Two items from the current issue of Scientific American caught the Czars attention this weekend.
The first is Lawrence M. Krausss opinion piece that the Internet has given voice to no shortage of lunatic nonsense. The second is here.
Krauss of course is a theoretical physicist with a wide background in scientific skepticism (and a definite authority therein); however, a theoretical phycist is no more qualified to discuss political debate on the Web any more than the Czar is qualified to give a lecture on spin vector bosons.
The Czar will guess that Krauss skews to the left, given his third paragraph: As I listen to the manifest nonsense that has been promulgated by the likes of right-wing fanatic radio hosts and moronic ex-governors in response to the effort to bring the U.S. into alignment with other industrial countries in providing reasonable and affordable health care for all its citizens, it seems that things have only gotten worse…
Cowardly, he fails to come out and say that he dislikes Limbaugh and Palin. He also labors under the not-very-widespread fantasy that (a) other European countries have a better healthcare system than we do, and that (b) current Democratic proposals will make everything better. If he were given to math, he would be welcome to revisit both the CBOs analysis and the Republican proposal to see which one is better suited to lowering healthcare costs.
Krauss also quotes Orwell liberally, failing to realize that Orwells visions in 1984 were commenting on a liberal government, not a right-wing one. He betrays that he is unfamiliar with the healthcare bill as well as Orwell. It pays to read your primary sources, especially if you intend on relying on them for examples.
More from Krauss: Now fabrications about death panels and oxymoronic claims that government needs to keep its hands off of Medicare flow freely on the Internet, driving thousands of zombielike protesters to Washington to argue that access to health care will undermine their fundamental freedom to have their insurance canceled if they get sick. And 24-hour news channels, desperate to provide breaking coverage at all hours, end up serving as public relations vehicles for any celebrity who happens to make an outrageous claim or, worse, decide that the competition for ratings requires them to be anything but fair and balanced in their reporting.
Snark is something else to leave to experts, Krauss. The Czar, unlike most people, has read the healthcare bill in its entirety, the one that Governor Palin objected to, and indeed, there are provisions in there for non-medical review panels and commissions to verify the effectiveness of healthcare treatments and said panels have the final authority on whether or not a given treatment shall continue. In other words, people you do not know who have no specific medical authority would have retained the ability to cancel treatment for you if the treatment would not have a short-term quality payback in terms of real dollars saved. Most Americans, polls show, object to this concept.
Krauss should look at this concept in an analog. Would he be willing to submit controversial theoretical physics papers before a government board who had no specific training in physics or even science to ensure that his findings met expectations for easy-to-understand science? Krauss would doubtless object to this, recognizing that a non-scientific panel would be a potential death blow to theoretical physics. Ah, a death panel.
Secondly, ridiculing one initially confused elderly womans statement that the government should have no involvement in Medicare belies the reality that the current proposal intends to reduce Medicare coverage for millions of elderly people who depend on it, simply to exaggerate potential cost savings. She was humorously wrong in what she saidand conservatives laughed as much as liberls didbut it turns out she has reason to be concerned.
Krauss is right to condemn the medias imaginary need to give equal weight to all opinions, but he is clearly singling out Fox News, which is another liberal banner to fly. Krauss does not have the fiber to announce his political viewpoint that clouds his judgment, but he manages to hit all the key pop-culture progressive talking points in those directions.
And here is where his progressivism slips into clichéd, elitist, snobbish view: he concludes his piece by asking whether free press and government leaders can ever hope to weed out nonsense in the manner that science does. The Czar hopes notbecause weeding out thought and opinion (however misguided, incorrect, or just plain goofy it is to you) is not what America does. Rather, we want to hear all ideas, concerns, and opinions…and then use our own intellect to keep or reject ideas accordingly. What works in science is tantamount to censorship outside it, and that is an indefensible position for an opinion writer to take.
One doesn’t need to debate about whether the earth is flat or 6,000 years old. These claims can safely be discarded, and have been, by the scientific method.
Trueand that shows the weakness in using tired, disproven, or outmoded arguments in an opinion piece.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.