Humans and Their Love/Hate Relationship with Science and Knowledge

Have you noticed lately that science and intelligent thinking have become items of disdain with a certain crowd, to the point where some even refer to branches of science as “religious cults“.  A religion is of course a closed system of belief where the more fundamentalist sects focus strictly on one ideal and a definite end. Science and knowledge are open-ended and have no goal other than exposing what their measured research reveals, wherever that leads.

Therein appears to lie the rub with the anti-science, anti-knowledge crowd. Science and the knowledge it uncovers are welcome as long as they don’t disturb traditional views. But the age-old battle between religion and science has diminished over the years only to be replaced with another opponent that finds science to its dislike as it impacts its domain – corporatism.

You would think a conflict between corporations and scientific knowledge would be a perfect match.  Science and the knowledge it obtains has allowed entrepreneurs to flourish commercially through the discovery of how things work, leading to the development and manufacture of products for general consumption. This relationship has enabled science to gain the upper-hand over the traditional authority of religion.  Man’s ingenuity in the form of scientific discovery and creating products to make life easier, safer and healthier, fulfills a basic desire in all humans; one that is expressed as an important  principle in capitalism – satisfying our self-interests.  So why might there now be a conflict between big business and many within the scientific community?

Religion fulfills the spiritual self-interests of humans but it doesn’t directly impact our physical needs to sustain life. If we could all turn water into wine and a few loaves of bread into abundant supplies to feed thousands, some religions at least would look very different today and malnourished rates around the world would disappear.

So man’s ability to develop consumer products from the earth’s resources has generated a successful economic system that provides these material essentials.  This success has evolved into an autonomy by humans away from religious authority and towards a non-religious set of rules to govern us. Clearly religion has not faded from the scene and has recurrent periods of strong influence but it no longer rules the roost of human decision-making.

THE NEW AUTHORITY OVER THOUGHT

As religion’s influence over the public weakens another monolithic force is arising to influence people’s view of life and appears to becoming equally restrictive in what it will and won’t allow to prevail in human thought as the Church did centuries ago. Corporatism evolved from the middle ages of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries that saw the rise of Mercantilism.  It became the economic system by which people began to provide for themselves as they left their indentured servant way of life.

Mercantilism and the entrepreneur spirit it created developed and spread throughout Western European cultures as people overthrew their Lords and Kings for a more democratic form of government. The principles of mercantilism became codified into what has become known as capitalism, defined by Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations; the bible for corporate minded people the world over.

As a power and a political force, large multi-national corporations are able to influence the decision-making process of so-called democracies to insure their own survival. The legislative process in this country has been the laboratory for this relationship where very wealthy people in industry have peddled their ideas to men in politics as they keep elected officials’ campaign coffers filled.  When corporate policy or their hegemony with members of congress and state legislatures is threatened by “radical” voices, the reaction is like that of a mother bear protecting her cubs, but it is their man or woman in elective office that actually does the attacking

So now comes the situation where the nexus between scientific knowledge and commercial enterprises that benefit from it find themselves at odds with each other.  And the most conspicuous battle between these two is emerging between the climate science and the fossil fuels industry.

Climate science, known as climatology, has expanded dramatically over the last few decades and can now illustrate physical changes in our world which pose a serious risk to life as we know it from  actions we began two centuries ago. That action was the discovery and use of fossil fuels for running the commercial enterprises within our capitalistic economy. One of the pitfalls of science however is that its theories usually don’t pan out for years, decades and even centuries depending on the discipline and what is being studied.  Often long trial and error periods are necessary to affirm more precisely the cause and effect conditions science puts forth.

The early warning signs that were emanating within the climate science community during the 1950‘s,1960′s and 1970′s were little known to the general public.  But as the nature of the problem became more apparent through discoveries with improved technology the need to go mainstream with this critical information was imperative.

So, in 1988, when Dr. James Hansen, a conservative Republican went before the U.S. Congress and warned the Senators that the threat he referred to as “global warming” was rapidly growing from our increased use of fossil fuels, the gauntlet had been thrown down, presenting a challenge to the corporate energy sources of coal, oil and natural gas.

Those within the industry saw the threat to their existence as people became aware that their product was hazardous to the health and well-being of planet earth and the inhabitants that reside there. If this realization caught on with Joe Q. Public, the fossil fuel industry would go the way of the horse and buggy as new ideas surged to take their place. This in fact was happening as new technologies in the field of solar panels and wind turbines were having success generating small amounts of kilowatt power, but their potential had yet been unleashed.

It apparently became clear to the industry thinkers too that taking an anti-science approach to stop this information would be viewed as hypocritical by the public. Many in the public may be dumb but they weren’t stupid. They were however self-centered, so if they could be convinced that the science was not only questionable but a plot by a perceived enemy to create a new world order, then Big Oil and Big Coal could fight to live another few years, at least until their depleting resources ran out and they could walk away with their billions to see them through the hard times any effects of global warming would cause; or so they hoped.

WHERE WILL THIS ALL LEAD?

By creating the illusion that there is a legitimate scientific body out there disputing the real climate science, along with exploiting the disdain many Americans have developed  towards liberals, the corporate entities of Big Oil, Coal and Gas pay handsome amounts to anyone in the scientific and broadcast field who are willing to muddy the water on the climate science

By fostering a sense that there is a “hoax” being perpetrated by liberal-loving scientist, the fossil fuel industry hopes to generate enough fear to counteract the science and knowledge they feel threatened by. They’ve had plenty of time to develop this ruse because the signs of global warming have not been obvious to the casual observer. They know too, from previous experience using marketing techniques, that the public can be easily influenced to buy in to their reality through the use of redundant and cleverly designed messages sent to them through media sources.

The power that corporations hold today with their combined wealth has built a 21st century structure not unlike that of the Church in its heyday as it kept the public in line through fear.  Information is subtly disseminated that is aimed more at improving their image as it diminishes those scientific challenges that expose their weaknesses.

History always seems to repeat itself and millions die and suffer needlessly because of a general resistance by the public to accept new knowledge that overturns the dated views we’ve been comfortable with.   So it is today as we attempt to deal with our understanding of new knowledge that seeks to save us while simultaneously asking us to move beyond our comfort zones that is dependent on cheap energy provided by finite sources of carbon-based fuels.

The conflict is underscored by the efforts of corporatism defending its turf. Once again the general public has to come to grips with a force that seeks to preserve its own self-interest if we are to advance democracy and individual freedom to a higher level from where we were when we broke from the authoritative ties of the medieval Church.

RESOURCES:

Humans boosting CO2 14,000 times faster than nature

Drought drives decade-long decline in plant growth

Anti-Science syndrome goes viral within the GOP

Hansen and Ruddiman debunk RI GOPer’s false claims

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8 responses to “Humans and Their Love/Hate Relationship with Science and Knowledge

  1. How funny that today my husband sent me a post about the Dept of Interior initiating Process for First “Smart from the Start” Lease for Commercial Wind Power Offshore Delaware. And my first reaction was “I wonder how the oil companies will trample on this.” It’s very true. The quest for corporate survival has taken on a deceitful and delusional approach and it has suckered thousands of people into the idea that climate changes and the need for alternative energy is nothing but lies spewed from the liberal agenda. Excellent post!

    • The fossil fuel industry really doesn’t combat renwable energy sources directly because they are still in their infancy. Some even claim to be investing in renewables like BP ads used to suggest and currently Chevron is telling us they spend “millions” on clean energy sources out of their billion dollar profits.

      Big Oil and Big Coal simply keep efforts to convert to more renewable sources harder to attain by getting their people in congress to dispute the climate science and to balk at increasing investment subsidies to green technology, even though fossil fuels get $4 billion a year from the fed.

      BTW, Donna. I’m having difficulty signing in to AC. Are you having any problems with this?

      Thanks

  2. Unfortunately, these guys are EXTREMELY effective. Now less than 50% believe we are affecting climate. Mainly because it snowed last winter. And because Al Gore has a large house.

  3. It scares me that some Americans see scientists and intellectuals as something evil and need top be eradicated…..I live in the South…and you cannot imagine the resistance I get when I try to teach a seminar on political history…first they want to dispute everything I say because I have a post grad degree….and yet when the dude from the local power company speaks and lies they eat it up…..I even get resistance from academics when I write that NOTHING can be accomplished if people do not understand what they are saying….they talk to each other and not to the people….this is everything from politics to science…..if the people do not understand the words then they will find some cute slogan that means something to them…..

    Sorry, I was rambling…please forgive….

  4. I am not that knowledgeable about climatology. Anthropogenic global warming has a lot of evidence behind it. Even if it is proven that this is a natural occurance, what is so wrong about limiting the burning of fossil fuels? I always use the example, “Take a deep breath in Beijing, and you’ll wish you didn’t.”

  5. The Prez speech today on energy…..it was a yawn….he said basically the same things that every Prez from Nixon has been saying….and look where we are….no closer to a solution…

    • It’s a shame lobo. This guy could do so much to advance renewable energy research and development but spends too much time walking on egg shells in order to not offend the fossil fuel heads

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