The concept of simple and complex answers has been on my mind a lot lately. Especially with a presidential election coming up. Politicians propose simple solutions to broad and complex topics. Why? Why does that help them? Shouldn’t they be coming up with solutions that work?
This morning, my cub asked me about jet engines. I tried to explain about how heat causes air to expand and how the air intake forces the expansion of hot gases out the back of the jet engine. It wasn’t that he couldn’t understand the answer, but he was expecting something simpler.
When we’re young, we expect simple answers. And, sadly, all through the first 12-15 years of education, we give children simple answers.
When a 6 year old asks, Why is the sky blue? You probably don’t start with a discussion of the wave theory of light, then move into refraction and the composition of the atmosphere. You say something like, “It’s like rainbows all the time, except we only see the blue part.”
It’s simple. It’s correct-ish. It gets the kid the heck off your back while you’re trying to fix the car.
But it also sets an ugly precedent that all too many people take throughout their lives. A few days ago, this exchange happened on another post here.
How many generations have to elapse before we get two coordinated mutations in a mammalian population?
The commentor, I assume, was looking for some numeric value with a time unit attached to it. I feel confident in assuming that because he didn’t like the answers he received.
This is a simple question. But, when we get to the intricate details of biology, chemistry, philosophy, politics, economics, engineering, or really anything that we do and study in our entire lives. Simple questions are meaningless and any response to those simple questions will be not what the person wants to hear.
So what response did the commentor get?
Define “two coordinated mutations”. Mutations in the same gene? That result in a new feature? Mutations in two different genes that result in a new feature? Define “new feature”. Is a new antibody enough or do YOU (and no one else except other creationists) demand that it be a new limb or something? Does it have to be beneficial? Why? Define beneficial (and include a detailed discussion about the environments in which it might be beneficial?
What gene family? Some change faster than others. If you’re talking about HLA factors, then one generation is plenty. If you’re talking about mitochondrial DNA, then it will be tens of thousands of generations.
You do understand that Behe’s two mutation thing is total bunk right?
How long does it take? In 72 hours, a replicating RNA population evolved with no fewer than 4 mutation families, which increased the binding efficiency of the RNA (acting as a catalyst) 92 fold. Is that sufficient? Why not (because I know you won’t think that it is)?
There’s a lot of context that may not be familiar to people who don’t deal with creationists on a daily basis. But the questions that were in the response are critical to answering the initial question.
Let’s put it in a political light.
How can we stop illegal immigration?
That’s a simple question right? But have you ever looked at the laws and rules on immigration?
Title 8 of the US Code, covers Aliens and Nationality. This title, in its current form, is just under 1200 PDF pages (including title, letter, and other administrative bits). The PDF is here. But even that’s just a small bit that we have to consider. Why is there illegal immigration? Poor economy in one country vs. another. Personal freedom vs. oppression. Safety, gang violence, drugs (caused by use in one country), smuggling, human trafficking, money, etc. etc. etc.
There cannot be a simple answer to deal with issues ranging from drug enforcement to economics and politics in dozens of countries. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something… like wanting to be president. Here’s a hint: A wall will not stop people from entering the US illegally. There are too many other factors involved.
To make a reasonable decision on something like illegal immigration, a person must be moderately well informed about all of the topics I just mentioned. Likewise, with science; evolution, GMOs, vaccines, climate change, etc. etc. etc. You have to be reasonably well informed on dozens of topics. Take climate change. One must have a passing understanding of basic chemistry, economics, oceans and ocean currents, weather patterns, radiation, computer modeling, historical sciences, and predicting future states.
Honestly, I think that most people consider that too much effort.
And that’s why they believe the liars.
There are groups of people who are perfectly willing to give you those simple answers. Even though those answers are wrong, impractical, break the laws of physics and chemistry, and are economically and personally devastating. Why these people choose to promote these simple answers generally devolves to two things: Money or Power. Usually both as one can be transformed into the other with minimal effort.
So, when we combine a small group of people who want money/power and who have little or no ethics and a much, much larger group of people who are too lazy to think for themselves and research/learn on their own… you have the makings for the problems that we see every single day.
Too many adults, like children, just want simple answers. They get frustrated when they don’t get those simple answers. They think that people who try to explain reality to them are taking down or “elitist” or following scientism. Then, they find a person who gives them the simple answer and they follow that person without question. Even if it’s against their own best interests.
In general, the people promoting these simple answers don’t have to deal with the consequences. Bush never had to get involved in a firefight in Iraq. The Koch brothers haven’t had their livelihood destroyed by drought or hurricane. But the people who do have to deal with the consequences just accept it and move on.
Because now, they are looking for a simple solution to the problem that their support of another simple solution has caused. And they will follow any person who promotes that simple solution. No matter how idiotic it appears to someone who is even slightly more informed.
We need to promote the idea of no simple solutions and hard subjects require effort to understand. These things shouldn’t be elitist. They should be the basics of every education system. We shouldn’t have adults who follow one nincompoop after another (US 2012 election anyone) because they have good hair and say what they want to hear.