The first article is about the gap between the opinions of the general public and the second is about how the President had to remind people that it was safe to get vaccines. One of my last blogs (I will link it at the end.) was about how our society relies too heavily on experts, especially the kind on TV that are used to shape public opinion on moral and political issues. However, where experts are really valuable is on technical issues, which Howard Zinn, in the excerpt I published, eludes to, although perhaps not strongly enough. Scientists can’t teach you morality, but scientists can give you the technical facts on which to base morality on. Scientists are not experts at complex ethical questions regarding manmade climate change, but they can in fact tell you that man is contributing to climate change. Scientists should not be the ones laying out the reason why it is ethical to vaccinate your children, but they should be the ones that tell you if vaccines are safe or not. Yet on climate change, vaccinations, and other topics of the day, we have a large percentage of the population that ignores the cold hard evidence on such issues. What does it mean when a President has to waste his time telling people that it is safe to get vaccinations when the overwhelming scientific evidence is that it is indeed safe?
Again the only way a democracy can work is if the general population actively tries to stay informed. We have too many people that believe in nonsensical unsupported gibberish. There is a great deal of senselessness on the internet, but at the same time it is actually pretty easy to get the correct information if you diligently search for it. A democracy is supposed to put leadership in the hands of people, but people, in order to deserve that leadership, must also assume the burdens of that leadership. That means spending at least part of your life trying to stay informed as to what is actually going on.
Why are we spending so much of our time arguing over things that are settled science? I think it is because of the corrupting influence that the god of money has on our society. There scores of think-tanks that have been created, often by corporate money, to try to influence public debate and public policy. There are a great deal of political “leaders” that are often shills for different industries. Many of the so-called “experts” on TV have been bought and paid for by different industries. People like the Koch brothers are purposely trying to dismantle education, particularly science education, but really education that gets people to think critically. In an age when we are bombarded with information, it is more important that people can think critically than ever before. People need the ability to actually tell the difference between respected technical experts of certain fields and bought and paid for talking heads, which I admit can be hard to do if you don’t actually have the time to read up on stuff. The media, especially the mainstream corporate media, does not do its duty in telling its audiences who is receiving checks from where.
There is so much to discuss on this topic, but for the time being I will leave it to you to explore on your own. Try to teach yourself about the role of think-tanks in our society. Also, google Barry McCaffrey, who was a military expert often brought on TV shows in the lead up to the Iraq War. Then spend some time googling where he gets his various paychecks from. He is a great example to understand how money corrodes public debate.
My previous post on experts here:
Hat tip to my friend Peter for the second article.