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Truthiness or Ignorance*

Written By: - Date published: 10:09 am, June 10th, 2022 - 53 comments
Categories: Deep stuff - Tags:


The world is a scary place. Good things, bad things, things happen all the time and it seems at a rapidly increasing rate. Life seems to want to confront us with big complex problems for which nobody seems to have solutions. No more than ever we feel we’re not in control, losing control, over our own lives and our grip on what’s happening around us, with us, and to us.

In the good old times we could rely on religion. But those statues have been toppled and smashed to pieces. Then we relied on science. But science has proven that it cannot prove everything and look in at the mess we’re in thanks to all that science and technology with all that wonderful progress it has enabled and the economic prosperity we’ve given (some of) us.

As with religion, science proved to be not absolute, objective, and eternal, and not all the answers were correct and helpful to us. Science is not perfect either, never has been, not omniscient and not omnipotent. Scientific studies and data are conducted and generated by people, respectively, which makes the foundations of science a human construct with outputs that sometimes are of such questionable quality and veracity that these data and conclusions, at least, should be ignored and discarded in the nearest bin or shredder. So, science is rapidly losing its foothold on the pedestal of public trust.

So, what’s left? It seems that in this post-modern world the only truth left standing is that nobody knows and that anything goes, which kind of means that nothing goes, because of the inevitable contradiction and uncertainty leading to more conflict and confusion.

The authorities and experts, in lock-step when it suits them, try their hardest to provide some guidance away from the chasm of chaos that’s looming large in our individual and collective minds. But authorities don’t have all the answers either and cannot and should not be trusted – the cycle is almost complete.

We used to think that the grass is always greener at the other side of the hill. Nowadays, we know that the bushfire on the other side of the hill is worse and more ravaging and devastating than where we are. So, we stay on this side and warn, laugh, and yell at the few fools who want to have a peek over the top and to the other side.

It is crystal clear that nobody has the answers to complex issue of our time and of our generation. The economy founded on capitalism and over-inflated by neo-liberalism, inequality & poverty, climate change, pandemics, et cetera. It all blows our minds, literally. So, what can we do to regain some sense of control and normality? We look for answers, we look for support, we look at others.

There’s nothing more comforting than finding others who feel the same. It gives us the much-needed support that we need and crave. Kinship and belonging have always been essential to our survival as a species and the sense of safety and wellbeing is much more than just a feeling, it’s more than a placebo effect, it’s a real effect with an impact on our physical and mental status as individual members of the species collective.

Social isolation and disconnection from the collective, whether real or perceived, it doesn’t really matter, has profound negative effects, as we know from some of the more excessive examples in human history. However, those insidious effects are much more common than we care to admit and may play a more important role in the mental health pandemic that seems to plague the Western world, mostly still. The antidote is social cohesion and individual compassion (which is much more than, but does include, kindness).

In this atomised, fractured and fragmented world we feel like lost souls without purpose, without deeper meaning in and of life, and in many ways we are lost souls. We know that genuine understanding, in the deeper meaning of the word, is out of the question and beyond our reach. Even AI will take forever to figure it out. Thus, we do what has always worked for us, seemingly, we go for what feels good or right. The brain doesn’t know the difference anyway, the stupid little glob of grey matter inside our thick skulls. Hearing things that align with our pre-existing prejudices and that confirm our biases feels good. Likeminded people who agree with us make us feel good, about ourselves and about life in general. We regain a sense of control and feel we might actually have a grip on life after all, or again. This feeling is vital for our wellbeing, it is existential at a personal level. It shapes and re-shapes not just our views of and on life and the world, at the same time it moulds us and our identity.

Now we know again who we are and where we’re going, we embrace this (new) identity like a lover or a baby (whichever you prefer, irrespective of your sex/gender, of course). Thus, we are proud to tell the rest of the world about who we are and about our answers, certainty, and control. We don our mantles, our badges and patches, and make ourselves known to the world as proud members of such and so tribe, kin group, or cult. And nobody is going to take away this from us and threaten our small little world of newfound meaning, understanding, belonging, and love.

But is there still a place for authorities and science? Should we just ignore that imperfect data & science and sub-optimal governance & state are still preferred over anything goes, an entirely subjective world based on feels, emotions, and reckons? Because science is too complex – even Einstein rejected quantum mechanics – and because politicians are humans like us and cannot be trusted? Should we give up on striving for better answers, better solutions, better future arguing that this is as good as it gets (aka TINA)?

Curiosity has been one the main drivers of human evolution and development. Paradoxically, fear of the unknown is one of the main brakes on human progress.

Is it truthiness or ignorance to not even want to peek over the top of the hill to see what might be on the other side? You’ll be the poor judge of that.

*

53 comments on “Truthiness or Ignorance* ”

  1. weka 1

    I would disagree with the premise that we don't have answers to complex problems. Think regenag for farming and climate/ecology, or doughnut economics. It's clear that we have the solutions to climate technically, but not politically, so we can solve one of those problems but not the other. Yet.

    Certainly people's perception that there are no longer good solutions is a big issue. Is fear stopping people from seeing the way through? It's easy for some of us because we've long been part of the subcultures where creative solutions and sustainabililty/resiliency responses to the big issues is the norm. There's something here about the human brain being hardwired to follow the negative that has energy in it, hence people would rather argue about what National is doing than create new left/progressive pathways.

    If religion and science are no longer sufficient, perhaps a focus on relationship is. I count maintaining functional relationships with the VFF people in my community to be essential political work, because if the shit hits the fan we have to be able to talk to each other. And to prevent the shit hitting the fan we have to be able to talk to each other. Relationship is also the centre of religion, and science.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 1.1

      It's clear that we have the solutions to climate technically, but not politically, so we can solve one of those problems but not the other. Yet.

      Imho behavioural change is needed en masse (Unite!) – maintaining and building relationships will help, but I have such doubts that 'we' can develop the collective will to disentangle civilisation from the resilient growth engine of late stage capitalism in a timely and/or controlled manner.

      Capitalism is killing the planet – it’s time to stop buying into our own destruction [30 October 2021]
      You might expect an intelligent species to respond to these signals swiftly and conclusively, by radically altering its relationship with the living world. But this is not how we function. Our great intelligence, our highly evolved consciousness that once took us so far, now works against us.

      So the disentanglement will likely be delayed (indeed, some will resist with every fibre of their being), and the inevitable break with growth will be uneven and harsh.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Societal_collapse

      Hope I'm wrong – meanwhile, be the change you want to see on spaceship Earth.

      Decapitalising our minds: the key to addressing climate change
      [12 January 2022]

      Envisioning the Transition to an Ecological Economy
      [20 March 2022]

      Why We Have To Give Up On Endless Economic Growth
      [3 March 2022]
      Sustainability efforts are scaling and speeding up — but the treadmill of global economic growth is still faster.

      Today, degrowth is poised to become a much more salient political movement, one that is gaining strength from new economic theories — like Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics, for example, which seeks to rethink economic activity as finding a “safe and just space” for humanity between social minima and planetary maxima. Such theories are being put into experimental practice by city governments in places like Amsterdam and Barcelona.

      Mainstream liberals, and many ecoliberals, continue to laugh them off. But the laughter is increasingly nervous, a recognition that degrowth is likely on the horizon one way or another: either through collapse of the current civilizational trajectory or through some of kind of managed transition to widespread industrial and economic downscaling. In a fundamental way, liberalism finds it difficult to imagine, let alone to embrace, such a future. Liberalism has historically always been about the quest for “more.” It has no idea what to do with “less” as a rallying cry.

      • weka 1.1.1

        If you doubt it can be done, then this will affect how you act, which makes it less likely.

        • Drowsy M. Kram 1.1.1.1

          Weka, I do doubt it can be done, and acknowledge that my genuine concerns about how global warming will play out for this iteration of civilisation may be misplaced.

          My doubt has not affected my small contributions to environmental and GenLess-style causes – I'll continue to do the best that I can with my dwindling resources.

          However, in consideration of the possibility that expressing my doubt here might undermine the efforts of others, I will cease and desist on this topic. Others (see @1.1) are speaking with much greater clarity, and a good deal more hope than I can. Wouldn't want to muddy the waters on this crucial topic, but hope my position is clear, i.e. to doubt, and carry on regardless.

          • weka 1.1.1.1.1

            it's not about what you say here, it's that if you cannot see pathways through the mess it will affect how you act. Not just you, anyone who believes it's not really possible to change will act in accordance with those beliefs.

            Personally, I don't see the point in believing that, given what is at stake.

            • Drowsy M. Kram 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Maybe just a matter of thinking differently. You, I and others see pathways through the mess clearly enough. My doubt centres on whether human behaviour will prove too great a barrier to travelling those pathways at the speed and in the numbers required to avert large-scale societal collapse.

              My doubt leaves room for (some small) hope, at least for me smiley

              • weka

                I was talking about the seeing pathways to change for the problem you name. How can humans step up and do the right thing in time? We cannot predict the future, and that includes pessimism. When we look at the ways in which humans can change rapidly* we better see the pathways and when we better see the pathways we can walk them and show others. Showing others primarily doubt is self defeating.

                *the most obvious example is the way NZ responded to the pandemic in 2020.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Showing others primarily doubt is self defeating.

                  Don't know about "self-defeating", but I'll keep doubts about the feasibility of implementing effective global CC responses to myself from now on.

                  Most Kiwis responded well to science-informed strategies to protect public health during the first two years of the pandemic, so it's certainly possible that most Kiwis would also step up for two or more years of CC-related sacrifices, given the right messsaging. Here's hoping.

                  • weka

                    I feel you have missed my point.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      I feel you have missed my point.

                      It's possible. Can't deny my reserves of rational optimism and hope that civilisation will transition to something sustainable in a timely and controlled manner are nearly depleted. A few more years (god willing) and I may be ready to embrace the 'promise' of uncertainty.

                      The climate progress narrative is the newest tactic of global warming denialists [30 April 2022]
                      Suggesting that we’ve made significant progress when we are nowhere near on track is climate colonialism in action

                      I didn’t write this piece in an effort to dispel climate hope. A better world is possible. But claiming that we’ve made progress when we’ve done anything but serves primarily as a discourse of delay, a new form of climate denialism designed for an era when open science denial is no longer palatable. This narrative is a political tool aimed at silencing the climate movement and mollifying a public that is increasingly concerned about climate catastrophe.

                      The fact that civilisation's CC responses are "nowhere near on track" has caused me to double down on personal actions (no flying, less meat, less driving, less energy use, less stuff) to decrease my carbon footprint. Despite being an atheist, I have a favourite saint – Jude.

  2. Anne 2

    “Scientific studies and data are conducted and generated by people, respectively, which makes the foundations of science a human construct with outputs that sometimes are of such questionable quality and veracity that these data and conclusions, at least, should be ignored and discarded in the nearest bin or shredder. So, science is rapidly losing its foothold on the pedestal of public trust.

    What you have described there is “science” and “pseudoscience”. Real science is based on many years (sometimes centuries) of knowledge and research that have been peer reviewed and accepted by the international scientific community as verifiable fact. There may at times be updates based on new found knowledge, but they rarely change the overall outcomes.

    Pseudoscience is the reckons of individuals which are usually based on either political or religious influences. They are liberally sprinkled with figures and 'concepts' which sound impressive but are not supported by internationally accepted fact. In other words they are mindless drivel.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience

    It is my view this is the fundamental cause of the lack of trust and animosity currently enveloping the planet and it can best be resolved by preventing the pseudoscientific material from spreading arund the world. How you do it God only knows but until such a time it can be achieved, we will be fighting a losing battle against a tide of division, violence and hatred where outcomes could – and probably will – become catastrophic for everyone.

    Everything I’ve said is common knowledge, but sometimes it helps to link them together and create an over-all picture.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 2.1

      "Peer Reviewed" . Absolutely. Scientists face no harsher critic….than their Peers.

      • weka 2.1.1

        Peer review is a flawed process made worse by people who treat it with Faith.

        • PsyclingLeft.Always 2.1.1.1

          Well..I take your "reckons" with a grain : )

          • weka 2.1.1.1.1

            Not my reckons mate. I take it you are unaware of the decades long debate within medical science about how much peer review has failed and what to do about it?

            • Populuxe1 2.1.1.1.1.1

              You mean the peer review of peer review?

              • weka

                I mean that medical scientists and publishers and journals have been critiquing peer review for a very long time because there are all sorts of problems with it. It's not useless, but it's not god either. Having Faith in it undermines science imo and contributes to why people increasingly don't trust science.

                • KJT

                  That critique, is in itself, "Peer review"!

                  Not sure how you can do it any other way.

                  "Review by people who know nothing about a subject and cannot be bothered learning", but still have "an opinion"?

                  • weka

                    still flawed and not helped by the Faith.

                    "Review by people who know nothing about a subject and cannot be bothered learning", but still have "an opinion"?

                    Wut?

                • roblogic

                  I think you mean the Replication Crisis? A widespread problem of misinterpretation of statistics, error, or just outright fraud…

                  • weka

                    I haven't been reading about it for a while, but from memory it covers a range of things. It's not hard to google and see what they are. Put Lancet or BMJ as one of the keywords.

                    Covid has brought additional issues.

                    • KJT

                      The "problem" is not Science!

                      The problem is people are NOT "doing the science". They are letting money, ego, outright fraud and ambition, prevent "doing the science" and/or ignoring what science tells us, because of "beliefs/reckons, or because reality is inconvenient.

                      Which the BMJ , and other articles highlight. Peers addressing problems with those allowing other considerations to affect science.

                    • weka

                      I didn't say the problem was science, I said the problem (one of them) is people treating science as god and having faith in it which blinds them to the short comings of PR. As demonstrated by Anne and PsyclingLeft. When people talk about science as inherently good and true, the conversation goes down a certain track and the problems don't get addressed.

                      Science has to function in the real world, not just the imagination (where it can be considered in its pure state). It's interesting that people want to argue with me over this rather than Anne or PsyclingLeft who are demonstrating faith.

                    • KJT

                      The only one who is talking about "science as a God" is yourself.

                      Which is why you are getting the kickback.

                      Those who study science know that, like anything, conclusions are subject to human fallibility.

                      Unlike "beliefs" science has systematic tools, to determine what is real, and what is not!

                      The whole point of the enlightenment, was that repeatable, observable and experimental methods of finding objective reality, were again used, instead of reckons and mumbo jumbo.

                      There is what can be proven, reality! Which science attempts to do.
                      Or we can revert to. “It is true because I think it is true”.

                      The dark ages were called that, for a reason.

                      We seem to be regressing to both.

                      Are you not asking for objective evidence, yourself, when you ask for references?

                    • weka

                      I think you've really misunderstood my points here KJT.

                      Those who study science know that, like anything, conclusions are subject to human fallibility.

                      Unlike "beliefs" science has systematic tools, to determine what is real, and what is not!

                      Yes, on both counts, of course. Those two things are a given. Self evident that I didn't think they needed naming.

                      What I'm pointing to is how some people relate to science. Anne has some pretty fundamental beliefs (not only expressed in this conversation, I've seen it before). She said,

                      What you have described there is “science” and “pseudoscience”. Real science is based on many years (sometimes centuries) of knowledge and research that have been peer reviewed and accepted by the international scientific community as verifiable fact. There may at times be updates based on new found knowledge, but they rarely change the overall outcomes.

                      This is the fairy tale version of science. It’s what some people believe science is. Here I am talking about science as practice, not the abstract idea about science. It’s faith based, because it doesn’t take much to show that science isn’t actually like that (hence my example of PR).

                      I'm not saying science is bad or wrong. I'm not arguing that science isn't useful. I think science is very useful despite its flaws. I think we would do science better if we were honest about the flaws.

                      When I say science as god, I'm not saying that science is a religion or that science isn't science. I'm saying that some people relate with science from a faith based position including treating science as infallible, or putting it on a pedestal. It's not a comment on science, it's a comment on people's ideas about science.

                      (and as an aside, it's normal for science to get shit wrong and have to reverse its position. Overall outcomes do change).

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      and as an aside, it's normal for science to get shit wrong and have to reverse its position…

                      As an aside, it's normal for people, scientists included, to get shit wrong. Tbf, I find the "get shit wrong" framing inflammatory, but that could be me missing the point and getting shit wrong.

                      The fun to be had after getting it wrong nearly always makes my day (by day).

                    • weka []

                      what I said isn’t inflammatory (beyond the vernacular) if you put it back in teh context of what I was replying to – Anne’s Pollyanna comment,

                      Real science is based on many years (sometimes centuries) of knowledge and research that have been peer reviewed and accepted by the international scientific community as verifiable fact. There may at times be updates based on new found knowledge, but they rarely change the overall outcomes.

                      The problem isn’t getting shit wrong, it’s being in denial that it happened and what that means 🙂

            • PsyclingLeft.Always 2.1.1.1.1.2

              Well…"mate"….when your "reckons" include such statements "science as god" and "Faith" I think WTF?! That had zilch to do with my very small post about peer review …

              Your "Faith" might have more relevance with "Faith healing" and associated DANGEROUS BS

              https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Anti-vaccination_movement

              https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Alternative_medicine

              An FYI….I DID comment on your Thread

              parts per million

              Particularly with Scientists and associated Links !

              This :

              https://www.facebook.com/wiseresponse/

              The Interest on YOUR Thread was ….crickets.

              Be VERY sure that I personally, am doing my absolute utmost to change our Planet Earths heating trajectory. In Practical ways. How about your self ?

              And..I will seriously reconsider posting on your Threads.

    • Belladonna 2.2

      Pseudoscience is the reckons of individuals which are usually based on either political or religious influences. They are liberally sprinkled with figures and 'concepts' which sound impressive but are not supported by internationally accepted fact. In other words they are just mindless drivel.

      I would add social media influences (unless you're grouping social media under the very broad umbrella of 'political')

      It seems to me, that many of the pseudoscientific theories out there aren't directly tied to a political philosophy or to a religious one. There's a *correlation* in some instances. And individual scientific theories (using 'theory' in the scientific sense here) can end up being politicised. But there's also a correlation with education levels.

      Setting aside the whole Covid issue – there is/was a very strong anti-vaccination movement around MMR vaccination for children. Which seemed to have a very broad spectrum of political and religious philosophies in its adherents. You couldn't make an assumption that left/right, fundamentalist Christian/atheist, etc. had any relationship with the individual's philosophy on child vaccination.

      In my observation of this (on the ground, as it were, in ECE environments), the closest correlation was with people who had a poor level of scientific education (NB, they may be well-educated on the arts side); AND a strong desire to 'belong' to a social group.

      But the poor science education is the big one.

      And Dr Google is not your friend here. In the 'old' days, you could go to the library (books curated by the librarians), or ask your GP (medical information). Now, you can simply search online ('doing my own research', grrr), and find any number of sources to validate your prejudices.

      But, that boat has sailed. We live in a world of multiple information sources, and many of us lack the tools to evaluate that flood of information in an accurate and useful way. [One of the things which I particularly love on TS, is the requirement to publish sources, so the group can evaluate the source of the data, as well as the individual interpretation – makes my data geeky heart sing!]

      At the same time, society is moving away (rather rapidly) from 'trust' as a model. People don't trust their GP – they search on Google; people don't trust scientists over climate change (they search the Internet for alternatives); people don't trust politicians over lots of stuff (and so disagree with Covid restrictions), etc., etc.

      My opinion is that this is driven by the gotcha attitude of media (and, to be fair politicians, etc.), always delighted to publicise when a figure of 'trust' has got things wrong. There's also an aspect of 'untrustworthiness' in some of those figures in a position of trust – and a deep unwillingness for many of them to pre-emptively accept responsibility. Collectively, this wears away societal trust. After all, if you're constantly told politicians are untrustworthy, why would you trust them with your personal safety?

      • Anne 2.2.1

        My contribution was a once over lightly and I fully endorse your more detailed observations. Thanks.

        It seems to me, that many of the pseudoscientific theories out there aren't directly tied to a political philosophy or to a religious one.

        True. But somewhere in the background there is usually an indirect link at the least. It's often due to ignorance which in turn makes some people vulnerable to the 'thinks' of the more extreme political and religious elements in society.

        • Nic the NZer 2.2.1.1

          Actual examples of 'group think' don't seem to need any collectively held beliefs to be factually cohesive.

          The beliefs of certain cults, for example Scientology, are completely non-sensical but never the less agreed as truth by members, even quite intelligent ones.

          As another example of group think, mainstream neo-classical economics has mathematically proven (for itself, by its supporters and not by its critics) that supply and demand minimises prices is not a reasonable picture of how markets work. Never the less this remains the central story of how market economies are described.

    • Poission 2.3

      Real science is based on many years (sometimes centuries) of knowledge

      Newton took Pythagorus equation and extended it to 3 dimensions,Einstein extended it to 4 dimensions.the evolutionary laws of science and wonder as Alexander Pope noted in the case of Newton.

      A mortal Man unfold all Nature's law,

      Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,

      And showed a Newton as we shew an Ape.

      Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,

      Describe or fix one movement of his mind?

      Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,

      Explain his own beginning, or his end?

      Alas what wonder! Man's superior part

      Uncheck'd may rise, and climb from art to art;

      But when his own great work is but begun,

      What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 2.4

      Medical pseudoscience….some not so "harmful". Others absolutely

      https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/List_of_pseudosciences#Medical

  3. DB Brown 3

    Science is only a tool. It's the tool-wielders are the problem.

    They’re VERY interested in making new products at universities today. Making discoveries – meh, unless it leads to kudos, and products.

    This is more an admin problem than an academic one. Academics are losing their ability to just wing it with ideas. No more Blue Skies.

    • Incognito 3.1

      Academic science is no longer a career let alone a calling but a job with all that this entails, warts and all. Some (generally older) academics are turning their natural and professional scepticism into cynicism about the scope and purpose of what they’re doing and what positive impact it may have – their employers (so-called tertiary education institutions) seem to be all about social (and economic, of course) impact, et cetera, but without the trail-blazing – conservative, cautious, and PC, as to not to rock the boat and raise the ire of the funders, i.e. the politicians and Taxpayers. Make of that what you will, but I agree that ‘blue skies’ research has been neglected here in NZ – I can’t even remember the last time the Marsden Fund got a significant increase in funding in a Government Budget. Younger academic scientists can keep barely keep their professional heads above water and are constantly treading water.

      However, the OP is not about any real or perceived crisis in academia, or science for that matter, but about the wider and deeper social vacuum, intellectually, spiritually, morally, et cetera, and how we, as people deal with this, in the most general terms possible, of course – I wanted to avoid opening up rabbit holes that become sinkholes … At least, that’s what I was going for …

      • Anne 3.1.1

        However, the OP is not about any real or perceived crisis in academia, or science for that matter, but about the wider and deeper social vacuum, intellectually, spiritually, morally, et cetera

        Sorry bout that Incog. 🙂

        But I really do believe that better scientific knowledge would have an enormous impact on people generally… including their social lives and the principles they uphold.

        I can give a first hand example of the “cautious, conservative, don't rock the boat” attitude of past institutional managements. Climate scientists and meteorologists were effectively banned from talking publicly about global warming and climate change. Anyone who stepped out of line was reprimanded and if they dared to continue, they were hounded out of their job.

      • gsays 3.1.2

        The wider and deeper social vacuum you speak of, is, to my eyes, an inevitable result of the rise of individualism.

        Look at the demise of our traditional collectives, family/whanau, community groups (Lions, Rotary, Scouting/Guides) church, marae, unions, sports clubs, pub based (darts, quiz nights) and contrast that with the rise of the celebration of YOU. FB, Twitter,(kind of a 'Letters to the Editor' writ large) TikTok, Spotify.

        It is a wonder we have the inclination to get out of bed in the morning

        • mikesh 3.1.2.2

          Individualism in a world of specialisation and interdependence would seem to be an oxymoron.

        • Populuxe1 3.1.2.3

          Look at the demise of our traditional collectives, family/whanau, community groups (Lions, Rotary, Scouting/Guides) church, marae, unions, sports clubs, pub based (darts, quiz nights) and contrast that with the rise of the celebration of YOU. FB, Twitter,(kind of a 'Letters to the Editor' writ large) TikTok, Spotify.

          I don't think any of those groups are aware they've demised. You might have to inform them of the fact.

  4. barry 4

    It is not that science or religion don't have the answer. In both cases the answer to most of our problems is "use less and share". The problem is that people don't like the answer. Of course there are "priests" in both science and religion who pretend they have a different answer.

    People (in general) feel disempowered and many are suffering real or relative hardship. Unfortunately they are being taught to fear and blame the people with the solutions. The online misinformation campaigns are all led by the organisations and people benefiting from the inequality and suffering.

    Why would the downtrodden fear a "new world order"?

    • mikesh 4.1

      “It is not that science or religion don't have the answer.”

      There is also philosophy. Some philosophies like epicurianism or stoicism, inasmuch as they advocate ways of life, probably should be treated as religions; while some of the "secular' religions, such as Buddhism or Confucianism, should perhaps be regarded as philosophies. Orthodox religions like Christianity and Islam seem to have become too institutionalised, and perhaps too dogmatic.

  5. Just Saying 5

    Our understanding of the world, from science to politics is dependent on the interchange of experiences and beliefs. In New Zealand everything came to a crashing halt, and necessarily so in the initial stages of the Covid crisis. This should have been a hiatus to gather information. Instead it became an ongoing shutting down of information, entrenched power and 'rightness'.

    And this was dangerous in the ongoing form because, as you say, none of this is in reality, simple and clear. Artificially imposed simplicity takes ongoing repression, loops of spin and shutting down opposition including within science and politics.

    It was inevitable that such a shut-down would polarise pre-existing problems in both the political landscape and within the science community. And without the safety valve of opposing voices, that pseudo-simplicity would turn into a pressure cooker in danger of exploding.

    Respect for various imperfect authorities is dependent on exchanges of information, and for some room for movement in relation to that exchange. Without such movement there is only control over. And within ongoing and outright control over power grabs, and further polarisation.

    I don't think the important point is the acceptance of imperfect authority versus anarchy, it is about the ongoing need for true acceptance of, and allowance for that imperfectness.

  6. roblogic 6

    I can feel the ennui seeping through this post. Regrettably, we are a species in decline. Old certainties are being ripped away, and we are afraid of the future.

    It will be hard adjusting to new realities and watching the world burn from CC. But death is a natural cycle that makes room for new life to be born.

    I recently watched "My Octopus Teacher" on Netflix and it captured this mood.

    Where we are now, is just a step on a larger journey.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      Old certainties are being ripped away, and we are afraid of the future.

      Yes.

      Where we are now, is just a step on a larger journey.

      Yes.

      A journey into the adulthood of humanity. All these adolescent passions and panics will pass. heart

    • Stuart Munro 6.2

      You've nailed it.

      The creeping doom of postmodernism, which looked like a liberation with its "anything goes" has proven to be a mere reversion to sophism. Sure anything goes – but anything is not praiseworthy or desirable. If we want good science, stimulating art, and a progressive political culture, there are behavioural rules that must be followed.

      The anything that goes never gets anywhere near an enlightenment – we do not need yet more fractured and insular intellectual communities, but a synthesis of base values that allow us to find common cause in pursuit of a more just, more sustainable, more humane future.

  7. Subliminal 7

    I would say that the post highlights a major western problem that is evident across multiple disciplines of economics, religion, science and politics which is reduction to the individual component. It may be an interesting experiment to follow a single ant around for a few weeks but little would be gained on the functioing of the colony which really is the superstructure of the ants existence.

    By reducing economics to the "rational" self maximising individual and ignoring the functioning and motivations of any collection of these individuals along with group modifying behaviour on individuals we reduce economics to a very boring consmer focused product value. Even though there are remarkable uplifting stories of the possibilities when a plan is used to achieve predetermined goals.

    We are at the point now where the laissez-faire individual freedom approach is suicidal. We will continue to be supplied with shocks that will in the end make the formulation and implementation of a plan urgent enough that we all join in the work to bring it to fruition.

    Covd showed that we can come together when necessary but the overwhelming view is still that BAU is possible. Covd is now seen mostly in the rear view mirror even though this is not an appropriate thing to do. Just look at the US where workers are staying away in droves and compare with NZ where it is still possible to get $600 (before tax) from the govt to stay at home 5 working days. I topped up with 1 sick day to receive my normal pay check. Others may need more but this is some great minimal support.

    Now we have a new problem. Energy inflation. But this is just a problem that has to be solved for CC any way. To begin, the govt has introduced a fuel subsidy and reduced PT fares. All good. But more will be required and the traditional approach to inflation will be an abject failure. This is the problem that this govt must solve if they want another term.

    Austerity and increased interest rates will only make things worse and open the door for Luxton and "individual responsibility" with its associated slide in the motivation and well being of our nation as a whole. Something different is required right now that moves us beyond "individual responsibility" to a collective responsibility with a clear plan. That "something" could promote local collectives, a national one or both. Our salvation lies in being able to face up to each and every shock even as the frequency increases, not as individuals but as a collective with all the support that entails. Einstein was mentioned above. Einstein believed that socialism was the natural progression of human society. Cooperation is the key both to survival and mental wellbeing. Who is going to lay out something exciting that we can all get behind?

  8. roblogic 8

    About 3000 years ago, a nomadic tribe rejected the pantheism and animism of its neighbours, and embraced the monotheistic cult of Yahweh.

    About 300 years ago, another kind of religious fervour – the Enlightenment – gripped the philosophers and intellectuals of Europe, and Science was inaugurated as its own domain separate from theology and politics.

    More recently, Capitalism has seen the rise of the cult of the individual, the Ubermensch, the billionaire who made it by his own bootstraps.

    And now we have become so enamoured with the power of our technology to master our environment, heal diseases, and travel vast distances, we think we have transcended the laws of Nature itself.

    But here in 2022 we are finding out how wrong we are. The human ego is not supposed to be an island unto itself. Like the geocentrism of the past we must allow our own egos to become less, and once again reconnect to our tribe, our God, and our Earth.

  9. Ad 9

    The useful shared truth-refresh we all now have is of health and disease.

    The epidemiological view should shift our sense of being-in-the-world from private individuation and towards transmissability.

    Epidemiological epistemology.

    Our primary truth is now buttressed within binds of common biological and chemical realities.

    Each organism is a transmission medium for information – from viruses to ideas to memes – and the speed of that medium or channel is determined by our number of connections.

    Truth is far simpler: it just went viral.

  10. Robert Guyton 10

    Ya gotta get back to basics, INCOGNITO.

    Establish a working model you can trust.

    Gather your knowings from your biological core. Eat, sleep, drink. Keep a wary eye. Fight or flight. Establish loving relationships.

    Sort out your familiar learnings next; these are more flexible; Christmas presents under the tree or at the foot of your bed, holidays in a caravan or in a tent. Beach or the uncle's farm. Go to uni or onto the benefit.

    Then look to society's layer; buy a jersey, or knit one, take the Audi or the bus. Climb the career ladder or the one in your orchard.

    The further out from your core you go, the more obviously "constructed" the truths are revealed to be. Overturning them, dissolving them, testing them is where the fun is to be had.

    • Poission 10.1

      Ya gotta get back to basics, Establish a working model you can trust.Gather your knowings from your biological core.

      Physics and biology only have scientific rigor at the probalistic level when reduced to their mathematical structure.Monod in chance and necessity drove a stake through the anthropocentric heart with the role of chance.

      “It necessarily follows that chance alone is at the source of every innovation, and of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among many other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. And nothing warrants the supposition – or the hope – that on this score our position is ever likely to be revised. There is no scientific concept, in any of the sciences, more destructive of anthropocentrism than this one.”

      “When one ponders on the tremendous journey of evolution over the past three billion years or so, the prodigious wealth of structures it has engendered, and the extraordinarily effective teleonomic performances of living beings from bacteria to man, one may well find oneself beginning to doubt again whether all this could conceivably be the product of an enormous lottery presided over by natural selection, blindly picking the rare winners from among numbers drawn at random. [Nevertheless,] a detailed review of the accumulated modern evidence [shows] that this conception alone is compatible with the facts.”

  11. SPC 11

    Sophistication is relative to its time and place.

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