There’s a wonderfully dorkish bit in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol when a scientist attempts to prove the existence of the human soul by weighing a man’s body moments before and after his death. The difference must be the weight of the departing soul.
This begs a truckload of questions, of course, not least that the soul may not be physical at all. However, the author’s “noetic” scientist reports an infinitesimally small difference so, Eureka!
All great fun. The trouble is, something similar is happening across most of the conventional sciences. The recent swine flu pandemic scare is a good example of vested interests skewing the truth and driving massive public expenditure for no other reason than greed. So is “catastrophic man-made global warming” with its vast new global infrastructure, all paid for by you and me in the middle of a long and crippling recession.
I was thinking of that passage in Dan Brown’s book last week while watching someone blowing bubbles from washing-up liquid. The bubbles seemed to be weightless, even though they are made up of physical substances. But then that’s the nature of bubbles, they appear to be miraculous at first … then they come down to earth or just burst in the air. One should never invest hard coin in bubbles.
Unhappily, lots of people do, and go on doing so even when countless bubbles have burst down the centuries.
Human bubbles are made up of ideas and mental states composed of wishes and deceptions. They form into powerful psychological contagions as they mature, and even take on an apparently material basis as they grow, often posing as something different.
The two current global bubbles are, 1) the myth of catastrophic man-made global heating, and 2) the notion that global decisions are self-evidently better than local ones. Both are underpinned and given force by one of the most lumberingly under-performing institutions in history: the United Nations.
In the economic realm, there are the surpluses of cash built up by exporting countries, China and Japan, matched by the gaping deficits of the US, the UK and many European nations.
Bubbles define our world. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Trillions of our electronic banknotes are now being thrown at the global boiling hypothesis by unrepentant politicians, some well meaning, others self-promoting. The problem is, that bubble has burst.
Global warming by man-produced carbon in the atmosphere has been found not to exist, at least on any timescale we can measure or plan for. The data has been shown to be wrong, or deliberately tampered with. The politicians and their less-than respectable allies — hordes of anti-capitalists and unwashed any-cause hysterics — have gone too far down this road to pull back now. Most will retire to rewrite their personal histories, leaving a new generation to clean up the mess at huge further costs to us.
Here’s a proposition. All new ideas involving the spending of public money should be examined painstakingly for speculative (imaginary) content:
1. What do we actually know, and what are we being advised to believe?
2. Is there a real problem that we can see before our eyes?
3. If it becomes necessary to spend public money to avert an apparent threat in the future, let’s spend it on things that will be useful even if that threat is found to be baseless.
A good example from the past is London fog. In Victorian times, right up until the early 1950s, London was often draped in a pall of yellow smog caused by the burning of cheap sulphurous coal. Millions of lives were lost early from respiratory diseases, heart problems, and simple misery. China and India are still burning this stuff.
The solution was the appliance of science at its best: practical technology. The National Coal Board, then a nationalized industry, brought in two eminent philosopher-scientists: Dr Jacob Bronowski, best remembered for his stagey, but brilliant, BBC series, The Ascent of Man, and E.F. Schumacher, author of the evergreen Small is Beautiful, which was based on Burmese Buddhism. Polymaths both.
They developed the first smokeless fuel. Politicians did their bit and passed laws making it an offence to burn anything else in the big cities, and hey presto, problem all but solved.
The trillions now committed to various schemes for carbon reduction, dreamt up by naive politicians, including the fraudulent brokerage schemes and the “new industries” devoted to pulling wool over our eyes, should be re-evaluated by incoming hard-eyed administrations looking for real value, not notional empires in the stratosphere.
Once again, reducing smokey particulates in the air is worth spending money on for solid health reasons. But the vast array of wind farms and new French nuclear reactors, should be replaced by cheaper, simpler, and more reliable, home-grown alternatives: for example, natural gas derived from Britain’s own methane beds and oil shale deposits. While the Americans and others are pioneering this new technology, Britain — led by the proboscis by bureaucrats in Brussels — is prevented from doing so by self-inflicted barriers reaching as far ahead as 2050. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
By what natural right do these people boss future generations around? The answer lies in the feeble compliance of our lacklustre politicians.
Why not cut free from the whole ridiculous rigmarole and go our own way for our national interests alone. Everyone else is secretly doing this to some degree. If we succeed, you can be sure others will follow. That’s real influence, not the shadowy, pretend kind put forward by Gordon Brown.
Summary: Always be aware of bubbles as they form, and only ever spend public money on what is immediately apparent. Speculation on thinly-based science is rarely profitable. Nature is cyclical and comes and goes, rises and falls in roughly predictable ways. Mankind’s lives are too short to grasp the full picture. Some kind of trust in the future is essential. Most of it is unknowable. If we accept our limitations, we will be happier here and now.
Solution: Replace the top tier of government scientists with practical philosophers who can think any situation through without spending money.
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