse, conflate, and bamboozle the public into surrendering their freedoms and the fruits of their labors to benefit the politicians and their special interests masters.]
If this growing cohort 'wins', what do they get? In a post-science world, where physics and testable facts are always open to the layman's opinion in the moment, how are things better? How does one develop a new antibiotic without an understanding of speciation and disease resistance? ‘'
[OCS: There are no “wins” in science, only more knowledge about ourselves and our environment. Wins are the province of the politicians. There is no post-science world, only the increasing antipathy to complex subjects and matters that demand critical thinking by a “dumbed down” world where educators indoctrinate, not educate. Affirmative action does not have a place in science. What people think about scientific subjects is often driven by a rather ignorant media that shuns the complexity that might lose them their audience.]
I know what the science p.o.v. gets us if it prevails, if evolution is taught in schools, if vaccines become ever safer and widespread if governments and corporations begin to ameliorate and prepare for worldwide weather change.
[OCS: Yes, we should prepare for environmental impacts as the climate is constantly changing and we may be heading for another ice age instead of runaway global warming. Ice ages have happened, but nobody has seen any indication of global warming in the past – warming that would suggest that their might be a planetary emergency. Remember that great scene where an iceberg is calving in Gore’s movie – too bad they did not mention that it was generated by a computer for another movie and sold as stock footage. Other mistakes, too, are glaringly apparent as Al Gore amasses a fortune based on his particular brand of non-scientific craziness.]
What's a mystery is what the anti-science confusors get if they prevail. What happens when we don't raise the next generation of scientists, when vaccines become politically and economically untenable, when we close our eyes and simply rebuild houses on the floodplain again? Gravity doesn't care if you believe in it, neither does lung cancer.
[OCS: Confuse and conflate: about the idiots who rebuild on floodplains – all courtesy of developers purchasing politicians to alter zoning and building codes. The decision to rebuilt New Orleans, partly under sea level instead of turning it into a profitable deep-water port was a political decision based on the unwillingness of politicians to deal with mass condemnation of minority-owned properties in the proposed redevelopment zone.]
Ask a confusor that the next time he offers a short term smoke screen. If this is a race to be the most uninformed, and the most passive, what if we win?
[OCS: Bullpucky is bullpucky – and it comes from politicians, activists, and the special interests who have something to gain. It might also come from prestigious institutions, programs, and scientists who have grown dependent on billions of political dollars that are provided to those who support the position of the funders.
The answer is simple. If political corruption continues to warp and corrupt science, we are heading to a new dark age. The antidote is more personal responsibility, less politics, and real education.]