Thursday, August 18, 2016

Knowledge, Responsibility and American Values

Responsibility presupposes knowledge. Without knowledge, people do not understand the world enough to know the consequences of their actions, which means that they cannot act in a calculated manner to influence their environment in such a way as to achieve the intended result.

There are many demagogues claiming responsibility as their value while being against knowledge. These people rail against scientists, academia, climate science or "liberal elites" in the same sentence as they claim to support responsibility or integrity or American values. They are wrong - absolutely.

These people claim that prosperity is created by business and only by business. What they do not realize is where the knowledge behind this prosperity comes from. Most of what business sells is technology; and technology comes from science.

Which means that it is science, and not business, that is the ultimate source of prosperity. And while business certainly has a vast role in creating prosperity, without science capitalism would be nothing more than exchange of basic commodities at the level it was in medieval Persia.

The people who claim to value liberty, responsibility or economic opportunity at the same time as they attack or deny science are lying. Scientific knowledge is at the root of prosperity as well as of all progress. Texas Oil is not the root of prosperity; science is.

And lacking or denying this knowledge, people engage in grossly irresponsible behavior, such as poisoning the oceans and the air and making the world a worse place for their children than they have found it.

Or beating their wives. Or raping their children. Or driving around with bumper stickers that say, “My son beat up your honor student.”

Are most scientists liberals? Yes. Why? Mainly because the scientists do not make very much money for the time, effort and money they put into their education, which means that the people driven by economic interest tend to avoid the profession. The only people who go into science are either the people who love the field or the people who are driven by the ideal of service.

And if the conservatives seek a greater presence – and influence - in the academia, they would be advancing these things as their values and teaching them to their kids.

It is much easier to rail against “liberal elites” than it is to produce knowledge. What we see instead is these people railing against “liberal elites” while using their work to enrich themselves. They fail to compensate the people from whom they get their knowledge according to the value that they are getting from it, choosing instead to damn or defund them.

That is an act of supreme dishonesty. And dishonesty does not qualify as a conservative value.

Or as responsibility. Or as liberty. Or as American patriotism or the American way.

Is academia right on all counts? No. I have opposed political correctness ever since I knew what it was, because it is intellectual fascism. I oppose personality psychology because it damns people, claiming irrationally that some people are evil and can only be evil whatever they do, however hard they work and whatever work they do on themselves. And I oppose materialist fundamentalism – falsely known as skepticism - because I and many people I know – including eminent scientists, successful entrepreneurs and highly educated, highly accomplished professionals in fields ranging from software to medicine - have had very real spiritual experiences. Experiences with less than one in a billion chance of happening. And not one, but many of them.

Does the academia not reflect “American values”? Political correctness, materialist fundamentalism and irrational psychological theories do not; but for as long as American values include honesty and integrity, real science does. This is the case for physics or mathematics or chemistry or biology or computer science or medicine or engineering; this is also the case for climate science. Not only has it been validated by 10,000 of the world's brightest minds, but it should be common sense. You raise carbon dioxide emissions while burning down the rainforests that absorb carbon dioxide, you have problems.

Responsibility presupposes knowledge; and claiming to be in value of responsibility while being against knowledge is a racket. It allows people to use the work of the scientists to enrich themselves without valuing or compensating them according to the value of what they get. It leads them to behavior that is vastly irresponsible and that leaves the world a worse place for their children. It leads them to engage in brutal, destructive practices. It leads them to listen to liars and demagogues who con them and laugh all the way to Congress or all the way to the bank.

There is no responsibility without knowledge, and there is no prosperity without science.

It is time that knowledge, education and science be valued according to the benefit they provide.


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