• Science vs. Money, Power, and Control

    Hardly seems like a fair fight right?

    On the one hand, we have evidence, rigorous mathematics, detailed experimental methods, a 500 year history of logical reasoning and critical thinking.

    On the other hand, we have a marketing machine fueled by money, politicians and celebrities bought and paid for with money and power, and a culture that deifies Honey-boo-boo and hates people like Bill Nye.

    Yes, it is totally unfair and science is losing big time.

    Galileo was convinced by the evidence he gathered that the Earth was not the center of the universe. The Church did not agree because that would disrupt their all controlling power (or they felt that it would, which is the same thing). Only a few hundred years later did the Church finally admit to their mistake.

    Evolution is rejected by creationists who want God in place of it.

    Climate change is rejected by big oil companies. And they pay for people to produce papers that reject it. Here, the industry knows that the science is correct, but is taking steps to confuse the public.

    The dangers of tobacco is rejected by (shockingly) tobacco companies.Let’s be clear, the industry knew that the science was correct, but took steps to cause the public to reject it.

    The dangers of lead in the environment was rejected by (again) big oil.

    The near universal acceptance of GMOs are rejected by the Organic Crop industry and their politicians.

    Vaccines are rejected by a single person who falsely linked autism and a specific vaccine in order to get his new, recently developed vaccine in the market place.

    Do you see a pattern?

    Money and control.

    That’s it. All of the rejection of science, since Galileo and before, has been about power and control (money). And the people with poor reasoning skills and who make no effort to understand a topic (no, reading peer-review in order to find quotes to discredit the same paper is not “studying”) are letting all the science deniers get away with it.

    Scientists have a hard time competing with marketing, media, and the politicians. Science doesn’t pay well, despite what you might think. Science is hard, a 15 second sound bite is easy. Refuting points with evidence is hard, throwing out a thousand false points hoping no one will notice is easy.

    History is repeating itself. Everyone is well aware of the dangers of tobacco and the vast majority of people on the planet accept that the Earth is not the center of the universe (the observable universe, yes, but that’s a totally different thing).

    In 200 years, no one left will doubt evolution or GMOs. Indeed, it is likely that the people left alive will be so dependent on GMOs for food that they can’t imagine anyone rejecting them. This will be because they are trying to feed 15 billion people with half the crop land we have today due to rising sea level and global warming. They will call us fools, just as we call the Church that attacked Galileo fools for rejecting basic science.

    This reminds me of technology. What is impossible for one generation is a challenge for the next and commonplace for the third. Think about computers or air conditioners or TVs or X-rays (my son’s dentist has a hand-held X-ray gun). All these things were unimaginable to the previous generations, but we don’t even think about the SCIENCE that brought them to us.

    It’s rather depressing to watch history repeat itself again and again. To watch the same ignorant crowds that burned witches in the 1700s burning fields of crops today for the same reasons… fear. A fear promoted by people in control who feel threatened by the knowledge of science and advances of technology.

    Category: CulturefeaturedScienceSkepticismTechnology

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    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • Jeff Pinner

      I would question your 15 billion people calculation due to a simple offset that you have not taken into account: Dr. Malthus might just have his way and get us back down to a reasonable 1 or 2 billion, in which case the remaining ones will curse us for our disregard of his theories. That is if history survives the crash in about 100 years or so. Unverifiable by us, I know, but I am fairly sure that we have condemned our grand children (assuming my son and his wife decide to procreate, not my business, really) to a life less comfortable than mine.

      Bleak bastard, that Malthus.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Oops, my bad, it was 12 billion, according to a UN report I recently read. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6206/234.abstract

        Still, that’s a lot of people on less space than we have now.

        My personal feeling is that unless we start building O’Neill colonies in the next 20 years, the majority of people will be doomed. Depressing as… well, then end of the world.

        My colleagues think I’m a pessimist and I am, most of the time. But I don’t see us, culturally, turning around any time soon.

        • hyperzombie

          Crop production will not be a problem in the future, we could easily double crop production now, if more farmers used modern farming techniques.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            I don’t disagree. I think that the problem is much more cultural than technical. The US probably generates enough food to feed the world… but we can’t distribute it in a culturally, socially, and economically successful way.

            Humans have long used technology to overcome the limitations of our abilities and the environment’s ability to sustain us. That is not without it’s consequences though. This is even more true when you consider that an exceptionally large subset of otherwise intelligent people reject the fact that we are significantly altering our world.

            I’m not being a luddite and I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you. I think that there are consequences to the technology we are using. I don’t think that you are unaware of this.

            The one thing that Malthus didn’t understand was the concept of the singularity. A change that no one before it could have predicted or really understand and no one after it could understand how to live without it. In Malthus time, the singularity scale events were very, very rare. Most people would go their entire lives without seeing one or understanding it.

            But we go through one every few decades now. Computers in the 50s and 60s, desktop computers in the 80s, the internet in the 90s, smart phones today. Just to name a single example series.

            There well may be a change that it coming that we can make and that everyone in the world can embrace as much as they embraced wifi. But then, maybe not. It would be dangerous to think that, even with our tech, we can continue on with ever higher standards of living (especially if it is not equal).

            I’m not sure if that means anything to you. I hope so. Again, I don’t think that Malthus is entire correct, but I don’t think that we can just dismiss him from consideration either.

            • hyperzombie

              I was speaking mostly of Africa and most of Asia, not the US. If African farmers got the same yield (or even 25%less) as American farmers, they could feed the entire world using the same amount of land that they use today. India is a classic example, they modernized crop production in the last 50 years and yield skyrocketed over 4x for most crops on basically the same amount of land.

              All technology has consequences, but there is also consequences when it is not used. Everyone who promotes the Precautionary Principle always forgets this part of the equation.

              We have always altered the world and with technology and science we are getting far better at it and thanks to modern Ag we need to alter less and less of it every year. World wide Agricultural land peaked in the mid 90s and is now trending down, lets keep this trend going buy using the best technology available.

              Malthus is wrong not due to singularities, but because he forgot that humans are not just consumers we are also producers. Respectfully, I believe that after 200 years of being wrong Malthus should be thrown into the garbage bin of failed scientific predictions.

              That is all

              Cheers. And I love your blog BTW

          • Doc Bill

            Crop production is already a problem and opening up wheat farmland in Minnesota even up through Canada won’t do the trick. Food distribution is going to be the problem.

            Already, droughts throughout Africa, India and Bangladesh are wiping out food production at an alarming rate.

            The Maldive islands, (about 300,000 people?) have no arable land and are now importing rice from Australia because of shortages in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. It’s probably already unsustainable for the Maldiveans who will have to move because of food, first, and sea level rising, second.

            Speaking of which, sea level rising will wipe out a huge portion of Bangladesh by water inundation and storm surge flooding.

            The US has a “wheat glut,” now, and we literally can’t give it away.

            • hyperzombie

              First you say that wheat production is a problem, then you claim that we have a wheat glut…Is too much wheat the problem or not enough.
              Droughts have always been a problem for all farmers world wide, this is not new.
              The Maldives have always had little to no arable land, nothing has changed. Australia grows far more rice than they could ever use, so again what is the problem.
              Bangladesh is a giant river delta, so off course they have flooding issues and always have. You should look up some of the historic floods that happened there.

      • hyperzombie

        Dr. Malthus has been wrong for over 200 years now, what would make you think that he would be correct in the future.. The more people that we have on the earth, the better things are for humans generally, unless you have any evidence to show otherwise.

    • Fred

      In 200 years, no one left will doubt evolution

      That would all depend on how “evolution” is defined in 200 years. In 200 years no one will think natural selection is a creative force.