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Re: Planet X - Why is the sci.astro Crowd so Negative?

Martin Brown wrote:


> It only appeals to naive and gullible folk with an inadequate grasp of science
> and mathematics. Unfortunately that scientifically illiterate subset of the
> population is now in the majority which is very dangerous in a democratic
> technologically advanced civilisation.

This comment is interesting in the light of the fact that high levels of
education are more standard among more of the population of the earth
than at any other time in recorded history.  In other words, I
completely disagree: this "is as good as it gets".

The literacy rate is very high worldwide.  Most people on the Planet are
exposed to some kind of educational system and a significant fraction of
people routinely receive an education our fore bearers could only dream
of.  College is no longer reserved for the elite classes, but has become
an "industry" and is almost considered a requirement for modern life.

Do you want to talk about dangerous?  How about how back in the '50s we
were being told that nuclear power would make electricity "too cheap to
meter".  (I'm dating myself, but I was there and I remember...) So lets
build hundreds of nuclear plants which generate tons of highly
radioactive waste every DAY and not have a storage plan.

Flat panel TVs have been 10 years in the future for almost the entire
existence of TV and have only recently come into existence. 
(Admittedly, there is not much down side to this failure).

We will all be driving flying cars soon. (Wow, one can only hope not.)

The Internet will give us broad band access to information at any time
anywhere, the Library of Congress will be at our fingertips. (Only if
you can resolve the IP rights.)

Cancer will be cured in 5 years as a result of (fill in the blank,
usually related to some kind of drug) ______ .  (Oops, it has side

DDT is safe, cheap and easy to use.

Sure, your come-back is likely to be "Yes but you are confusing science
and marketing" and you would be correct, but where were the scientists
back in the '50s who said: "What! Are you completely out of your
friggin' mind?  Of course it will not be too cheap to meter, this would
violate the second law of thermodynamics.  Plus where do we put the
WASTE?"  I mean you really did not need a Ph.D. to figure this out.

The real problem is not at the "top", the elite few who have a profound
and deep understanding of how things work, and more importantly, know
the limits of human knowledge.  Most of the material from Really Famous
scientists that I have read has always been carefully constructed to
ensure that a reader understands that: 1) a model is not reality, it is
an abstraction of reality and 2) most models are proven to be either
wrong or incomplete or both with the passage of time, and the one they
are describing will probably join that long list.

So it is not the "Einsteins" that people distrust, it is the layers
below, the vast horde of people who THINK they understand the universe. 
So much of science is taught as dogma (trust me, this is how it is), and
also as fashion (well, that is how we USED to think) that people look at
the constant change and get justifiably suspicious.

It was not the physicist who took the obvious step of placing some
gasket material in ice water and showing congress: "See, look: it is
stiff!" that people distrust, it is the "scientists" and engineers at
NASA who took the risk of going outside the envelope to put the
Challenger crew on their death trip.

The other problem is that stuff happens to people that they cannot
explain and that frankly that traditional science scoffs at.  If you
read about things on the web, they are easy to discount, but when your
dead mother visits you at night and says "hello, what do you want to do
next time?" it does not help to have "scientists" tell you that it is
just a dream or an overactive imagination or unresolved psychological
issues when you know damn well that this experience was DIFFERENT than
all of those three.  Medicine men are written off as charlatans until
the pharmaceutical industry suddenly "discovers" that the common
knowledge of indigenous peoples includes many clues for new drugs, and
this knowledge is being systematically exterminated by "modern

The problem is not with the masses of people who look at all of the
influences competing for their time with a jaded eye, but with the
so-called "scientists" who look down their noses at the general
population and say: "Unfortunately that scientifically illiterate subset
of the population is now in the majority which is very dangerous in a
democratic technologically advanced civilisation." (who can't spell
either) as though the vast majority of hard-working people were just a
bunch of ill-behaved children who needed their collective noses wiped.

They are not.  They are the people who grow our food, make our things,
pick up the garbage and enable a few people to stare at the stars at
night and pontificate on what it all means in Internet news groups. 
They are naturally suspicious of what they are being told and this
suspicion is quite justified.  If someone is capable of connecting with
them, fine.  If *you* cannot connect with them, it is not their fault,
it is yours.
The Small Kahuna