Wednesday, January 6, 2010

BELIEF - January 7, 2010

It is hard these days to know whom to believe, and there is so much to know that we can not be responsible for making up our minds. For many of us, the question of belief lies in a choice of authorities: whom to believe. So there are many of us that are prepared to trust in Science, but even that has been undercut by the number of people who are peddling special interests disguised as objective scientific fact. This fault is available in all areas, including economics, social policy, and even sometimes in Physics. So there is an understandable willingness to go with the preponderance of opinion in an area of reputable study, but even that has a history in almost every science of denying the truth of some new belief that turns out to be the new truth. We think of people like Copernicus, or Pasteur, or Einstein. Most recently the bulk of opinion in economics, which proclaims itself a science, has favored the dicta of the predator school out of the U of Chicago, which touted the self-correcting forces of the Market, only to be bounced from one bubble to the next until we faced the threat of total economic collapse and were told by one expert after another that we would have to pawn the product of the nation far into the future and put the proceeds into the pockets of the predators. How is a nation to choose when the whole of an established area of study gives its voice to a position that turns out to be a disaster? How is the President to know whom to believe in an area in which he has no expertise of his own? It is easy to say that something is obvious after the fact, but the voices of doubt were few and far between. So when we have some people denying the truth of Global Warming or questioning the benefits to be had from the study of stem cells the evidence is hardly convincing, except to those especially inclined to believe when the scientific voice is strong and explicit. Science, after all, flourishes on doubt.

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