A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

10 September 2008

Anti-Science Asshats

So I was waiting for Mme Metro to pick me up. I decided to kill time by dropping in to our local blue-collar bar.

It's an old place I can call "The Drake". The interior is dark, built mostly of roughish wood and festooned with antique memorabilia that wasn't bought fresh from a restaurant supply store or as a job lot on eBay. It's a cash bar, self-service only. I like it a lot. Reminds me of Big Bad John's back before they started playing up the hillbilly angle.

I buy my four-times-the-price-of-gasoline pint and retire to a table near the bar. They're all near the bar, the place is too small to get too far away.

Which is why I can hear the idiot holding forth at the nearby table. He and the two he's talking to are working-class types, but cleaner than the house painters, taper/drywallers, and other mudslingers who populate the place at the moment. I'm not running him down for that: In among the spattered overalls and work boots my kakhis and collared shirt stick out; just a little, but they do.

"Well these scientists--they don't even know what it's gonna do, this Large Hadron Collider. I mean, ..."

Me (thinks) Oh great. Just smurfin' great.

"This thing is supposed to copy the Big Bang, right? So it's gonna create a whole new little universe, right? Or they say it might even destroy the whole world ..."

He goes on to explain his eminently scientific theory.

"Yeah, these scientists, they don't even know what they're doing. It's like those guys who messed aroung with the atom, and they got the atom bomb. They didn't know--they thought they might blow up the world, and they went ahead anyway. They just got lucky. So here we are and they spend billions of dollars and they don't even know ..."

I try to tune him out, but it's hard. This dude is emblematic of much, maybe most, of what's wrong with society.

My grandparents were not educated people. But they had faith in science, and in scientists. Why? Because they read enough to understand the level of their own ignorance. They knew enough to step back and let the experts argue things out, and they respected somebody who'd spent their life studying an aspect of science that they perhaps might not have considered.

But now we've fallen for the fallacy that every man's opinion is as good as another's. I watched a "man-in-the-street" interview last week, the question to which was: "Do you think the Large Hadron Collider poses a risk to human life?" or some such drivel.

Don't believe me?

Last week the world watched in horror as John McCain stooped to pander to the rightwing christofascists of his party, who had turned from him in droves, and selected his running mate, Sarah Palin.

Bought her governorship in a state so jaded by corruption that her own ideological corruption went largely unremarked.

Is a lifetime member of an organization that believes more guns in public life is a good thing.

Supports abstinence-only sex ed (but fortunately seems unopposed to birth control).

Believes no woman should ever have an abortion under any circumstances except a direct threat to the mother's life.

Believes the world was created, as is, about six thousand years ago.

Is a regular attender of a church that preaches that we are living in the Biblical "End Times".

Thinks the Iraq war is "a task from God."

Believes in censoring libraries.

Is, clearly, a goddamned idiot.

Yet this, this homunculus, this hindering knotgrass maid, this hayseed, is reckoned the stuff of vice-presidency? Hell, even the Rupert-Murdoch-mouthpiece Wall Street Journal thinks she's nuts.

Lord Jesus, defend us from your followers. And from the average.

I think one reason Steve Harper called the Canadian election for next month (aside from his wish to take his ball and his bat and not play anymore if the opposition's just going to keep letting him have his way, apparently) is that he knows that no-one'll be paying attention as long as the US is dithering between a young, dynamic, go-ahead kind of dude whose veep pick is a senator with a track record of hard work, and a has-been war hero who's repudiated everything he ever stood for, crowning his horse$#17 sundae with the rotten and worm-infested maraschino cherry of the Palin nomination.

In what country on this planet would one expect to see the McAncient/Psycho ticket tied with the Charismatic-youth/Forty-odd-years-of-genuine-experience ticket?

Sam Harris probably says it better:
Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.
Let me leave my US Avid Fans with one last thought:

Do you want, as a person one heartbeat from the presidency, a few seconds from controlling the world's deadliest nuclear arsenal, a woman who believes the end of the world is already well on its way, and that she can do no wrong because her God is in charge and will guide her finger?

If the Republicans actually win the White House with this ticket, then it's time to build a large brick wall, topped with broken glass and patrolled by rabid rottweilers, along the forty-ninth parallel.

We cannot allow anti-science idiots to run the world.

Harper's wrong, of course. The appointment of this imbecile makes it even more important that Canada elects someone who likes actual, y'know, science. Stephane Dion would be okay. David Suzuki would be better. But Harper is to science what Herod was to Bethlehem daycare.

Which brings me back to the bar. As one of the expounder's drinking companions passes me, I am unable to resist saying:

"Say--ask him if he felt anything funny two weeks ago when they tested it for the first time."

Happy Hadron Collider Day. And you know something? If it finds God rather than god particles I'll delete this post and pray the McAncient/Nutjob ticket wins.

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At 12:46 a.m., Anonymous G Eagle Esq said...

Bonjour Monsieur Metro

I sympathize with anxieties over Mrs Palin ... as Pride & Prejudice's Miss Bingley observed of another lady - "She smiles too much"

You seem to suggest that we should "believe in" pScientists

... Wasn't it members of that sub-species that "discovered" the nuclear bomb and (apparently) posted Anthrax samples around the USA

Does that give you any pause to reflect on whether such faith is "wise or prudent"

Alles Gute

L'Aigle Gris

At 7:15 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

@g eagle esq:
Cogent observation. However:
1) The atom bomb was a natural extension of the current art at the time, driven particularly by the pressures of war. And it could be argued that the bomb was a necessary means to the end of that war.

2) The anthrax mailings were the act of a criminal--no-one (least of all me) is saying science doesn't have its crackpots. The Unabomber was apparently a very gifted mathematician.

However, for a far greater concentration of general-or-garden-variety crackpottery, one need only look to Republicans. Most scientists are reasonable folk, and may be amenable to persuasion.

Anyone who continues to support the sad wreckage of what was once the party of Lincoln in its current depleted, and ideologically radioactive state is simply fossilized.

What I am saying is that science, adequately funded, left to its own devices, and freed from the restrictions of political agenda, will get the facts straight and deliver correct answers more often than dogmatic faith in the "average Joe" or Jane.

(Canadian science has been hamstrung by our current PM's desire to subjugate it to corporate interest and religion).

To use the phrase that kept Bush alive long after his star had faded: Who would you rather have a beer and a chat with? Oppenheimer or Sarah Palin?

At 5:57 a.m., Blogger Philipa said...

Yep, Palin is a nut job alright. But from someone holding two engineering degrees (who spent some time at NASA and Tuscaloosa uni - it's not just the Brits) and whose mentor was on the nuclear council of GB (as was my honey and confidante at the time) I can honestly tell you that there's quite a lot of happy accidents through history that gave rise to scientific fact. Never underestimate the power of 'Eureka! didn't expect that to happen, let's call it a theory and try it again'.

And sometimes they get it wrong.

And some scientists are assholes.

At 10:18 a.m., Blogger Pugs said...

There are a lot of rumors surrounding Palin and they are just that, rumors. It seems that the tide has turned and is heading back out to sea away from Camp Obama and the minions are getting quite desperate. They have turned an innocent hockey loving mother of a retarded baby into the next anti-christ in the hopes of electing a similary inexperienced politician to the presidency. She loves her God and all froms of life (except when killing for food of course)and isn't that what we all aspire to be. Any average unwavering American who lives life for God and not the Golden Calf is good for the masses, eh?

Seems to me that McCain has picked the ultimate distraction and everyone has taken the bait. Brilliant. You have to admit that the guy is smart and knows what triggers to pull, even when the shotguns are not aimed at the moose grazing in the fields...

At 11:35 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

Total agreement. But when the choice is between science and woo, I'll pick science. Science gets it wrong sometimes. Woo gets it wrong every time.

Rumours? You haven't visited any of those links, have you? They're home truths.

Anyone who shat on Obama for his choice of church and doesn't take issue with Palin's end-times Christian-Dominionist outfit is either a racist or a hypocrite.

Anyone who worries about some "secret Mulsim" when a genuine religious zealot is standing right in front of them is daft.

Hell, even you yourself are dissing Obama for "lacking experience," but you got all jazzed up by Palin's?

If you're worried about inexperience, presumably you'll be happy to know that Biden probably has more than McCain and Palin combined.

On foreign policy, well Obama's tour of Europe gave him more foreign policy experience than Palin has. Mrs "What does a vice-president actually do?" has apparently been outside the country once. I'm guessing she transited BC in a bus or something.

So I'm glad to hear you'll be voting Democratic, purely on experience. :-)

McCain didn't pick her. His handlers picked her, so they can show how inclusive and pro-woman they can be. She's a trophy, just like McCain's second wife. The difference is that she's dangerous.

If she's just like average US citizens, then the whole country needs a straitjacket.

I mean, she thinks a pipeline is God's will, so's the Iraq war. She thinks the damn world is six frimping thousand years old! And that's just some of the stuff that's a matter of public record.

How do you see that as a reasonable choice? Explain it to me.

Her family? Well that's fine and dandy. How do you think a woman with five kids and a husband, who's pork-barrelled her way through a political career (governor's salary: $60,000+, husband's an oil worker)compares with a mother trying to raise, say, two kids on minimum wage without a partner?

Of course, to Republicans, that's different. One's a sinful witch, sucking at the taxpayer teat, the other's a vice-presidential candidate.

As to desparation--the desperate one is McAncient. He's already given up every position he ever held that made him a "maverick"--abortion, the Iraq war, torture ... and now he crowns it by deliberately choosing a person whose philosophy he was entirely opposed to until it became possible to motivate the Christian Fascism wing Republicans to back him up.

He thinks he needs that edge, but I doubt he'll win anyway. I think the average voter might actually not be quite stupid enough to vote for Bush III.

At 1:50 p.m., Blogger Pugs said...

LOL! Tell me how you REALLY feel. I was being sarcastic by the way. I see that you have no humor when it comes to retarded babies or Sarah Palin! Point taken, sheesh...

At 2:38 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Sorry--In my defence, the sarcasm wasn't clear. But you're right. I've been wound a little tight lately watching election coverage from your nation and mine. My reply was suited to what I thought you were really saying.

I'm seriously considering deserting the internet for a while. It helps that I don't currently have access at home. I had some access problems, and the action I took to fix them seems to have simply expanded the problem to Mme's computer.

At 5:11 a.m., Blogger Philipa said...

ARGHHH, No! Noooooo

I've just started confirmation classes as I've never really sorted my crisis of faith out conclusively and I was going to start Fortean Faith back up to discuss things, you know, the big questions. Your comments (and Jacks) are important thoughts in this debate. I'll sort it this weekend and see if I can entice a comment or two from you. Watch this space, please :-)

At 6:11 p.m., Anonymous Chris said...

Help me understand. Respectfully, why attack her religion, as if Christians are all crazy people wishing war and destruction on people?

Do you believe God exists?

At 1:29 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

Sorry I took so long getting back to this, I hadn't received notification of your comment (mail-read-as-spam-issues on my account).

First, let me address your last question. I'm an atheist. However, as an ex-Catholic atheist I respect fully the rights of people to believe pretty much whatever they like in the privacy of their own heads, hearts, and homes.

However, when such beliefs are allowed to form the foundation for public policy, they must be thoroughly and conscientiously scrutinized to be sure that they are beliefs that benefit society.

You'd certainly do it if the person nominated for Veep were a communist, no?

Which is where Mrs. Palin is troubling. Like a fraction of Christians, she may believe we're in the "End Times." In which God's plan is to destroy the sinful world in order for his Son to come again.

And this is no joke--she has been heard telling people that she believes Christ is due within her lifetime.

A nuclear exchange might be just fine by her, because it's part of god's plan, so no need to worry about the death and destruction it will cause.

Which makes negotiation so much easier, too. Why try to compromise when your enemies are godless and destined to hell once the atomic fire rains down?

You see where I'm going with this?

Her Christianity isn't the issue. It's the fact that she's part of the fringiest of fringe Christian movements, and that her worldview is poisoned by her inability to separate her personal views from public policy.

Such scrutiny also applies to her very Republican penchant for cronyism and deceit. Neither of which are particularly desireable traits in a chief executive, or deputy one.


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