Saturday, November 12, 2011

Anti-Science is Alive and Well

People prefer to "believe". They don't like slow and painful study and rational thinking, calculation, experimentation, theory building aka "science". That requires 20 years of education and only really dedicated and really smart people can access the edges of science these days. That sidelines the masses and they don't like that one bit.

So people believe in magic. They believe in "spirit" and "soul" and the "power of positive thinking". They believe in "holistic medicine". They have their religions.

I worked in a high tech company and was appalled to discover that even people with PhDs in science believed in such madness as "homeopathy". These were smart people, well educated people who had worked hard to understand technology and science and yet they gave in to magical thinking.

Here's what magical thinking will "achieve". From Yahoo! News:
Five share $340,000 in holistic healer case that left woman a quadriplegic

The Canadian Press – Fri, 11 Nov, 2011

RICHMOND, B.C. - Five B.C. residents, including a woman nearly killed by arsenic poisoning and left a quadriplegic, are sharing more than $340,000 as a result of a settlement involving a self-proclaimed holistic healer.

Money from the settlement came from property seized from the defendant and sold under the B.C. government's civil forfeiture legislation.

The government says the defendant, Selena Tsui, was not charged in the case after the Crown concluded there was no substantial likelihood of conviction on any criminal charges.

The government says between 2000 and 2004, Tsui told at least a dozen people she was qualified to diagnose and treat diseases, including mental conditions, when in fact she had no formal training.

One of her clients, identified only as E.L., began taking a concoction she believed contained mushrooms and herbs, but had extreme arsenic levels, and she suffered respiratory and renal failure, cardiac arrest and paralysis.

She was taken to hospital, put on life support and given a five per cent chance of survival, but her life was eventually saved.
The real world is complicated. It isn't a simple morality story. It isn't something that "a good heart" and a "strong will" can conquer. It requires hard work, sophisticated technology, advanced math, and a long education in a specialist area of science. But people love quacks with no training yet who have an "aura" about them, or can "channel spirits", or have a commanding presence and claim a direct line to "God".

Right now, Europe and the United States are in the hands of quacks. Serious economists know that austerity budgets only prolong a depression. A Keynesian approach is needed. But Obama and the European leaders would rather call in the witch doctor to shake bones over the economy and prattle some debt reduction "confidence building" mumbo jumbo rather than rely on the math, the models, and the sophisticated economic theories (the ones prior to the Chicago school and "freshwater" economists turned into lunatics and ran economics off the rails).

It is tragic living in a world where some plague is raging and the scientists and the doctors have the technology to manipulate DNA to create a vaccine to cure it, but the "authorities" (political, religious, civic, etc.) all cry out for "prayer" and "abstinence" and "a submission to God's will" or some "alternative medicine" rather than to science to cure the plague.

We live in a dark time. Carl Sagan wrote a book in 1995 before he died in which he worried about this modern anti-science trend. The book was called The Demon-Haunted World. We live in that magical thinking, irrational, and anti-science world. Millions die every year because of this stupidity. That is what people who want "quick solutions" have created by preferring magical thinking to the difficult path of rationalism and science. Tragic.

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