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Friday, August 28, 2020

Systemic racism, global warming, and other universal explanations

Attributing everything to one single cause is a sign that we're in an information desert

I t's been a slow news week.

Much of my attention this week has been occupied by a problem with my mechanical pencil. These things are actually rather clever: a tiny collet like the chuck in an electric drill releases the lead when you push the plunger, letting you push just enough lead through the hole. The graphite has natural lubricating properties that prevent it from getting stuck.

Mechanical pencil collet
Collet in a mechanical pencil

It turns out that if a chunk of pencil lead breaks off inside the tip, the pencil jams and you have to dislodge it with a drill bit to get it working again.

Meanwhile, the news media are finding new ways to ensure they go extinct.

Systemic racism, global warming, sexism, and similar problems may or may not exist in the real world—there's no way to know for sure since the credibility of the press these days is so low—but their apparent importance is created almost entirely by the whirlwind of the news media. They are fads.

Why are fads created? It is the mark of small minds that everything that happens must be squeezed into one concept. That's necessary because holding more than one or two things in mind at the same time is nearly impossible for a news reporter, which according to The Science is a person with a brain the size of a gnat.

This may be why they're obsessed with politics: politics is easy to understand because everything that happens can be blamed either on the guy in charge or on the people opposed to him, depending on which side you're on. Therefore, the purpose of rioting is to trick the opposition into shooting you so you can claim to be a victim, which will put you on top of the hierarchy.

As the information desert expands and we become more starved for ideas, the few ideas that are available coalesce and we get absurdities like racism causing global warming or global warming causing the Wuhan coronavirus. These are nonsensical conspiracy theories little different from the ones that claim 5G causes the virus, which is the only one the media are skeptical about.

Mechanical pencils
Mechanical pencils

After working for over thirty years in science, I've even seen people with normal-sized brains doing this. In science whenever we have one single molecule being encumbered with responsibility for every feature and every symptom, and we start seeing Rube Goldberg mechanisms being proposed to explain every clinical sign of a disease, it's a sign the field has stagnated. Cholesterol is one example. Beta-amyloid is another. Even inflammation is turning into a fad, and funding agencies are starting to get bored with it, casting about for something new, so it's now hard to get funding for it.

The trick in science is always to stay ahead of the latest fad, never to follow it. Researchers who jumped into artificial intelligence will find out quite soon what happens to those who follow.

Global warming is another one. Whether it's real or not is hard to tell, but one thing is certain: almost none of the multitude of phenomena attributed to it have anything to do with any globular warmification.

Take the discovery of a “big underwater blob” that is now said to be melting the Arctic ice. Left unexplained is how warming of the atmosphere would cause something deep underwater. Oh, there are theories, but underwater volcanic activity, or even thermal processes in the Earth's crust might explain it better, especially since Antarctica seems scarcely affected.

As I become more and more cynical about such things, I realize it's pointless to search for articles that might explain it. Just as when reading most news sites: if all news is caused by the same thing, it is not news. No news is good news. When the credibility of news—or of science—falls below a certain point, we find ourselves in an information desert.

If something explains everything, it explains nothing. And that seems to be the goal of the news media these days: to keep us uninformed and misinformed.

aug 28 2020, 5:43 am

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